Coveting Can Kill You

The story has been told that someone asked John D. Rockefeller, who was the 1st American worth more than $1 billion dollars, how much money it would take be satisfied. His reply was this: “One dollar more.”[1]

That is a small but subtle example of the spirit of coveting. Coveting is the sin of saying “If only I had this.” In some ways, it is the abuse of what has traditionally been known as the American dream.

he American Dream used to refer to a person’s freedom to pursue a better life but never at the expense of others, but one that benefitted him and his family first and then society next. Now, the American dream may include those elements but also include covering a better life and not learning to live with contentment in the one they have been given. What some call the American dream can sometimes be nothing more than coveting.

In 1999, Mark Buchanan, a Canadian author and pastor wrote an article entitled “Trapped in the Cult of the Next Thing.” In it, he concludes our country lives for the next greatest thing to come around the block and this is a sure sign of coveting. He writes,

“I belong to the Cult of the Next Thing. It’s dangerously easy to get enlisted. It happens by default – not by choosing the cult, but by failing to resist it. The Cult of the Next Thing is consumerism cast in religious terms. It has its own litany of sacred words: more, you deserve it, new, faster, cleaner, brighter. It has its down deep-rooted liturgy: charge it, instead credit no down-payment, deferred payment, no interest for three months. It has its own preachers, evangelists, prophets, and apostles: ad men, pitchmen, and celebrity sponsors. It has, of course, its own shrines, chapels, temples, meccas: malls, superstores, club warehouses. It has it’s own sacraments: credit and debit cards. It has its own ecstatic experience: the spending spree. The Cult of the Next Thing’s central message proclaims, ‘Crave and spend, for the Kingdom of Stuff is here.’”[2]

The “Kingdom of Stuff” – that is where coveters live and breathe and make their being. We love to look outside of our own homes and possessions, find something we don’t have and do whatever we can to get it. We are even willing to sacrifice the future for the present when it comes to making financial decisions. And then when we achieve that goal, we move on to something else. We go to the next “best” thing.

The sin of coveting lives in the “Kingdom of Stuff” and too often rules in all of our hearts.

The Bible says, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s” (Exod 20:17). In other words, don’t covet.

Instead, we ought to be content with what God has given us. Someone who covets is not content. A coveter believes their life is lacking in some way. And most of all, when one covets, their discontentment is not just with their lack of fancy cars or fashionable clothing or better wages at their job; their discontentment is with God.

Here’s a verse that is often taken a bit out of context – “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Heb 13:5). Pay attention very carefully to what the author is saying. He is saying, “Be content because God won’t leave you.” Or to say it another way, “The one who covets doesn’t see God. He denies the existence and provision of God in his life. The coveter is discontent with God and takes on another thing to fill the seeming void. So we don’t need all the money in the world, because if we did, we would forget God is there and how much we need Him.

Contentment is the acceptable implication of this verse – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph 1:3). Thus, coveting paces doubt on what Paul has written there. Coveting is saying, “I may have some blessings, but not enough. I need more. God has given me some things, but I need more.”

Paul has written,

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (I Tim 6:6-10).

You feel the weight of what was just said? Coveting will kill you.

If you crave money – which is just one example of coveting – you will open yourself up to apostasy and misery. Just ask the top 10 riches people in the world if they are at peace and happy. Most of them will say “No!”

Do you believe, do you really believe, that the circumstance that you are in now, is the best possible circumstance under God’s providence for you? Paul says, “You are already there!”

You want to know how to fight coveting in your life? Cultivate a spirit of rejoicing and thanksgiving. Look into your life and start making a mental list of all the things God is actively doing and has done. And do that every day. Coveting hates rejoicing.


[1] Words from the Fire, pg. 189

[2] “Trapped in the Cult of the Next Thing”, pg. 64


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