Need or Greed?

by Benjamin Burks on April 6, 2011 · 6 comments

Exodus 20:17, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.”

Recently, a very kind man gave me the funds for an iPad. I was personally content with what I had in a personal pc, though I had seen the original iPad. However, I was eager to fulfill the wishes of this very kind man! I asked some of our fellow staff members, whom we affectionately call the “nerd herd,” where I should purchase this device? Wouldn’t you know it landed me in the line at Best Buy for 45 minutes, and even then I was not sure I was close enough to be one of the fortunate ones to get the early release! My meditations quickly became consumed with covetousness as I looked inward and heard conversations of others outwardly as I stood in line. “What if I didn’t get one today?” I was amazed at some who purchased the first iPad only a few weeks ago standing in line for the new one. Do you think it is by chance that companies spend lots of money determining how to release the next new phone or the next new device? No! They knew how to market an item based on the wants of the consumer. I realized how quickly one could go from contentment to covetousness!

Here are some basic thoughts to help us conclude if something received was coveted or gifted from the Father:

Covetousness defined
The word covet in English means, to desire earnestly, to desire with greediness, eager to obtain something, craving for something.

The Greek goes beyond the English word as it can be broken into two:

Plenonexia – to desire more than enough.
Proverbs 30:15, “The horseleach hath two daughters, crying, give, give. There are three things that are never satisfied, yea, four things say not, it is enough.”

Philarguria – excessive love for the world.
1John 2:15, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

Covetousness progresses
Covetousness has a progression that is a never ending cycle:
• To be eager to have more (the basic idea).
• To be greedy for gain (a bit more intense).
• To be willing to obtain more by using sinful means, such as taking from others through theft, fraud, extortion,fornication, etc., (the sin at its maximum).

Covetousness is the root of all sins.
Covetousness is a strong desire to obtain, what I want to have, be, or do. This is found in the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. The Tenth Commandment teaches us how the other commandments are meant to be interpreted, not only dealing with externals, but also dealing with thoughts and motivations. It has convicting power. Romans 7:7-8, “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.”

When you think about the other nine commandments, you will soon discover a root of covetousness in each of them.
Commandment I – No other God’s, so if I have more than one I must covet.
Commandment II – No graven images – to bow down to images and icons, one must covet.
Commandment III – To take the Lord’s name in vain, one uses God to fulfill his own desires of covetousness.
Commandment IV – Keep the Sabbath was a focus on a day set a part for the Lord, but when that day is filled with my priorities, I covet.
Commandment V – Honor father and mother – when one disrespects authority, they covet.
Commandment VI – Thou shalt not kill – to take another’s time by force, is to steal life, that man covets.
Commandment VII – Thou shalt not commit adultery – for a man who is married to desire another either on paper, screen, or reality that man covets.
Commandment VIII – Thou shalt not steal – to steal from another man his goods, is for that man to covet.
Commandment IX – Thou shalt not bear false witness – for a person to be deceitful with words is to twist for one’s benefit, that man is covetous.

Covetousness or contentment – that’s the question:A quick way to determine the areas where we covet is to ask ourselves; what things am I not content with? One huge trigger that most Christian fail to consider is the trigger of covetousness. A close look at covetousness will reveal a lack of contentment in our life. God is not primarily trying to give us what we want and satisfy us. He is more concerned about teaching us godliness with contentment, this combination brings great gain. Christians must find their fulfillment in God. Hebrews 13:5, “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Christ is all we need. The old song seems so appropriate for this study, break down every idol cast out every foe, Lord wash me and I shall be whiter than snow”. Someone recently ask me how they can know if something or someone has become an idol in their life. My answer – “Let me take it from you and see how you respond. This will reveal who really has our heart.” A person’s life is either built on covetousness, which is filled with doubt and questions, because man is so insufficient; or it is build on contentment in Christ, which is a life built on faith in the sufficiency of Christ. Christ really is all we need. Our daily questions, actions, and reactions are all defined by the foundation upon which our life is build.

We need and desire many things in this world: adequate food, shelter and clothing, work, education, transportation, leisure; but because of chance, heredity, or merit, we find that some people have more desirable things than we do. How does this affect us? Does it make us sad? Can we keep a perspective regarding our wants versus our needs? Covetousness is divisive; it is the enemy of charity and it leads to destruction. 1Timothy 6:9, “But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. Overcoming a stubborn habit entails looking closely at this sin and determining its hold in your life or mine. Ask the Spirit of God living in you where your stronghold of covetousness has a hold on you today.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Bryan April 6, 2011 at 9:16 am

Brother Ben this was a word I needed at the time I needed it. I have been searching in vain for a job and I have literally found nothing. I must have filled out scores (close to 200) applications and sent my resume to dozens of potential employers and not but one or two interviews! I have been hard at it since the first of the year having lost my job right before Christmas. It is very very discouraging to continue to search and hit nothing! I have found comfort and received inspiration in the study of the Bible and service to God. This is a time of trying and purifying and I have to admit I and my wife have cried out a few times to God and asked when Lord? I have not considered my actions particularly covetousness. But the Holy Spirit practically thundered at me as I was reading your blog this morning. Your being greedy! I have taken care of your needs! You have a roof over your head! (it is a mansion comparatively) You dont look like you have missed many meals! (I could stand to lose this spare tire) Your health is good! Wait on me I have something for you! All your anxiety cast upon me! I have not ever let you down! I thank you Brother for framing it so eloquently and reminding me of how I try to do the work of the Lord. He has taken care (over and above) of my needs; I am just converting my needs into greeds! Thanks for the focus.

In His grip

Moody sends


mary policastro April 6, 2011 at 3:55 pm

God is so good! An RU brother recently blessed us by fixing our roof right before a rain storm. Just the thought of roof repair costs was intimidating, but this brother did it for free! Then this brother offered us a front door that just “happens” to be the door we have been attracted to for years. We were feeling uncomfortable; not wanting to be covetous when we had been so blessed! I was on the web site looking to get a testing glitch fixed, and here is the answer to the difference between graciuosly blessed and covetously selfish!

Reply April 9, 2011 at 10:55 am

I appreciate your transparency . I look forward to a second article i hope to write as a follow up.


Bryan April 13, 2011 at 9:14 am

Brother Ben
God has given me an interview for my dream job! (back with the Marine Corps) This friday at 1300hrs I will be 1 of 4 final candidates who will interview. Please pray for me that I will interview well and that God’s will be done. Pray that I will represent my Lord well. 1Tim 6:6 tells me that “Godliness with contentment is great gain,” pray I will be a good example and that my contentment will be not in whether I get the job or not but in my Lord who takes care of me. Thanks for the encouraging blogs, keep them coming!


Bryan April 26, 2011 at 11:27 am

Our God is so fantastic I do not have words to describe it and even if I did they would not do justice to the overwhelming presence God has made himself in my life. I received a telephone call yesterday afternoon (and I have just now come down enough to write you) from the Marine Corps and they offered me the job I interviewed for a few fridays ago! I spoke with the Division rep for the interview board and they said that I was “by far” the best interview and scored the highest out of all the applicants. I say that to say that I asked God for a good interview and that I would be content with whatever outcome the Lord played out. Well God showed up and showed out and gave me the desire of my heart. I so adore our God who has built onto my testimony of God’s incredible Providence! Please pray that the pre-employment dance is not too long and i can get about the Lord’s business in this new position He has placed me!

Living Ready

BK sends


Bryan May 4, 2011 at 8:15 am

Brother, I just read your latest installment on covetousness with great wonder at how God has used it to dovetail into my study this morning of Proverbs 4. As I meditated on Proverbs 4 I noticed that this is a proverb for Solomon’s son (Rehoboam or maybe his spiritual sons) I thought of how had I applied this to my own children and to any who look at me as young ones in Christ. We can always look back with 20/20 vision and replay the game from our Monday morning sanctuary and see were we stumbled or fell. Proverbs 4 is a by-product of Solomon’s father David and his Maschils or instructional Psalms. Solomon cites these in Proverbs 4 as good doctrine and law. It convicted me to think about how have I as a father instructed my children (real and spiritual) and I realized apart from coveting “the very best gifts”, of wisdom and knowledge from the Bible. Sometimes it does not take as with Rehoboam but Proverbs have instructed so many more of his spiritual children in righteousness. I think it is important to note that the ‘wisest’ man Solomon thought it worthy to stress instruction from fathers (and all parents) as our society today seems to diminish this instruction. Are your children following you as you “covet the best gifts”…and as you seek “a more excellent way?” so that you may be ready to instruct our ‘children.’
Thank you Brother Ben for your encouragement in the Lord you are one of his best gifts.

Living Ready

Moody sends


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