Sunday 10 August 2014

Covetousness: What is it?

The TANAKH and the NT tell believers that they shall not covet the property of any individual or engage in covetousness

Exodus 20:17
17 "Do not covet your neighbor's house. Do not covet your neighbor's wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else your neighbor owns."

Colossians 3:5-10
5 So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual sin, impurity, lust, and shameful desires. Don't be greedy for the good things of this life, for that is idolatry. 6 God's terrible anger will come upon those who do such things. 7 You used to do them when your life was still part of this world. 8 But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. 9 Don't lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old evil nature and all its wicked deeds. 10 In its place you have clothed yourselves with a brand-new nature that is continually being renewed as you learn more and more about Christ, who created this new nature within you.

1 Corinthians 5:11: But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.

Let me dispel a confusion, covetousness is NOT commerce or vice versa. If you simply think to yourself you are going to purchase a movie, a video game, a vase, a lovely decoration etc, You are not coveting. When you exchange money for goods or provide a service after giving a purchase to the individual, that is commerce.*

Covetousness is simply desiring that which belongs to another, which is why there is a questionable doubt on gambling itself. Gambling may cause an individual to desire what someone else have or someone desiring to have what you have. If Poker is simply played for fun where matchsticks are perhaps used or a chip simply has a value with no intention of using money, that's fine, but if actual money and property is thrown into the mix, there is a significant problem here which cannot be denied.

Buying a good in a shop because you feel like getting it or you think to yourself it is interesting is NOT covetousness. Covetousness in the context of purchasing the item is a persistent desire where you feel you MUST have it no matter the cost, namely desiring said item with no regard to others.

Thanks for reading.

Answering Judaism.

*19th of April 2016. It is also important to note that covetousness is also an insatiable behavior. Jesus says this: 
"Luke 12:13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”"

Possessions in and of themselves are not bad, but can be a problem if they become your god. If you concentrate on accumulation of possessions and let them control you, you will go into ruin. You must never go to a point that the rich man did in the context of the parable, it led him to having many possessions on earth at the expense of disloyalty to God and even forgetting God. The covetousness began to overtake him.

Again, this is not the same as "Hmm, sounds interesting, I might get that", This is more "I must have this in order for to be complete." or one has to get this no matter the cost. 

Riches can easily become idols to us and we either must put the riches back in their proper place as intended in the best case scenario or renounce them completely in the worst case scenario. The rich man who went away sad let his riches get in the way (Matthew 19:22 and Mark 10:22) and Jesus has made it clear that we must be willing to follow him to the end, even if family disown us, possessions are lost in the process, being willing to give up everything to follow him (Which would be blasphemy if Jesus was a mere creature BTW, but I digress). 

Jesus was showing the rich man that his money was his idol. Christ's point was that you must be willing to forsake all to follow him. He is not saying that all sell their possessions, he is demanding people to love him and the Father more than everything in this world. Jesus was not sinning what so ever when telling the rich man to sell his riches, he was pointing out the man was an idolater and had not kept the commandments perfectly. Whatever demands Jesus has for you, You'd better be prepared to carry them out, myself included.

The danger of covetousness also leads to the destruction of your own lifestyle and possibly your life.

Paul says the following in this passage:
"1 Timothy 6 Let all who are under a yoke as bondservants[a] regard their own masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled. 2 Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brothers; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved.

Teach and urge these things. 3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound[b] words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. 6 But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and[c] we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 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. 10 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.."

Having a love for money, not money in and of itself, that is the root of all evil. Is it any wonder that those with massive amounts of wealth in Hollywood end up doing drugs or getting themselves into terrible scandals? (Not saying all with wealth are like this or all actors are like this). Covetousness can lead us into the destruction of your own lifestyle and possibly your life as mentioned before and it is worth noting that money does not buy you happiness, it is not going to fill the void at all or keep you content if all you do is seek money. If you spend money on drugs and prostitutes and getting drunk, you will come to ruin.

And speaking of content, Listen to Paul's words in Philippians:
"Philippians 4:10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me."

Christians really should be content with what we have and by God's grace it can be accomplished here.

Hope this addendum has helped.

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