“Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. “
The fifth and last in the list of five sins we are to put to death is “covetousness,” a form of idolatry.
“and covetousness, which is idolatry”
“Covetousness” is idolatry. Idolatry is the worship of something other than God. It is to love some enjoyment over God and to place too high a value on it. “Covetousness” distorts proper enjoyment of them. When we have inordinate sorrow and anxiety over the loss of something, it has become a god to us. Therefore, covetousness is spiritual idolatry. “Idolatry” is found in 1 Cor. 10:14; Gal. 5:20 and, in the plural, in 1 Pet. 4:3.
“The New Testament uses “covetousness” for material possessions in Luke 12:15; 2 Pet. 2:3; 2 Cor. 9:5. It also uses it for sensuality in Eph. 4:19, and “greediness” and “covetous practices” in 2 Pet. 2:14.
The essence of idolatry is the desire to obtain. A covetous person believes he can persuade or even bribe God to give him something. He is someone whose whole life is dominated by the desire to get more. He worships things and not God. An idolater is a slave to the depraved ideas his idols represent (Gal. 4:8, 9) and, thereby, to diverse lusts (Tit. 3:3).
“Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen” (1 Jn 5:21). Some think that “idols” means you are not to have statues of Buddha in your house. No, this goes beyond statues, pictures, or icons that people superstitiously revere. It is an idolatry of the heart — covetousness.
The tenth commandment reads: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife” (Ex. 20:17). Think of the kind of houses Israelites lived in during their wandering. They lived in tents! They were not even shanties. Some were able to build better tents than their neighbors. Others had tents that would leak, and they would covet their neighbor’s tent. Covetousness also includes his car, snow thrower, or television.
Covetousness places undue emphasis on the things of life. These people develop a lust pattern. They center their lives around approbation lust, money, success, social life, friends, health, sex, status symbols — anything but God.
Covetousness is erecting something other than God in first place.
We often view “covetousness” as a less severe sin than the previous four. In this verse, it lives in an awful company.
God lists the first four sins without comment but provides “covetousness” with a short commentary following it — “which is idolatry.” The essence of covetousness is idolatry. We substitute something other than God in his place and worship it.