“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.”
“and covetousness, which is idolatry”
“Covetousness” conveys the idea of idolatry. Idolatry is the worship of something other than God. It is to love enjoyments over God and to place too high a value on them. This distorts a proper enjoyment of them. When we have inordinate sorrow and anxiety over their loss, they have 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.
“Covetousness” is used for material possessions in Luke 12:15; 2 Pet. 2:3; 2 Cor. 9:5. It is also used for sensuality in Eph. 4:19, “greediness” and “covetous practices” in 2 Pet. 2:14.
The essence of idolatry is the desire to obtain. It is the desire to get something out of God. A covetous person believes he can persuade or even bribe God to give him something. This is the person 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 this means that you are not to have statues of Buddha in your house. No, this goes beyond statues, pictures, icons that people superstitiously revere; this 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. Some had tents that would leak, and they would covet their neighbor’s tent. Covetousness also includes his car, snow thrower, television, or electric fork!
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 his 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.