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Covetousness

Covetousness [N] [T] [E]

Strong desire to have that which belongs to another. It is considered to be a very grievous offense in Scripture. The tenth commandment forbids coveting anything that belongs to a neighbor, including his house, his wife, his servants, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to him ( Exod 20:17 ). Jesus listed covetousness or greed along with many of the sins from within, including adultery, theft, and murder, which make a person unclean ( Mr 7:22 ). Paul reminded the Ephesians that greed or covetousness is equated with immorality and impurity, so that these must be put away ( 5:3 ). A covetous or greedy person is an idolator ( 5:5 ) and covetousness is idolatry ( Col 3:5 ). James warns that people kill and covet because they cannot have what they want ( 4:2 ).

Covetousness, therefore, is basic to the commandments against murder, adultery, stealing, and lying. Those who accept bribes are coveting, leading to murder ( Eze 22:12 ). Coveting a neighbor's wife is a form of adultery ( Exod 20:17 ). Achan admitted to coveting a robe and silver and gold, so he stole them, which was a sin against the Lord ( Jos 7:20-22 ). Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, coveted the property of Naaman so much that he lied to get what he wanted from Naaman the leper ( 2 Ki 5:19-25 ) and was struck with leprosy. Proverbs warns that a covetous person brings trouble to his family ( 15:27 ). Thus covetousness is the root of all kinds of sins, so that Jesus gave the warning, "Be on your guard against all kinds of greed" ( Luke 12:15 ).

William J. Woodruff

See also Envy

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of
Baker Book House Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan USA.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
[T] indicates this entry was also found in Torrey's Topical Textbook
[E] indicates this entry was also found in Easton's Bible Dictionary

Bibliography Information

Elwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'Covetousness'". "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology". . 1997.