Are you a rare bird like the orange-bellied parrot? The orange-bellied parrot is a small (8 inches long) broad-tailed parrot found in southern Australia. The adult male is distinguished by its grass-green upperparts, yellow underparts and bright orange belly patch. Adult females and juvenile parrots are duller green in color. All have a blue frontal band and blue outer wing feathers. It is estimated that there are only 150 orange-bellied parrots left in the world. It is a rare bird.
Are you a rare bird? You might be considered as such if you have ever confessed the sin of coveting. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.” (Exodus 20:17)
Francis Xavier, was a Roman Catholic missionary, a priest who heard many confessions. Francis Xavier said, “As an older man I have listened to thousands of confessions, and I have yet to hear one person confess to the sin of covetousness.”
Dwight L. Moody, one of the great evangelists in American history, said “I have heard many confessions in public and private for over forty years, but I have never heard a man confess that he was guilty of this sin.”
It should be obvious that coveting is a serious sin since God included it in The Ten Commandments. Jesus warned his listeners: “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” (Luke 12:15)
In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Paul included coveting in a list along with immorality, impurity, thievery and drunkenness as unrighteous activity that keeps a person from inheriting the Kingdom of God which means they go down and not up when they leave the judgment seat.
In Ephesians 5:3-6, greed and covetousness are used interchangeably in various translations so greed equals covetousness. Paul calls a covetous person an idolater. The thing more important to them than God is that which they covet; namely, their god.
The Hebrew word for covet means to grasp for more, to crave, to pant after. A classic biblical illustration of coveting is that of King Ahab who coveted the vineyard of a man named Naboth. (See 1 Kings 21:1-19.)
When Naboth refused to sell or trade his vineyard, King Ahab became sullen. His wife, Jezebel, crafted a plan and when Naboth was dead, King Ahab took possession of the vineyard. But he and Jezebel also received the judgment of God in a message delivered by the prophet Elijah.
We see from this example that the sin of coveting which begins in the heart, the mind, often leads to actions that violate others of the commandments. In this instance coveting led to bearing false witness and to murder.
My thinking is that most Christians I know don’t covet someone else’s house or wife or employees or possessions. They may be envious that someone else has so much but they aren’t pouting like King Ahab. That is probably the reason Francis Xavier and Dwight L. Moody never heard anyone confess the sin of coveting. Yet the commandment is there. Jesus and Paul warned about covetousness.
Let’s look at some sins related to covetousness that we many recognize in our life.
There is the sin of envy. Envy is the “feeling of resentment over another’s superior attainments, endowments or possessions.” Do we envy someone else’s good looks, or good grades or good income or their good fortune? Do we envy someone else’s position or prestige or their opportunity?
There is the sin of greed. Greed is defined as the “selfish and grasping desire for possession”. Greed is revealed when we want more than our fair share.
There is the sin of discontent. It’s an attitude that God isn’t being fair to us in what He is providing.
There is the sin of being a lover of money. The Pharisees scoffed at Jesus when He said you can’t serve both God and mammon. (See Luke 16:13-14.) They were diligent about obeying the laws and commandments or so they thought. Jesus pointed to sins of their heart where the spirit of God’s commandments was being circumvented. Luke informs us the Pharisees were lovers of money.
In 1981, there were only 7 known Asian Crested Ibis birds in China which is its habitat. Then some more were discovered in a remote location. Today after careful conservation, there are an estimated 500 in the natural habitat in China. That’s not a lot but the number is growing.
Not many Christians have confessed the sin of coveting.
While we may not relate to coveting our neighbor’s house, wife, employees or possessions – we many become aware and convicted of related sins like envy, greed, discontent or being a lover of money like the Pharisees.
Let us invite the Holy Spirit to bring conviction of that which we need to confess. Let us confess any sins related to coveting.
Let us join that growing flock of rare birds.
52 Wicked Ways of God’s People
- Not asking the Holy Spirit to show us how we have violated this commandment.
- Being envious
- Being greedy
- Being selfish instead of generous
- Discontent with God’s provision
- Being a lover of money
- Living like our life consists in the abundance of our possessions
- Thinking we can serve both God and mammon