Respectable Sins: Lust & Covetousness
Lust and Covetousness, are they partners in crime? Are they two sides of the same coin? Or is this the old conundrum, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Even our friends who raise chickens for their eggs are split on this one! Some say the animal host must be present first. But is that the case with these sins?
Biblically, what’s the difference between these two words? Lust is the root cause which sprouts into covetousness. So, lust is the root, while covetousness is the shoot. Therefore, we have to take seriously any lust that lingers in our hearts!
Lust is a powerful desire that takes root in our thought life – no one is immune to its disease. Proverbs 11:6: “The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the treacherous are taken captive by their lust.”
Lust longs to chain us to our desires. It’s a cruel taskmaster, a tyrant. It consumes time and resources that should be used to further God’s kingdom. It has the potential to lead us down paths of destruction and ruin.
The Hebrew word translated ‘lust’ means ‘to desire, to covet, to crave.’ It’s usually used to describe an event associated with calamity, evil or destruction.
Consider how the apostle Paul uses it in 1 Thessalonians 4:4-5. He admonishes believer to “control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God.”
This indicates to me that if we allow lust to establish deep roots in our lives, our behavior will soon come to resemble that of an unbeliever, one who abuses his body in immorality. Just check out Romans 1:26-27!
Make no mistake about it, lust is the battleground of much spiritual warfare. But victory is always found in submission to God and His Word (James 4:6-8).
I believe that covetousness is a bi-product of lust – the deep desire, craving, longing for what others have and you do not. It’s believing that you are somehow entitled to have what God has not chosen to give you.
The story is told of an elderly Quaker …
To teach his neighbors a lesson, he put up a sign on a vacant piece of property he owned that read, ‘I will give this lot to anyone who is really satisfied.’ A wealthy farmer read it as he rode by and said to himself, ‘since my Quaker friend is going to give this piece of land away, I might as well have it as anyone else. I am rich and have all I need, so I am well able to qualify.’ He went up to the Quaker’s door and, when the aged man appeared, the farmer explained why he had come. ‘And art thou really satisfied?’ asked the owner of the lot. ‘I surely am’ was the farmer’s reply. ‘I have all I need and am well satisfied.’ ‘Friend,’ said the other, ‘if thou art satisfied, then what dost thou want with my lot?’
The question revealed the covetousness that was hidden in the man’s heart.”
The 10 Commandments found in Exodus 20 set the standards for those who await the arrival of the Messiah, standards that are impossible to meet without God’s help.
When we examine these guidelines – given for the life and blessing of God’s people through His servant Moses at Mt. Sinai – we find the word ‘covet’ used with reference to our neighbor’s wife, servants, oxen, donkey, etc. (Deuteronomy 5:21). In fact, it’s used of “anything that is your neighbor’s” (Exodus 20:17). If we are attentive to the ‘greatest commandment’ – to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and might – we’ll simply have no room for anything to place above HIM (Exodus 6:5).
When questioned by a young expert in the Law before an audience of Pharisees, Jesus affirmed that this truth had not changed with His coming (Matthew 22:37). He also added a second commandment that summed up all the rest: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39).
Game over! There is no wiggle room, no allowances, and no exceptions allowed. There is simply no room for covetousness in the life of a disciple of Jesus!
To consider …
- Can you say with Paul, “I have learned to be content?” (Philippians 4:11)
It’s one thing to say that, but is it really true of you?
- As I mentioned, lust forms in the heart and defiles it, as Jesus declared in Matthew 5:27-28. Therefore, the heart is where the battle begins.
Who is winning the battle for your heart?
Are you willing to be honest with yourself about the answer to that question?
If not, why not?
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