1 Corinthians 6:9–11 (NKJV)
9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
Today we return to Paul’s catalogue of sins from which God in His grace and mercy has determined to free us through Christ. These sins damage and distort the image of God in us, destroy our humanity and subvert community. Today we consider covetousness.
Paul declares that the covetous will not inherit the kingdom of God. Among the sins that Paul catalogues this is the only one that is exclusively an attitude and not also an action. Fornication, idolatry, adultery, homosexuality, sodomy, theft, drunkenness, reviling, extortion – these are all things we do. Covetousness gets at the heart; it is a twisted desire that motivates action. Webster defines it as “a strong or inordinate desire of obtaining and possessing some supposed good.”
The tenth commandment highlights the deadly nature of covetousness: 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.
The tenth commandment reminds us that God is the Creator and Lord of all. He is the One who has made us and not we ourselves. He has given to us our wealth, status, gender, spouse, body type, color, hips, and our shoes. These all come from Him – and what another man has honestly acquired is absolutely his own, given him by God. I may not take it from him; I am to respect God’s gift to him.
Covetousness is at heart an assault both on God and neighbor, a fundamental violation of the two greatest commands to love God and to love our neighbor. Consequently, covetousness is idolatry, the worship of some god other than the Living God.
We live in a day and age that is awash with covetousness. Our system of taxation is founded on covetousness – the poor are encouraged to lobby their congressmen to make the rich pay their fair share and “fair” always means more than they’re paying now because they still have those nice cars. This week Bruce Jenner’s transformation has been much in the news. And what is his transformation but a visible display of covetousness. He wanted what God had not given him.
Jesus has sent His Spirit into our hearts to teach us to be content. He is teaching us to receive life as a gift from Him and to rejoice in the gifts that He has given to each of us. Covetousness destroys human life. When I am covetous, I am unable to worship and serve the Living God because I am consumed by a deep and abiding resentment at the way God has made me or the gifts that He has given me. No man or woman who is thus resentful at God can inherit the kingdom of God.
So what of you? Are you covetous? Or are you content and thankful? Reminded that the covetous shall not inherit the kingdom of God, let us kneel and seek the Lord’s forgiveness for our own covetousness and for the covetousness of our nation.