COVETING has a variety of shades of meaning. It means (1) to gain dishonestly (Ex 18:21; Ez 33:31), or (2) also to wish to have more, unreasonably (Lk 12:15; 1 Thess 2:5), or (3) and inordinate love of money (Lk 16:14; 2 Tim 3:2; 1 Tim 6:10).
This is a heinous sin, classed in Scriptures with the most serious crimes (Eph 5:3). In Col 3:5 it is “idolatry” and in 1 Cor 6:10 it is set forth as capable of excluding a man from Heaven. Its danger is that it is the root of so many other forms of sin. It can cause a person to depart from the faith (1 Tim 6:9-10), and also can cause a person to lie (2 Kings 5:22-25) and to steal (Josh 7:21) and even to murder (Ez 22:12). Indeed it leads to many “foolish and hurtful lusts” (1 Tim 6:9).
This was one of the first sins that broke out after Israel had entered into the promised land (Achan, Jos 7), and in the early church immediately after its founding, Ananias and Sapphira were put to death as a result of coveting (Acts 5).
“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” (Ex 20:17, NKJV). God’s people were not to unlawfully desire anything that belongs to another person which is not protected by the owner (Ex 34:23ff). It is an unlawful habit of the mind that is the forerunner “You shall not steal” (Ex 20:15). Coveting is the last of the Ten Commandments: (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” (Ex 20:17.
Many examples of covetousness can be seen in the Bible. Among them are the following: Achan (Jos 7); Saul (1 Sam 15:9, 19); Judas (Matt 26:14-15); Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11); and Balaam (2 Peter 2:15 with Jude 11).
Credit for this study, Wm. Evans, ISBE