Covetousness as Idolatry


worshipThe Tenth of the Ten commands, Exodus 20:17. “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.” This speaks clearly to our whole society, which if you haven’t noticed is largely given over to this sin of covetousness.

Consider the multi-billion dollar industry of Madison Avenue. It is devoted to manipulating people to desire things they probably cannot afford, so that they buy things they do not need to impress people they don’t even care about. How do we oppose this lure of covetousness in our own heart, how do we oppose the politics of covetousness in our culture? First we need to understand one aspect that God’s Word identifies for us is The Connection between Covetousness and Idolatry.

The Connection between Covetousness and Idolatry - Colossians 3:5 “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:” We are to put covetousness to death in our hearts. Now this connection between covetousness and idolatry is one that we may not normally make in our thinking. To understand that connection that Scripture describes we need to understand what is actual idolatry.

The truth of the matter is that, there is only one True God, the God of the Bible - God is God. He is God and God alone. We come to know Him through what His Word says about Him, and to know Him personally through a relationship with the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. There is no multiplicity of gods, there is only One True God. Now that doesn’t mean that there are no claimants to deity; there are many. We can categorize these I believe into three camps. Idolatrous “Religions,” Idolatrous Humanism, and Idolatrous Statism.

Idolatrous Religions - Something else is “God”, not the God of the Bible. I put “religions” in quotes because there is only one true religion, that of the God of the Bible. All other claimants to deity are imposters. So take for example Buddhism. It claims that the Buddha, through rigorous ascetic practices, became God. And the goal of his followers is that they would achieve enlightenment just as he did. So if all humans ultimately achieve enlightenment, which Buddhism claims will eventually happen, you have 7 billion gods, all different from and competing against one another.

Idolatrous Humanism - Man is God. Often we don’t think of this as idolatry, and the proponents of this belief system don’t want us to see it for what it really is. Humanism would have us to believe that Man is the measure of all things. But think of the folly of this thinking. If man were truly god, then man would be the designer and the creator of the universe. Then why is it that we are still trying to understand the make up of everything in the universe.

Many are proud that we have uncovered the human genome and now understand much more about human genetics than ever before. But if we were the designers and creators of ourselves, we would have known this perfectly already. Instead, if you talk with those in any field of scientific endeavor, they will admit the more they discover, the more questions it leaves them grappling with. Clearly we couldn’t be the designers and creators of the universe. It is a silly thought to think that man is God. That being true, it is an even a sillier thought that human beings together in a civil government is somehow God.

Idolatrous Statism - the State is God

Legalized plunder keeps the whole idolatrous machine working

Coveting leads to taking by force or by law what belongs to our neighbor and is clearly a violation of God’s law. So “it follows that organization of such covetousness into a system is the creation of an anti-God society. A welfare economy -socialism, communism, or any form of social order which takes from one group to give to another - is thus lawlessness organizes into a system of plunder. In such a society, the lawless seizure can lay hold of what belongs to our neighbor by asking the State to serve as our instrument of seizure; to covet and take by law is no less of a sin.”[1]

Liberty means breaking free from every form of idolatry. Think of what happens when people believe civil government is God. It can make law any way it chooses, and it can change the law it makes at a whim.

Learn more about your Constitution with Pastor David Whitney and the Institute on the Constitution and receive your free gift.

[1] Institutes of Biblical Law, (IBL) 640

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Rev. David Whitney has been teaching the Christian heritage and history of our country with Institute on the Constitution for over a decade where he serves as Senior Instructor, and Radio show host on Dr. Stan Monteith’s Radio Liberty. Whitney is an Honors Scholar graduate from Rutgers University with a Masters Degree from Denver Seminary. A minister for 32 years, he is currently the Pastor of Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church of Pasadena, Maryland. As a member of the clergy, an activist and radio personality, Whitney has appeared in Washington Times, on Voice of America, Fox, ABC, NBC, CSPAN, BBC, and more.
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  • Realist

    You my friend are a fool, Seeing the world through the twisted glass of the Christian Lens you will never see the world for what it really is. Your logic is flawed and stupid. All Abrahamic religions are ridiculous, with Islam the most brutal and deceitful. So sick of hearing religious folk crap on about their fictitious gods and trying to interpret the world through this delusional viewpoint. Wake up sheep! like the greek gods and the norse gods and all the gods before, time will eventually see the educated thinking people of the world finally realise that there are no ‘Gods’. And that all religious text is designed to do nothing but subdue the masses and obtain power.

    • Bob Ellis

      I’m afraid it is you who is a fool. Not only is the evidence overwhelming that the universe was designed by an intelligent creator, it is easy to see that the God of the Bible was the one who did it. The universe we see and the evidence of the past fits the Genesis account amazingly closely. And since the Bible (unlike any other document in history) has never been found to contain a historical, scientific or moral error, its veracity is unparalleled.

      Only a fool would would ignore this powerful truth.

      It is the religion of man (with perhaps Marxist atheism, the current favorite among “non-Abrahamic religions”) that is designed to subdue the masses and obtain power. The masses are misled to believe that they are their own gods and can have anything they want….while those elitists in power use the ignorant masses to fuel their own cushy existence.

      That is, until they enter eternity and meet their real God. Then they will sadly realize what incredible fools they were their whole life. Then, this brief period of indulgence here on earth will be the little bit of enjoyment they will have had…out of an eternity of suffering.

      Not a good deal. Give the Bible another chance, before it’s too late.

      • franklinb23

        “The universe we see and the evidence of the past fits the Genesis account amazingly closely”

        I’m going to play a friendly devil’s advocate with a couple of these statements, if you don’t mind, since I sympathize with Intelligent Design theory (even though I reject fundamentalism).

        We know that Genesis was written after Creation, but hindsight is 20-20, as they say. Genesis is descriptive, yes, but it’s not very descriptive beyond what was available in knowledge at the time it was written. Now, if it had described our solar system with details that could only have been discovered with the advent of space travel (black holes, the rings of Saturn, the lack of gravity in space, etc) we’d have a whole other kettle of fish here.

        ” .. since the Bible (unlike any other document in history) has never been found to contain a historical, scientific or moral error, its veracity is unparalleled”

        Again, I’m not sure that the Bible contains a scientific detail that could not have been ascertained with the tools available to people in that day. If it had described the existence of bacteria or provided hints of the marvels of DNA or talked of how lasers would remove near-sightedness, you’d have something astonishing indeed. I don’t see anything like that in Scripture though. To the contrary, there seems to be no natural explanation for anything. Blindness and illness are frequently seen to be the result of some supernatural demonic “force”.

        Finally, I’m not sure why you’d want to appeal to scientific facts, anyhow. The problem with embracing a narrow reading of Scripture is that it requires one dispense with science and its processes entirely, anyhow, when it contradicts articles of faith (such as a young earth and other matters).

        • Bob Ellis

          If Genesis had contained that kind of detail, we would indeed have additional proof of its veracity. However, of what real use would such additional and specific details have been to humanity, especially when we weren’t in a position scientifically to observe them for thousands of years? The Bible wasn’t written to tell us everything, or even most things. It was written to give us sufficient information to understand where we come from, who our Creator is, and how we came to have the (fallen, corrupted) relationship with him that we do. For that purpose, the details provided are more than sufficient.

          Regarding scientific details that were not known at the time, certainly later on in history we began to figure out that the planet was a sphere, but that was likely unknown to the non-sea faring Hebrews.

          Also, only until recenty have we come to realize that the number of stars were truly too numerous to count.

          Humanity also had no way of observing, measuring or grasping the get streams that are mentioned in the Old Testament.

          The Bible describes a global flood that we have only been able to start to see global signs of in the past 100 years or so.

          These are just a few of the scientific details the Bible includes that were essentially “just laying around” for thousands of years until we developed the technology to be able to observe and verify them for ourselves.

          Finally, appealing to science is indeed of limited value. Nevertheless, I suspect they were included in the Bible, in addition to gently educating us about the universe God created for us, as little empirical evidences to bolster our faith.

          And the nice thing about science is that it DOESN’T contradict the Biblical account. If the Bible were written by fallible, finite humanity, we would expect any number of verifiable errors in it. Yet there are none. This fact has pointed a great many skeptics over the years toward the ultimate truth.

    • DCM7

      You have clearly been taught well *what* to think, rather than *how* to think. Unfortunately for your point, which you support with basically nothing more than name-calling, you’re talking to people who have already examined the “education” you cite that supposedly proves there is no “God”. And we’ve found it to be hopelessly false and fallacious. We’ve seen what it’s brought to the world — oppression where it promised freedom, darkness where it promised enlightenment.
      You have been lied to — lied to so badly that you *should* be furious about it. But you’re not, because you like the lies better than the truth it tries to hide. But the truth is there, whether you like it or not, and it has challenged each of us here just as it would challenge you.
      You’ve been told the lie that acknowledging God would limit you, like prison walls. But the reality that we’ve found is that it doesn’t put prison walls around us; it puts walls of protection around us — walls within which we are far more free than we’d ever be outside them, wandering around lost.

  • DCM7

    “But if we were the designers and creators of ourselves, we would have known this perfectly already. Instead, if you talk with those in any field of scientific endeavor, they will admit the more they discover, the more questions it leaves them grappling with. Clearly we couldn’t be the designers and creators of the universe. It is a silly thought to think that man is God.”

    The sneaky thing about Humanist logic is that it knows better than to claim that man is actually the designer and creator of the universe. What it does instead is claim that, essentially, *nothing* is the designer and creator of the universe; thus man, however weak and imperfect he may be, has by default the universe’s highest and central position, with nothing higher and no one but himself to answer to or give credit to.

    When it comes right down to it, there is nothing irrational about acknowledging the Creator. Why would there be? Because we can’t see him? That doesn’t work, because we can still see evidence of him. And if we reject him, we have to instead believe in something else that we can’t see — a make-believe past wherein the universe and life magically created themselves — and look at all evidence as if it *must* be evidence of this. And that’s what’s *really* irrational.

  • Tom Kovacs

    Are you the Bob Ellis that I knew at UPT ?

    • Bob Ellis

      I don’t think so. I don’t recognize your name and I’ve never been to UPT. Sorry. There are a lot of us “Bob Ellis'” lurking around out there. :-)