To be covetous is to be literally obsessed and driven to obtain what you do not have. When believers covet, they focus on what they do not have rather than being thankful for what God has done for them. This sin of the heart and of the mind drives an individual to want something at someone else’s expense. Proverbs 14:30 states, “Envy is a cancer in the bones.” You can tell you are slipping into covetousness when you begin to spend too much time thinking about things.
There are two negative effects of coveting. First, coveting drives people to obtain what is coveted in inappropriate, unwise, and at times illegal or immoral ways. Second, obsessing on what others have denies our faith in the Father to provide for us equally well. There is no need for a covenant child of God to ever covet because what he has done for others He will surely and gladly do for us. All we need to do is ask instead of worrying, fretting, or coveting.
Andrew Carnegie was asked, “How much money is enough?” He replied, “Just a little bit more.” Contentment, in contrast to covetousness, is to be satisfied with what you have. It is not laziness or a lack of ambition, but being grateful for what you have at every stage of life rather than bemoaning what maybe missing or is yet to come. Who can forget the story about a thirteen-year-old surfer named Bethany Hamilton who lost her arm in a shark attack? She has maintained a positive outlook on life, choosing to see her possibilities rather than the limitations that are the result of the injuries. An old rabbinic teaching says, “Who is wealthy? The one who is content with his life.”
The ability to rest contented in God is priceless. Every believer can develop contentment in his or her life by overcoming three hindrances to contentment. The first hindrance to contentment is the competitive spirit. The Bible warns us about comparing ourselves with others (2 Corinthians 10:12). James 4:1-2 teaches that the root of strife, fights, and quarrels in the believer’s life is coveting. The key is to be the best you can and focus on yourself, rather than trying to beat the other guy.
The second hindrance is the materialistic spirit. “I saw a man who had no family, no son or brother. He always worked hard but was never satisfied with what he had” (Ecclesiastes 4:8, NCV). Hebrews 13:5 says, “Keep you lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ ” It is interesting that this often quoted Scripture is directly tied to the concept of contentment. We don’t have to worry about stuff because God will always be there to provide for us! Materialism is trying to fill a spiritual need with something physical or material such as property, relationships, money, or even power. Many people have acquired all this and yet remain discontented, anxious, and covetous.
The last hindrance to contentment is the empty spirit. Every human heart was designed for God to dwell there. The empty spirit is a heart that is not filled with God and his word. “If they obey and serve him, they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity and their years in contentment” (Job 36:11, NIV). There is no real prosperity or contentment without a relationship with the Father through faith in Jesus Christ. The Apostle John tied well-being and health to the condition of one’s own soul (3 John 2). Paul said he learned how to be content, at rest, and at peace in any situation—the impact of the strength that only comes from walking with the Lord (Philippians 4:12-13, NIV). When the human spirit is empty, people will covet, slash, burn, steal, and manipulate to acquire what they desire. They are driven by emptiness. Fill yourself with God and there will be no room left for covetousness.