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Sentence Sermons (Christian Inspiration) #24 --- Covetousness (Greed)

Updated on March 8, 2011

Quotations on Covetousness (Greed)

Greed is a cardinal sin, for it destroys man's relationships toward his fellowmen and it corrupts all possible spiritual health between a man and his God. ... Sometimes our greed is not only for possessions. Rather, we covet another man's well-earned reputation, his circle of friends, his well-developed talents, or his peace of mind.

—Charles L. Allen, The Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, Ga., April 8, 1959.

Covetousness is eagerness, inordinate eagerness to acquire and possess. It is eagerness to accumulate and hoard. How can one watch the activities of men, the regular output of human effort, and escape the conclusion that most men are eager to acquire and hoard wealth. It is true that many men who are eager, excessively eager, to accumulate and possess never succeed. But one does not have to acquire and possess to be covetous. If one has the eager desire to acquire, if one be minded to be wealthy, it is enough. Such a one is covetous.

—J.N. Armstrong, The Living Message, Morrillton, Ark., April 2, 1925.

It is always easy to covet another man's success without envying his labors.

—Roy L. Smith, Christian Advocate, Chicago, Ill., Oct. 19, 1944.

Covetousness destroys every fine trait. Covetousness poisons the springs of real enjoyment. The covetous cannot be happy. Godliness with contentment is the need.

—Arthur Growden, The Commercial Dispatch, Columbus, Miss., Aug. 1, 1932.

This thing called love of money eats like a cankerworm at the heart of one's moral and spiritual self. It spreads like a gangrenous condition throughout his finer nature. It becomes, sooner or later, a clot in the spiritual arteries of his heart.

—R. Paul Caudill, Christian Index, Atlanta, Ga., June 21, 1945.

There is scarcely any other sin as destructive of man's higher nature as covetousness. The covetous man only thinks about his own desires, and ignores the rights of others. He will take bread from the mouths of helpless children and permit a Lazarus to lie at his gate without helping him. Covetousness is idolatry, and it is entirely antagonistic to the principles of the kingdom of God.

—J.W. Lowber, Austin Daily Statesman, Austin, Texas, Sept. 29, 1902.

Greed and the desire for revenge are twin enemies. Where one is found, the other also usually lurks. Greed warps and twists a man's brain, causing him to become cheatful and lose his sense of values concerning the real joys of life. A man may attain great wealth and position. But so long as his mind harbors greed, he will never know happiness.

—Napoleon Hill, Houston Post, Houston, Texas, Feb. 8, 1957.

There are two forms of the love of money by which both individuals and nations are tempted to their destruction. The one is the love of money for its own sake--the base sin of the miser. The other is the love of money for the pleasure it can purchase--the brilliant folly of the spendthrift.

—James Johnson, The Baptist Chronicle, Ruston, La., July 23, 1896.

Covetousness according to Christian teaching is idolatry. The covetous man has his mind on what he covets and where his mind is there is also the heart. He becomes so blinded that he cannot see the things that are above.

—Alfred Brown, Morning Examiner, Ogden, Utah, Feb. 12, 1906.

Covetousness will lead a man to the commission of crime to secure the idol of his heart.

—James F. Pennybacker, Austin Daily Statesman, Nov. 14, 1910.

Covetousness is cancer of the soul; it is separation from God; it is repudiation of the finest things in us. It is a sin of deepest dye, worse in its effects than lying, stealing, adultery, or even than killing, unless covetousness be involved in these also; it is often the prompting motive in these.

—S.S. Lappin, Christian Standard, Cincinnati, Ohio, Nov. 26, 1938.

Covetousness dictates the most of sins against other men. Therefore, "Thou shalt not covet . . . anything that is thy neighbor's." (Exodus 20:17.) Guard then the doors of human conduct against the cancerous covetousness and you will neither steal, kill, commit adultery, nor bear false witness.

—James T. Ross, Hereford Brand, Hereford, Texas, Aug. 26, 1926.

"Thou shalt not covet." (Exodus 20:17.) People go into debt because they covet. Never go into debt for anything that will die, rot or lose its value before you pay it off. Debt, like fire, is a wonderful servant but a fearful master.

—Howard Ruff, Latter-Day Sentinel, Portland, Ore., June 14, 1989.

Covetousness eats out the vitals of the moral life and makes way for the establishment of the rule of Mammon in the economic world.

—Ernest C. Wareing, Western Christian Advocate, Cincinnati, Ohio, July 16, 1925.

Covetousness always has empty hands but aching fingers.

—Ernest C. Wareing, Western Christian Advocate, Cincinnati, Ohio, June 24, 1926.

"And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.

"But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.

"For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." (1 Timothy 6:8-10.)

The love of money is at the root of evil relations between men. Thieving is done for money, as also the breaking of any of the other commandments of God. ... The love of money is something God despises, and He knows whether there is fear of insecurity or an unwillingness to work for a living. Either one is repulsive to the Lord of hosts. There are many dangers involved with the love of money. Money can be a tyrant. It can be the source of trouble in homes, between friends, and even in churches. ... The love of money can lead people into unlawful practices that put people in jail, that bring shame on the names of their children, and put them in places of temptation where they are unable to stand. Blessed is the man who trusts God and obeys God, who trusts righteousness more than money, and God more than possessions, who accepts his money as a trust from God for the needful supplies of life, and whatever else there is a trust to use for the benefit of the needy, to undergird worthy industry, and to uphold righteousness through lawful means.

—R.D. Littleton, DeRidder Enterprise, DeRidder, La., Nov. 15, 1946.

Covetousness is nothing but the love of self. ... Covetousness ought to be considered to be what it is, a denial of Christ.

—C.R. Delepine, The Baptist Chronicle, Alexandria, La., May 27, 1897.

"Covetousness is idolatry" (Colossians 3:5); the thing coveted is the idol, and self is always the pedestal.

—William M. Anderson, Sr., Christian Observer, Louisville, Ky., July 10, 1907.

Covetousness consists of two elements: 1. An unreasonable desire after things which we have not. 2. And a dissatisfaction with the things which we have. It is a vice which strongly controls the hearts of man and insinuates itself into his favor, and for these reasons: It raises a man to an estate of reputation on account of his riches. It is idolatry of the most dangerous sort, for it is idolatry of the heart. In the heart, as in a temple, the selfish man or woman excludes God, sets up gold instead of Him, and places that confidence in it which belongs to the Great Supreme Being alone. Covetousness is one of the oldest sins--a prime leader in the satanic empire of evil. No nature is too hard for it to attempt, and no sphere is too extended for its rage. "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor's." The Tenth commandment requires full contentment with our own condition, with a right and kindly frame of mind toward our neighbor and all that is his. The Tenth commandment forbids all discontent with our own estates, envying or grieving at the good of our neighbor, all improper desires and affections to anything that is his.

—William M. Anderson, Sr., Dallas Morning News, Dallas, Texas, March 13, 1921.

Covet means the deep desire and unrelenting persistence for property that belongs to another person. Covetousness is a selfish desire that betrays the rights of a lawful owner of property. Such coveting "breaks the brotherly covenant," so that neighborliness is violated. Covetousness is the source of all sorts of "conniving" in order to get possession of another person's property. Lifelong differences have arisen over schemes to get possession of the house of another by illegal means. The many complications involved in coveting another man's wife are so grave as to be the theme of a separate commandment of itself, the seventh commandment against committing adultery. It was an undergirding of both the seventh and the tenth commandments that Jesus made the inner attitude of lustful looking the actual reality of sexual violation.... The covetous person becomes cruel and oppressive to all those by whom he would gain the possession of things. ... Extortioners, thieves and the like become such through the inner covetousness of the heart. The sufferings of many innocent persons come because they are victims of the covetous man.

—James W. Workman, The Louisiana Methodist, Little Rock, Ark., March 8, 1962.

“Thou shalt not covet.” Covetousness is to have an unholy and unlawful desire for that which we should not have. [This] commandment deal[s] with neither words nor deeds but thoughts and so dealing with the very source of things are tremendously important. ... He who covets brings misery upon himself. Such a person always has his eye on that which he does not have. He knows nothing about the sweetness of contentment. Very frequently, too, when the object of his unlawful desires becomes his, he will discover it to be something empty and dissatisfying or even to contain the string of the adder and the poison of the asp. How can you overcome this evil of covetousness? First by making a right use of your eyes, that is, by remember that those who have great possessions also have great cares and that the greatest happiness is often found in the humblest home. Secondly, by making a right use of ambition. To gather wealth, honors, etc., selfishly and make a sort of god out of them is wrong but to amass unselfishly and for the purpose of serving God, family and [country], better, is right. Thirdly, by making a right use of your possession. Never parade them. Never put on exhibit as it were, things you have and others have not, when you know that such a performance will cause envy. Fourthly, by making a right use of your faith. Overcome covetousness as you would overcome any other evil.

—Charles G. Beck, Reading Eagle, Reading, Pa., March 30, 1925.

"Thou shalt not covet." (Exodus 20:17.) This commandment is set as a check to human greed. Greed is the last enemy to be banished from the human mind. ... It wears so many disguises. It reaches out for money and material things. It covets power and prestige. It itches for praise. It strives for station. It is the most difficult of all sins to handle. It leads men to sacrifice the lives of other men, to disregard the sanctity of marriage, the sanctity of property rights, the sanctity of trust, and the sanctity of truth itself. This commandment, unlike all the others which go before it, reaches back of the action and touches the motive behind the action. Greed is powerful, universal and pervasive. ... Greed must be curbed externally in the best possible legal ways. But that is not enough. The power of genuine conversion is needed. Only a deep sense of the love of God can purge greed from the hearts of men. Only the redemptive power of Almighty God can handle it. It is ours to work for truly changed lives--lives revolutionized by the transforming power of the love of God. ... The love which envieth not, vaunteth not itself, seeketh not her own, and doth not behave itself unseemly ... is not natural to this world, but comes by the grace of God to this natural world to save us from ourselves. Love is the completion of the law. Love helps men live above the level of personal power, social recognition, material success, individual superiority, or paltry pretense. Only Divine Love can make us care so much for our neighbors that their sufferings become our sufferings, and we truly love them as ourselves. Now, from where you sit, is the Tenth Commandment out of date? And if love is the fulfilling of the law, then can these commandments ever be out of date?

—Frank A. Godsoe, Amarillo Times, Amarillo. Texas, June 19, 1949.

Covetousness is the unlawful desire to obtain or retain that belonging to another. This desire may be unlawful in its motive, in its principles, in its results, bringing discontent, rebellion, unhappiness. ... Covetousness is a foolish sin. All sin is foolish. ... Covetousness is a great sin. ... Some sins break one commandment at a time, but this sin of covetousness breaks all the Ten Commandments at once. ... How can a man love the Lord with all his mind, soul and strength when he thus violates the Lord's own estimate of His law? How can he love his neighbor as himself when he is unlawfully desiring his possessions? This is the most subtle sin. It creeps in unawares; it is not intentionally committed. ... It prevents true consecration as no other sin. It appears as a virtue when it is a vice; excuses itself with some good name, as economy. Pride has its excuse in gratification, profanity in the harmless liberty of speech. Every sin has its excuse to offer, but the sin of covetousness must answer for every one of the Ten Commandments its has broken.

—William Fred Galbraith, Dallas Morning News, Dallas, Texas, June 23, 1913.

Covetousness is the seed from which springs the parasite envy, which feeds upon the human soul, and upon all that is good and virtuous, killing and destroying it. Like the spore of smut that fastens itself upon the kernel of wheat, it turns the vital and useful part black and smutty. An envious man is mean and terrible. Envy is good stuff from which to make a rascal. A covetous man only wants the fortunes of others. An envious man wants to destroy the fortunes of others, the reputation of others, and the peace of others. He does not want these himself so much as he wants others to be deprived of them. An envious man is always in misery. He strives to hide his envy and malice; he even tries to make people believe he is happy–as if an envious man had the right to joy. He wears the mantle love and tries to hide the gloomy light that illuminates his soul. He hides this light, and how dark is a man who is always night. We are not deceived by such a man. Where the bright light of man should shine there is only a shadow. What should be rays of warmth is cold and piercing. What icy channels such lives run in. For them there is no sun, no summers and no flowers. There is only frost and snow, fog and night. We cannot describe the spirit that dwells in the body of such a man. The envy feeds upon it, the cold chills it, and the fog smothers it. Each makes it more withered. What we see on the surface is terrible. What must be the hidden regions! What do such men do? Evil for good. Evil for evil purposes and good for evil purposes. The latter is the most wicked.

—George Gardner, Liahona The Elders Journal, Independence, Mo., April 10, 1909.

Why did Paul say that covetousness is idolatry? ... Covetousness is not said to be like idolatry; it is said to be idolatry. And there's a reason, maybe several of them. Idolatry is the substitute of something else for God, in our affections, in worship, and in service or obedience. Covetousness is inordinate or uncontrolled desire for the possession of material things. Religion is a heart yearning for fellowship with God, with some measure of realizing this desire. Idolatry is the prevention of this realization by the substitution of some material object which supplants God in the heart. And things which are equal to the same thing are equal to each other. Religion is to love God with all the mind and heart and soul and strength. Covetousness is such a love of money as to make a man give to it or its acquisition all his mind and heart and soul and strength. The worship of God is to admire Him, to think on Him, to think highly of Him; to give Him the first place in our hearts, to place Him above everything in our estimation of values. It is to praise Him, to speak highly of Him, to pour out our souls in adoration of Him. Covetousness is to put material possessions above everything else in our lives, to believe that they are the chief joy and of the highest value; to labor for their acquisition and to regard them as the highest end in life. Religion is to let God control the life, to allow Him to dominate our thinking and being and conduct; to let Him determine our plans and our behavior. Covetousness is to allow worldly gain to occupy the citadel of our souls, to say what we shall do and how we shall live. It is to substitute the control of possessions for the reign of Christ. One or the other of these forces is bound to dominate our lives. Both cannot do it.

—P.I. Lipsey, Baptist Record, Jackson, Miss., June 26, 1930.


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    The Worden Report 

    7 years ago

    You might be interested in the shift that occurred in the history of Christian thought on the relationship between wealth and greed. It is indeed surprising the bredth of views on it within the religion. In I discuss this shift from the standpoint of Christianity as a potential normative constraint on the greed we saw in the financial crisis of 2008. In short, the shift went from anti- to pro-wealth, and then the Reformers sought to return to the anti-wealth stance. The question is whether they succeeded.


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