Coveting: The Acceptable Sin
As Christians, we easily come down on whatever sins have made our list of “unacceptable”— anything from getting drunk, sleeping around as a single, and cheating on one’s spouse to various addictions. Then there is another list that we turn the other way on and sweep under the carpet—gossip, anger, judgmentalism, and the one I want to address today: coveting.
Coveting starts with comparing. It’s been a problem and a temptation for me for as long as I can remember. In high school I was often guilty of it. I got my sense of self-esteem, self-worth, and self-identity by comparing myself with others. How was I looking, how was I doing, and how was I being viewed by others?
In the leadership realm, comparing/coveting is a huge issue. I have been to more leadership meetings than I care to remember where coveting was obvious, painful, and embarrassing to watch.
Comparing & Coveting
When pastors from the same denomination or leaders from the same organization have their periodic meetings, the “comparing/coveting games” begin in earnest. In most leadership meetings, it is not uncommon to have “Mr. Successful” become the poster child for what I should be like and be experiencing. It usually depresses me. We compare and then covet others’ buildings, budgets, attendance, worship, technology, influence, popularity, blog and web traffic, and on and on.
Recently I read Acts 20, which covers Paul’s last meeting with the Ephesian elders. Verse 33 caught my attention: “I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel.” My journal entry for the day read as follows:
Jesus, to be content with who I am, where I am, what I’m doing and what you’re doing. To covet nothing but a dynamic and anointed walk and work with you. To cling to you and you alone.
As I have been thinking more on this, here are two other verses that came to mind:
- Luke 12:15: “Take care and be on your guard against all covetousnesss.”
- 1 Corinthians 4:7: “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”
Comparing almost always leads to coveting and competing. It is a slap in the face of God. I am essentially telling him that he is doing a lousy job. Also, it is missing the sovereign hand of God in my life and in my work.
Coveting silver, gold and apparel, status, popularity, fruitfulness, and influence is an acceptable sin in too many leadership cultures, but is disgusting in the eyes of God. Living in a celebrity-worshiping culture doesn’t help either. Some successful leaders are viewed as rock stars with their cult-like following.
Whatever happened to godly contentment? As leaders, have we replaced contentment with coveting? Fellow leader, is there anything you need to confess?