Being envious of your neighbors’ possessions is the sin of covetousness. The word “covetousness” may have fallen out of popular usage, but this sin is on God’s top ten list of sins to avoid. “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.” – Exodus 20:17 NKJV.
When God created his list of Top Ten Commandments, he concluded the list with “Thou shalt not covet…” God tells us specifically not to covet houses, wives, servants and livestock. These items were not mass produced. The only way you get a wife like your neighbor’s is to take his. Of course, the command concludes with, “…or anything that is your neighbor’s.” That doesn’t mean you can’t like your neighbor’s new car and go buy the same model. But you must be careful with your heart.
Unfortunately, this attitude may affect people regardless of the financial class in which they are. Rich people are envious of the possessions of anyone who has more than them. The only person on earth to whom this doesn’t apply is Jeff Bezos and he frequently looks over his shoulder at Elon Musk who is closing in quickly.
Poor people also can also be envious of their slightly better-off neighbors. That’s why a 24” television screen used to be big enough. Now, no one wants anything less than a 40” and you’ll have clear space on a wall for 80” of screen if you can afford it.
If you find yourself envious or your neighbors’ car, house, or other possessions, let me show you three truths you need to understand.
- Base your self-worth on God’s love, not the judgement of others.
- Have faith that God will supply all your needs.
- Be content with what God has given you.
If you find that you are a little envious of the possessions your neighbor owns, I can tell you how to overcome this attitude and begin to feel better about what God has given you. We can start celebrating with our neighbors when they remodel their kitchen without suddenly thinking we should update our stove and refrigerator.
Base Your Self-Worth on God’s Opinion of You
Our self-worth should be based on what God thinks of us and not the balance in our bank account. We should get our feelings about ourselves from the fact that we were created by God in his image. Also, we should understand the great price God paid to redeem us from the miserable world controlled by the devil. Paul tells us, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8 NKJV.
Even if our neighbors do judge us according to what we have or don’t have (Most of the time, they don’t care at all about what you have.), we should be focused on what God thinks of us. Having a lot of things doesn’t impress him. In fact, having too much may be a detriment to this most important relationship.
If God loves us so much, why are we concerned with the opinion of our neighbors?
Trust God to Provide Your Needs
Instead, we should trust God’s promises to provide all that we need. “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” – Matthew 6:31-33 NKJV. God blesses us with all things for our enjoyment. Instead of fighting with your neighbor over his possessions, we should merely ask God for what need. “You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.” – James 4:2 NKJV.
Jesus tells us not to trust in riches. “And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, ‘Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God!’ “ – Mark 10:24 NKJV. Paul also echoes this idea also, “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.” – 1 Timothy 6:17 NKJV.
Finally, God tells the Philippians, through Paul, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;” – Philippians 4:6 NKJV.
Learn to be Content with Your Possessions
To overcome covetousness, you must learn the secret of contentment. Paul tells us, “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:11-13 NKJV. Take note, Paul is not saying his nature is to be content, or that he was born as a content person. This is something he had to learn. Contentment is not a personality type. It is a skill we must develop.
The Roman soldiers listening to John the Baptist heard the advice he was giving to others. “Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, ‘And what shall we do?’ So he said to them, ‘Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages.’ “ – Luke 3:14 NKJV. Being content with what God provides for you is wise. Someone who complains and grumbles about their lot in life will cause more avoidance than someone who is dirt poor.
But contentment is attractive. You may not wear the latest fashions or drive the nicest car, but if God provides your needs, there is no need to be discontent. Consider these words from Paul. “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” – 1 Timothy 6:6-8 NKJV.
Paul says that he struggled with covetousness, he was envious of the possessions of others, but he didn’t stay there. He learned to be content and was able to overcome his earlier struggles.
For more information on this topic, check out this book, Chasing Contentment by Erik Raymond.
For other posts in this series see: Gratitude is the Attitude for Christians with Money Issues and GREED: 4 Ways Christians Worship Money.