The book Drop the Rock defines this character defect as "desire for material wealth or gain while ignoring the realm of the spiritual."
Dictionary.com defines covetous as below
/ˈkʌvɪtəs/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [kuhv-i-tuhs] Use covetousness in a Sentence
inordinately or wrongly desirous of wealth or possessions; greedy.
1. grasping, rapacious. See avaricious.
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2009.
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"Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth." Luke 12:15
Copyright © 1976, 1977, 1983, 1997 Diane S. Dew
This is the best site I've found for a full discussion of the Biblical references against covetousness. They're almost endless.
Drop the Rock states that the desire for material things isn't the problem it's the excessive desire and the attitude. It's 'fear based' and believing that possessions 'make the man' or that if I have things I am somebody.
Yet that's the very nature of this pacman society. All that matters is wealth in the world it seems and to be a 'success' one must have wealth and really once one has wealth there's no real question as to how one came by it.
Yet there on TV this week I watched Bill and Melinda Gates describing their life today of philanthropy and the joys they have learned from this new life. Most of us 'want' and believe that one day with 'enough' we'll be givers too. But how much 'security' do we need and how much 'insurance' in this world can still the fear within us.
Do we think of ourselves in terms of what we have. I certainly am guilty for feeling less than. The book Drop the Rock says very clearly that few of us 'examine' our lives and rarely do we seriously look at the values that guide our day to day decisions. Certainly I do now. I believe I once was only interested in learning and giving the learning I had. I repeatedly made decisions in the best interest of helping others over what would be most beneficial for myself. I still do and mostly these days I don't like it simply because of the society I experience. I was unprepared for theft in my work and lost tens of thousands of dollars because of the theft and deceitfulness of staff. I believed in working harder so I could give others jobs and pay them and that by more work it would generate outwards but I didn't count on black holes of greed and evil. I was unprepared for the losses of divorce. I was unprepared for the countless new government regulations and penalties that require everyone to be a lawyer just to get through the day. Everything is taxed. I was constantly striving to do my best, work the hardest and then share the benefits with everyone.
I had huge dinner parties which were not reciprocated. I have countlessly shared and have not seen the same kind of reciprocity. People hoard here. When I was in a treatment centre wondering where my life had gone wrong a delightful character said "we all looked for people like you to take from. You're a "mark". I spent all my money on booze and drugs and then depended on guys like you to feed me and clothes me and give me a place to stay." I remember housing drunks and having them always around eating the bounty of my labour while few of them worked.
Even in my regular association I found that people were ever quick to take generosity and really appreciate it in me but weren't generous in return. Their sense of the "world" and self care, I'd work two jobs or weekends or holidays and they'd not, or they'd claim their relative poverty was anything but their own 'choice'. My success was ever defined by others as 'luck' and theres was 'hard work".
Living in this world caused me to really question my values of generosity. Indeed I've had to question a lot of the spiritual values that I had. I now continue to be generous, I believe" but I ask myself if I'm throwing "pearls to swine" and question whether I'm giving 'seeds' to those who would squander them or those who would plant them and make another garden to share.
Bill Gates was describing this when he talked of learning from Warren Buffet about giving and projects that would grow. I thought giving itself was good but recognize that those who give to drug addicts on the street are really just self serving because giving without thoughtfulness and God's guidance isn't 'selfless' but rather selfish.
When I hired a staff person who was a compulsive liar I didn't take the effort to thoroughly investigate their past history of theft and deceit. I hired them despite their shady references. I thought I was giving them a chance but in fact I was being trusting and generous because it makes me "feel good" and "looks good" but it needs to be coupled with 'discernment'.
When I give time and money to one person who doesn't deserve it or abuses it I have to realize that there is another person who might do the job better, appreciate the generosity, see the spirituality rather than just experiencing a 'mark" to be used.
I have to look at my own actions today. Clearly I was innocent and naïve in business. I was a doctor and gave 100% to medicine but didn't get any training in the paranoia that business people have and given the losses I've had in business, not dissimiliar to the losses I had in love, I really have to consider that I'm putting my seeds in barren ground and really ought to reconsider where I'm planting and what I want.
That said, life as a lesson is a constant source of entertainment. I am growing covetous as I get older. I want the neighbours new boat with all the parts working. I seem forever to be in a state of constant repair and would love to have the money to hire a staff of people to fulfill my fantasies, but don't have the capacity to scrutinize staff so that I don't spend 3 years of my life paying for the error in judgement of hiring devil's spawn. So then I recoil and don't want to work at all and go on the dole or become a criminal like the people who steal from me and don't work themselves but seem to collude with the courts to take the hard work of the good people. I think I'll grow marijuania or steal or do any number of things to get the lear jet and rolls Royce.
Then I go back and think no, if I had tremendous wealth I'd just make bigger mistakes. I need to do what my mother said, look at the pennies. I need to look at my own covetousness in terms of the pennies and the small scale because if I won the lottery I'd just hire a person who stole more from me and told bigger lies. I have to be grateful to God that his lessons have been smaller scale. It's here where I need to make the changes. If I had a harem my wife problems would have been a whole lot worse than occurred in our monogamous society.
I certainly don't covet my neighbour's wife. I feel sorry for him more often than not. I feel less than in the eyes of others because I don't have a bigger boat and a couple of houses and that's phallic as Freud would say. I feel less than a lot. I recognize it but whenever I have things they just require more work and they don't fill that whole Pascal says is a 'god hole" and the pacman consumer items never sustain. Just as soon as I have one toy I want the next and I'm still left with the sense of emptiness for God.
I was covetous when I was married. Having the beautiful wife I wanted her to be a rocket scientist too. Having the bright woman I wanted her to be more sexy like my neighbour's wife. I want my cat to fetch like a dog. I want a dog that doesn't have the demands they do but can be left a couple of days like a cat.
I want what I don't have and like C.S. Lewis says I look for the architect in the walls of the building. It's the holy spirit I want not the spirits. Materialism is a lie. It's a necessary evil but the reality is that it's not all there is. We are spiritual beings living in a material world not material beings living in a spiritual world. I have to put covetousness into that equation and not expect things to satisfy more than they do or still the fear of separation from God.