The poison of pining or coveting is another insidious poison, one that we rarely consider even though we live in a society that attempts to produce this poison in our lives 24/7!



Some of the poisons we look at are pretty obvious, but one trend you may have noticed is that many of the poisons are insidious, they’re hard to pick.


Arsenic for example looks like table salt. It dissolves completely in water, is odourless, tasteless and completely lethal.  There are poisons that look like crystal spring water. A glass of such poison, placed next to a glass of clear water will fool the eye; the two look exactly alike. But one has death in it, the other life. You have to discover the true nature by means other than drinking the two liquids.


In the same way there are many things in life that are deadly, but have the seeming appearance of goodness. This is why, when you must make a choice about some pleasure, amusement, thing or action, you must not come to your decision on the basis of appearances.


Wanting something is not necessarily bad. You may want it to further your ministry, or to bless those around you. But there is a difference between wanting something and lusting after it.  So be careful lest you find yourself drinking a poison!




Pining or coveting might be considered dreaming of good things to come, which is not that bad, right?


Covetousness is defined as a strong desire after the possession of worldly things (Col 3:5 Eph 5:5 Heb 13:5 1 Tim 6:9 10; Matt 6:20). It assumes sometimes the more aggravated form of avarice, which is the mark of cold-hearted worldliness.


In essence, the poison of pining or coveting is jealousy for what someone else has… on steroids!


We may make the mistake of thinking that coveting is a “small” sin that involves daydreaming about other people’s stuff or wanting a little more than what we have. But covetousness is a poison that will infiltrate every area of our lives. It begins a chain of enslavement that motivates all kinds of sin.


And our society openly and brazenly promotes this sin! It takes the desire for better things and a better life and twists it to make us poison ourselves!


Desiring wealth is not a bad thing, it can be a great thing for you, your family and the Kingdom of God. Money is not evil, but when you love it, you want it and you obsess about it it can become a fatal poison…


1 Timothy 6:9-10

Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.




Enter the Ad Man, the guy out there constantly thinking about how he can make you discontent with what you have so you will buy more.  That car, that holiday, that new cell phone. You see your friend with it, you want it… That’s the poison of pining or coveting right there.


I am actually quite fascinated with the psychology behind selling and marketing, so I have studied it a little bit. Let me point out that the psychology is not evil, but there is a subtle line that you need to be aware of in order for you to detect this poison.


Marketing starts by highlighting a need you have. It might be a pain point, it might be a new product to help you… maybe you have trouble losing weight, maybe you have a child struggling at school, perhaps you are lonely or stuck in a dead end job.


The technique marketers use is to highlight your pain or need, dig into it a bit so it really hurts, then provide the solution. This is all fine, it’s all legitimate marketing. The next step is to create urgency to force you to buy by giving the impression that the product is scarce, or about to disappear. This is where it sails close to the line of introducing this poison.


They’ll do anything to make you buy! Including lying.


So beware of the marketing you see all around you every day, some good, some bad, some honest, some scams.


And don’t take things on face value, or should I say Facebook value! I mean, I have it on good authority that there is a Nigerian prince who need to move $10 million out if his country and needs your bank account to do it. Or that Bill Gates is going to give you $10,000 if you pass an email on.


Clearly a lie, right? But people get fooled and get scammed.  But what about you, how do you feel when you see someone who has something you desire? Maybe it’s a great house or car, or maybe husband or wife or kids that behave.




Deadly serious. Don’t be fooled, the lives of many Christians are ruined by this poison. It’s subtle, insidious and affects all of us in some way, even if we seem to have it all!


This is commandment 10 of the 10 Commandments, so it is a pivotal instruction in how we are to live…

Exodus 20:17

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”


That’s all of us! There will always be someone with more, with better, with the latest. Someone with seemingly a better house, perhaps a better marriage, a better job… Doesn’t matter what it is, this commandment is designed to stop the jealousy and see you content in God.


Even pastors feel this! How do I feel Pastoring Coast Church when I meet James McPherson, Pastoring the massive church at Calvary? Do I want all he has, or do I remain content with where God has placed me, instead deciding to learn from a pastor more successful and experienced than I, rather than covert what he has or has achieved.


Thou shalt not covert thy neighbours Crystal Cathedral!


God is so serious  about this poison He lists it with some more obvious and clearly destructive sins…


Ephesians 5:5

For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.


Colossians 3:5

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.


The Greek word for idolator refers to a worshipper of false gods, or of mammon or money. And that is a hint of what the poison of pining and covetousness is, it is becoming obsessed with what another person has, and worshipping that!


So a covetous person actually transgresses the Tenth, First, and Second Commandments. When he loves material things more than he loves God, he is setting his affections on the gift, rather than on the Giver. What father wouldn’t be grieved if his beloved child loved his toys more than the father who gave him the toys? A child should love his father first and foremost. He should love the giver more than the gift.


And it’s not just things…


Deuteronomy 5:21

“‘And you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. And you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, or his male servant, or his female servant, his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.’


You can covet someone else’s wife or husband, kids, servants or employees, jobs, house, land, livelihood like an ox or donkey, anything that belongs to another. That’s why the poison of pining is so insidious… The net is so broad!


God lays down clear boundaries regarding our self-centered tendencies to obsess over material wealth, or what someone else has.




The “Idol” competitions get everyone excited. The term is used because people worship successful people as idols. From Caesar worship through to Beatlemania, from a football team to a motivational speaker, people love to worship people and build their entire lives around them!


So why is coveting equated so often with idolatry? Because it is idolatry, when you want someone or something that bad, and several Hebrew and Greek words are used for this poison throughout the Bible, so let’s have a quick look at them…


In the OT. In addition to being a commandment, look at Achan in Joshua 7:16-26 who was stoned for coveting. In the Hebrew there are several words for coveting, all of which imply that a soul is full of vigorous desires which urged it to extend its influence over other persons and things, for personal gain at any price.


In the NT it’s the same, where the poison of pining or coveting expresses itself as ruthless self-assertion, or a desperation to get what you want. Jesus warns us…


Luke 12:15

And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”


In Ephesians 5:5 coveting is actually and directly called idolatry…

For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.


Interestingly in the Greek a word for pining or coveting is used of an intense desire for spiritual gifts …


1 Corinthians 12:31

But earnestly desire the higher gifts.


But the exact same Greek word is used negatively in


James 4:1-3

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.


In short , when you get to the place of pining for everything your friend has, or you think they have, this becomes an idol to you and you start to build your life around this desire. It can cause fights and quarrels, even murder. As James describes it, your passions are at war within you!


Yet your Heavenly Father knows what you need and is willing to bless you. Remember our verse this year,


Ephesians 3:20

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,


James points out that we miss this blessing because our motive is wrong… We want to spend it on our passions. When you desire something or someone to the point where it controls you, your thoughts and your actions, then your motive is wrong and you’ve created an idol!




James says our passions are at war within us. What a great description. You see something or someone your friend has, and you start at jealousy.




I wish I had that! I always wanted one of them. Doesn’t God know that I need a man like that in my life? He’s got the perfect job, and earn squillions without working on hard.




How come he drives that car when I’m in a piece of junk? She doesn’t deserve a man like that! Why did he get the promotion, I’ve been here longer? She’s not even a nice person, why is she getting that holiday?




I’m a Christian, I shouldn’t be thinking like this. But I still reckon I should have got the job. I will smile and wish them well, and congratulate them on their win (ever watched the loser at the Academy awards, or a Grand Final?). Look at her with him, doesn’t God know how much I need a man like that? All the men I know are either married, useless or not interested.




I’m not going to take this lying down. I’m going to undermine them and make sure the boss knows he’s made the wrong choice. I’ll just flirt with him a bit when she’s not looking. I’ll arrange it so I bump into him when he’s alone. I don’t want to be his friend anyway, arrogant sod!



The antidote to this consuming poison is the same as the antidote for idolatry…


Matthew 6:33

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.


What things? Those things you desire or need come your way. You don’t need to pine for what someone else has, you need to seek God and you get the lot!


Hang on a minute! Are you saying that if I read the Bible and ask God I will get everything I want in life? Are you promoting some new prosperity teaching? Come to church, give all your money and you will get everything your heart desires?


The answer is yes, and let me tell you why.


Psalms 37:4

Delight yourself in the Lord,

and he will give you the desires of your heart.


If you delight in God, if you seek His Kingdom and righteousness, if you study the Word of God, come to church, pray and live with only Him in mind, if you only think on what is true, right, noble, lovely and admirable, then one of two things happens…


Either you get what you need or desire, if your motives are pure and you are not pining for what another person has, or what you desired once fades away because your will conforms to the will of the Father. It’s a win win… You either get it, or you don’t care that you don’t get it.


Either way, if you delight yourself in the Lord and seek first His Kingdom and righteousness you will realise the desire of your heart.


The antidote to this controlling, should destroying poison is to get into God. Use the Bible reading plan. Come to church. Join a connect group. Share, grow, live the life you’ve only ever dreamed of.


The antidote is seeking God. Even if you are a committed Christian. We often go off the boil, we lose our passion and start seeking other things. Now is the time to get back on track…

About Darin

Pastor Darin Browne is the Senior Pastor of Coast Church in Woombye, Queensland. He is an international speaker and worship leader and has toured all over the world, produced 8 albums and authored several books.