16 The prince that wants understanding is also a great oppressor: but he that hates covetousness shall prolong his days.
Now, lest you think that ol' Snoodles is going to give you lessons in coveting, this is not what this post is about! We're going to explore this verse and we'll find that there are two meanings of that word, that we Christians need to be aware of, and to be wary of.
Let's dive in!
In many Old Testament references, the words "prince" and "ruler" are interchangeable. Solomon is noting here that a ruler that lacks understanding (another word for wisdom, right?) is generally a huge oppressor of his people. We can call to mind many examples of leaders who have lacked in wisdom (and moral attitudes) and have oppressed the peoples that they governed: Hitler, Stalin, and many more. Solomon notes that in addition to lacking wisdom, these rulers also share a covetous spirit -- no matter how large their territory was, or how powerful they became, they always wanted more, more, more!
Do we ever think about the fact that covetousness, mentioned in the latter half of the verse, is idolatry? Whoa! We're getting deep here . . . I thought this was an introductory course -- see the 101 up there? Hmmph!
(Whispering) But it is idolatry.
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and covetousness, which is idolatry. Colossians 3:5
Paul laid it out for us. Idolatry is worshiping or valuing something more than we worship or value God. Letting something be more important to us than our relationship with Christ.
The second meaning of the word is this: you're not satisfied with what you have. In Hebrews 13:5, Paul noted: Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be
content with such things as you have: for he has said, I will never
leave you, nor forsake you.
That second meaning of covet, then, is to desire, to lust after something you don't have. If we are living our lives always hungering for what we don't have, we won't be grateful for the blessings that we do have; we won't be thanking God for what He has provided. That thing that we want so badly will be just like an idol, in our heart or on a shelf --- we'll be paying more attention and valuing that more than we do our fellowship with God.
Here's Paul again, in I Timothy chapter 6:
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.
A feeling of gratitude, that we're receiving a blessing because of God's grace, is a good sign that idolatry is being held in check.
One other facet to this word "covet" is the desires of our heart --- the horizontal ones. Know what I mean? Some people use the words horizontal and vertical to imply our relationships with mankind, and with God. On the horizontal plane, we have a lot of expectations. Expectations can truly get us into trouble.
We can have the expectation that our hubby should act a certain way, talk a certain way, or treat us in some particular way. We can have the expectation that our church leaders should see our talent and ask us to head up the children's musical -- oh, why not the whole musical department? You can see that I'm making this humorous, but think about it.
If our hubby doesn't act the way we have our expectations "meter" set, and we get all down in the dumps and become unable or unwilling to act in a Christlike way . . . what have we done? We've made our expectations into an idol!
If the church leaders appoint Mrs. Busysinger to organize the children's musical, instead of us, and we get all bent out of shape and start letting Satan guide our attitudes and actions . . . what have we done? We've made our expectations into an idol!
I guess we, as Christians, need to remember I John 5:21 -- Little children, keep yourselves from idols.
Will someone pass the bandaids over here? I need to take care of my toes . . .