How does the Church define coveting?

In our age of sell, sell, sell, buy, buy, buy…

Romans chapter 1 has strong words about coveting, as well as Colossians 3:5, there it says “covetousness, is idolotry”!
Not to mention, coveting amongst the 10 commandments.

How does the Church define coveting and how does it apply in terms of how we make a living and the purchases we make?

Dear Truth,

The Ignatius Revised Standard Bible says: “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire and covetousness, with is idolatry.” The New Jerusalem Bible says: “This is why you must kill everything in you that belongs only to earthly life: fornication, impurity, guilty passion, evil desires and especially greed, which is the same thing as worshipping a false god;” (Col 3:5)

The second translation speaks of coveting as greed. This is how the Church sees coveting. It’s not a matter of enjoying the sight of things that one likes or would like to have. Coveting is an inordinate attachment to things. It is being obsessed with having. To be obsessed with something is to make a god of it. It becomes more important than anything else. St. Paul is saying that this is not acceptable for the follower of Christ. The Church agrees.

It is important that we purchase the things that we need. This does not mean that we can’t purchase some extras that are just to have fun with. But this has to be done with moderation and in the context of being generous to others and of putting God before all else. This is where we counter our culture. We do set up limits for ourselves because God matters more to us than anything.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

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