Several times in the NT, Paul associates covetousness with idolatry.
In 1 Corinthians, the sin of covetousness is listed right next to idolatry twice in two verses (1 Cor. 5:10-11).
But it is explicitly tied together elsewhere:
“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.” (Eph. 5:5)
“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” (Col. 3:5)
This is because covetousness is fundamentally the objectification of people. While God has designed the world to be thoroughly personal, sin tempts people to depersonalize the world, to commodify it, to use people for their things, or to use people as things. Certain forms of capitalism can do this: crony capitalism, gaming the system, crushing people in the wake. But of course socialism does this by design. It seems to be built on the assumption that since people have a tendency to turn other people into products, earning units, and goods – we might as well organize it. But the problem is that we’re still turning people into objects and interacting with them in depersonalized ways.
And this is precisely what idolatry does. It is constantly trying to trick life out of lifeless things. But the problem with this is that life doesn’t come from lifeless things. It comes from the living God and by His design it comes through His living image bearers. It comes through other people.
But living, breathing people are difficult, complex, different, and they keep moving around and changing, and (in this world) sinning. So men would often rather look at porn than have to love a real woman. Husbands and fathers would rather look at screens when they come home from work rather that love and serve the real people in their home. Many Christians would rather look at icons than have to interact with real saints (who turn out not to be so saintly). And even pastors and elders would sometimes rather over-engineer church programs, only read big fat books (that can’t talk back), or spend their lives tinkering with liturgies – rather than leaning into the really hard business of loving people.
That is really only possible if you truly believe that they bear God’s image, that Christ died for them, and that there is nothing in all the world that brings you closer to the living God than another human being, even the ones that are wrong. Somehow, as we learn to love and honor real, living human beings, God is breathing His life into us. He’s making us more human, more like His Son.
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