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Colossians 3:5  (King James Version)
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<< Colossians 3:4   Colossians 3:6 >>


Colossians 3:5

If we seek something contrary to God's will, we covet. If we lust after something, it can become an idol to us, and we will serve it (Romans 6:16). The Bible associates lust with pride and vanity (I John 2:16-17). When a man amasses possessions, he feels a false sense of security because they make him feel he is superior to others. He deceives himself into thinking that calamity will not touch him, yet covetousness is never satisfied and brings on many sorrows.

Martin G. Collins
The Tenth Commandment



Colossians 3:5

The word translated "covetousness" here is the Greek word pleonexia. It is an ugly word describing an ugly sin. It is ugly because it is idolatry and destructive. Lexicons describe pleonexia as "the insatiable desire to have what rightfully belongs to others." It suggests ruthless self-seeking and an arrogant assumption that others and things exist for one's own benefit.

Covetousness is idolatry because it puts self-interest and things in the place of God. A man sets up an idol because he desires to get some pleasure or satisfaction from it. So he serves to get, which is idolatry. The essence of idolatry, then, is to get for the self. Christians, though, must give themselves to God, and we do it by yielding to Him in obedience to whatever He says.

Colossians 3:5 says we are to "mortify therefore [our] members which are on the earth" (KJV). This does not mean merely to practice an ascetic self-discipline. It is a very strong word, meaning "to kill." The Christian must kill self-centeredness. He must radically transform his life, shifting the focus from himself to God. This is exactly what Jesus taught in Matthew 5:29-30. Everything that keeps us from fully obeying God and surrendering to Jesus Christ must be spiritually excised. The tenth commandment, like the first, serves as a governor, controlling whether we keep the others.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Tenth Commandment (1998)



Colossians 3:5

The Greek word underlying "covetousness" is pleonexia, which means "the desire to have more." This is among the ugliest of sins because it involves idolatry as well as its effects on others. The Greeks defined it as "the insatiable desire to have what rightfully belongs to others." It is further described as "ruthless self-seeking," the kind of attitude that the arrogant and callous person has, assuming that others and their things exist for his own benefit.

The desire for more money can lead to theft; the desire for more prestige, to evil ambition; the desire for more power, to tyranny; the desire for a person's body, to fornication and adultery. Paul identifies covetousness as idolatry because, in the place of God, it puts self-interest for illicit things. A man sets up an idol in his heart because he desires to get something from it. So he serves it to get that something rather than to obey God's commandment. That, very simply put, is idolatry.

The essence of idolatry is to get for the self in defiance of God. However, we have to give ourselves to God if we want to overcome illicit desires. Paul says to "mortify" (KJV) or "put to death" (NKJV) whatever is sinful. That does not mean to practice ascetic self-discipline—it means to kill. The Christian must kill self-centeredness. In his life, he must make a radical transformation, a shift of the center of his life. It is the same principle as described by Matthew 5:29. Everything that keeps a person from fully obeying God and surrendering to Jesus Christ must be surgically excised from his conduct.

The tenth commandment, then, has a function similar to the first. They both act as governors, controlling whether we keep the others.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Tenth Commandment



Colossians 3:5

Covetousness is a strong desire for and a seeking after material things that become objects of our worship if we hold them as more important than God. Someone else's house or car can be an idol if we covet them. This attitude is identified with idolatry because it replaces God with self-interest and visible things.

Martin G. Collins
The Second Commandment



Colossians 3:1-17

Notice how many active words Paul uses in Colossians 3:1-17 to describe what a Christian must be doing:

  • "Seek those things which are above" (verse 1).
  • "Set your mind on things above" (verse 2).
  • "Put to death your members" (verse 5).
  • "Put off all these" (verse 8).
  • "Do not lie to one another" (verse 9).
  • "Put on tender mercies" (verse 12).
  • "Bearing with one another, and forgiving" (verse 13).
  • "Put on love" (verse 14).
  • "Let the peace of God rule . . . and be thankful" (verse 15).
  • "Let the word of Christ dwell in you" (verse 16).
  • "Do all in the name of the Lord Jesus" (verse 17).

Paul makes sure we understand that we must actively participate in order to grow. When God talks about growth, He means increasing in His attributes, the qualities that will conform us to His image.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Five Teachings of Grace



Colossians 3:5

This definition of the tenth commandment has sobering ramifications. Covetousness, the unlawful desire to obtain, sets a person up for pursuing extreme acquisitiveness.

The actual mechanics of the process begin when the individual creates an idol in his mind in order to get something: a spouse, money, power, praise—even a feeling. None of these things are inherently evil, but in the process of achieving them, the person gradually allows the desire to have them to so dominate him that possessing them becomes his only worthwhile activity in life.

For a time, it actually shapes his existence. In desire's grip, he increasingly becomes consumed by it until he is committing other sins in order to achieve his aim. He will lie, steal, or ignore his spouse and children. The desire to get ultimately takes the place of God in many facets of his life, which affects the way that person responds to the true God.

Ephesians 5:5-7 declares this sin's seriousness:

For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them.

This is not a sin to fool with! The essential nature of this idolatry is selfishness, the worship of the self. A person's desire becomes the object of his affections and devotion.

A simple desire becomes coveting—a lust—when it drives us to sin in other areas of life. The sin may be actively or passively committed. Suppose we ask God for something He has promised, something good that He desires us to have—perhaps prosperity or healing. If our desire for that good thing becomes greater than our desire to submit to the way He says we must live in order to be prospered, it will motivate us to use carnal, sinful means to satisfy our lust. Did not Abraham do something similar in his desire to have a son?

This is the essence of the sin of covetousness and reveals why it is idolatry. God permits us to serve ourselves equal to the degree that we serve others. But if we serve ourselves at the expense of others—including God—and without regard for breaking God's other commandments, it raises mere desire to covetousness and then to idolatry. This idolatry is clearly serving the self.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Second Commandment



Colossians 3:1-5

In broader generalities, Christ told the Ephesian church to do the same (Revelation 2:1-7). Here we see it in Paul's epistle to the Colossians, in a more specific way.

Because of what Christ said, we can understand that it is not impossible for us to redirect our energies and feelings. If we tie Galatians 6:7-10 to Colossians 3:1-4 and Revelation 2:1-7, we can see that Paul was saying that the rewards are in the doing—in the works. As Christ said, "I know your works." The solution is, "You need to redirect your energies, go back to your former devotion. And, if you have the right devotion, if you show real love, then the right works will come, and you will overcome."

God's way is such that it begins producing the good soon, not late. The apostle is saying that, if we begin sowing the right seed, we will soon begin to reap the fruit of the harvest to come because God's Word always produces results. God says that His Word will not go forth and return empty. We can be assured that fruit will be produced if we sow the right things, if we turn our energies to the way they should be.

The harvest, then, begins to be reaped—soon, in the sense of well-being, a sense that things are well between us and God. John 3:21 and the next several verses tie in here so well. So in the Ephesian church, as well as the whole church era, the members' lack of love was showing in what they were doing. Ignorance was not motivating them, but a loss of affection for Christ (Revelation 2:4-5). This is serious business. If there is no love for Christ, there is no salvation (I Corinthians 16:22).

John W. Ritenbaugh
How to Know We Love Christ



Colossians 3:5-10

Christ calls us to take up our cross and follow His example. This call is not so much a call to martyrdom as a command to deny self or, crucify the flesh, even to the point of death. We must be prepared to die, if that is where the course of events leads, but in most cases it is not so much literal martyrdom as it is to have the attitude of self-denial that is willing to give up all. Christ's disciples live to serve God, not self. Paul admonishes us to put off our former conduct and put to death our sinful actions.

Martin G. Collins
Overcoming (Part 5): Self-Denial



Colossians 3:5-8

What we fear to do is to suffer the pangs of self-denial. We fear putting to death our flesh that is demanding satisfaction. But the truth is that we are dealing with the most troublesome aspect of our humanity. It is pride demanding its due. That is what we do not want to face because, in submitting to God, we are denying what pride is demanding, that we stand up for ourselves.

Do you understand that it is pride within us that wants to be god? It loves being praised and being coddled. It quickly puffs up with angry judgment over the real or perceived wrongs of others while being oblivious to its own. It is almost like a living, breathing something, a form within us unlike that of any other creature. It can be fed, or it can be starved. When fed, it grows. When it is starved, it diminishes and dies daily.

Pride starves and diminishes when we choose to submit to God's Word in obedience. But it is going to put up a strong defense of itself through the fear of being denied. It wants satisfaction. "You shall be as gods," the serpent told Eve. God made the serpent say exactly what was happening. Pride in Adam and Eve exalted itself over God, and made them god by changing the standard to satisfy themselves when they saw that the fruit was attractive. They did not deny their flesh.

Whether the challenges arise in what we permit ourselves to eat or to drink, how much we permit ourselves to eat, the control of the tongue, directing the temper, or whether we choose to be kind or sarcastic or cynical or hopeful and encouraging, the test to control our fear of humbling ourselves exists. That is where the battle is being waged.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Does Doctrine Really Matter? (Part 4)




Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Colossians 3:5:

Matthew 5:27-28
Luke 12:15
Romans 1:24-25
Romans 1:24-25
Romans 1:24-25
Galatians 3:16-17
Philippians 3:18-19
Colossians 3:1-17
Colossians 3:5
Titus :
1 John :

 

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