kuv'-et-us-nes: Has a variety of shades of meaning determined largely by the nature of the particular word used, or the context, or both. Following are some of the uses: (1) To gain dishonestly (batsa`), e.g. the King James Version Ex 18:21; Eze 33:31. (2) The wish to have more than one possesses, inordinately, of course (pleonexia), e.g. Lu 12:15; 1Th 2:5. (3) An inordinate love of money philarguros, the King James Version Lu 16:14; 2Ti 3:2; philarguria, 1Ti 6:10); negative in Heb 13:5, the King James Version.
Covetousness is a very grave sin; indeed, so heinous is it that the Scriptures class it among the very gravest and grossest crimes (Eph 5:3). In Col 3:5 it is "idolatry," while in 1Co 6:10 it is set forth as excluding a man from heaven. Its heinousness, doubtless, is accounted for by its being in a very real sense the root of so many other forms of sin, e.g. departure from the faith (1Ti 6:9-10); lying (2Ki 5:22-25); theft (Jos 7:21); domestic trouble (Pr 15:27); murder (Eze 22:12); indeed, it leads to "many foolish and hurtful lusts" (1Ti 6:9). Covetousness has always been a very serious menace to mankind, whether in the Old Testament or New Testament period. It was one of the first sins that broke out after Israel had entered into the promised land (Achan, Jos 7:1-26); and also in the early Christian church immediately after its founding (Ananias and Sapphira, Ac 5:1-42); hence, so many warnings against it. A careful reading of the Old Testament will reveal the fact that a very great part of the Jewish law--such as its enactments and regulations regarding duties toward the poor, toward servants; concerning gleaning, usury, pledges, gold and silver taken during war--was introduced and intended to counteract the spirit of covetousness.
Eerdmans maintains (Expos, July, 1909) that the commandment, "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house" (Ex 20:17), meant to the Israelite that he should not take anything of his neighbor's possessions that were momentarily unprotected by their owner. Compare Ex 34:23 ff. Thus, it refers to a category of acts that is not covered by the commandment, "Thou shalt not steal." It is an oriental habit of mind from of old that when anyone sees abandoned goods which he thinks desirable, there is not the least objection to taking them, and Ex 20:1Ex 7:1-25b is probably an explanation of what is to be understood by "house" in Ex 20:17a.
Examples of covetousness: Achan (Jos 7:1-26); Saul (1Sa 15:9,19); Judas (Mt 26:14-15); Ananias and Sapphira (Ac 5:1-11); Balaam (2Pe 2:15 with Jude 1:11).