My favorite baseball player, Josh Hamilton, recently made the news because he relapsed into cocaine and alcohol use. He’s facing a lengthy suspension that could likely cost him about 4 million dollars a month in lost salary. Criticism has begun to swirl and judgments are plentiful. It is hard for many to understand how someone who makes mega millions playing baseball would take a chance on blowing it because he can’t control his addiction. It’s sad to watch someone struggle so hard with a sin that they can’t seem to overcome. I pray that he will, by God’s grace, be delivered from his addiction. However, his addiction happens to be a socially unacceptable addiction. Funny how people’s struggles with these types of sins are so much more difficult to understand than people’s addictions to socially acceptable sins. It’s true that the use of mind altering drugs, legal or not, is a sin, but it’s equally true that covetousness is an equally damnable sin and very few people seem to be as troubled about the epidemic of it in our culture. Consider Paul’s words,
“For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” Ephesians 5:5
You can be absolutely sure that God is every bit as offended by the sin of covetousness as he is with the sin of drug use. In our culture you can be completely consumed with this sin and no one will raise an eyebrow. If you wake up tomorrow tempted to give in to this addiction, you can go out and buy a new boat to feed it. No one will judge you. The next day you can struggle with it again and go purchase the hottest car on the market to satisfy your lust. Your friends will rejoice with you. Day after day you can feed the flesh like a glutton and no one will notice or care because they will share your addiction. In our culture, this wicked sin disguises itself as the American dream.
The Apostle Paul had an entirely different perspective on this sin. When he read, “Thou shalt not covet” (Exodus 20:17) it killed him. That is to say, he was brought under the conviction of his profound sinfulness and became aware of his personal spiritual death. Sin is any violation of God’s law (1 John 3:4) and that law brought Paul to the realization that his heart was filled with the sin of covetousness, making him an idolater (Romans 7). This realization is essential to the work of grace that leads to salvation. You cannot be redeemed by the grace of God until you’ve been condemned by the law of God. Jonathan Edwards once said, “It’s easier to scream down a thousand sins of others than it is to mortify one sin in yourself.” Similarly, it’s easier to scream down the sin of a drug addict than it is to mortify the sin of covetousness in yourself. That’s why “…it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a person to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:24). Do not let our culture’s tolerance of covetousness lull you into thinking that your addiction is any more tolerable to God than a cocaine addict’s. Do you think that you are any less a sinner than someone else? “