Covetousness (בֶּצִע, be'tsa, rapine, lucre; πλεονεξία, a grasping temper), in a general sense, means all inordinate desire of worldly possessions, such as undue thirst for honors, gold, etc. In a more restricted sense, it is the desire of increasing one's substance by appropriating that of others. It is a disorder of the heart, and closely allied to selfishness. We here consider it under its more restricted aspect.
1. Covetousness (πλεονεξία, φιλαργυρία) is a strong, sometimes irresistible desire of possessing or of increasing one's possessions. It is evident that under its influence the heart, instead of aspiring to noble, high, and divine goods, will be brought to; the almost exclusive contemplation of earthly, immaterial things; and thus, instead of becoming gradually more closely united with God, will become more and more estranged from him. Since where the treasure is there the heart is also, the heart of the covetous cannot be with God, but with Mammon; he is not a servant of God, but of idols. The love of God and the love of Mammon cannot find place in the same heart; the one excludes the other (Mt 6:24; Lu 16:13; Col 3:5, Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth: fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry). But since to love God is our highest duty, and God alone is to be prayed to, loved, and trusted, the covetous man, as a servant of Mammon, is forever excluded from the kingdom of Christ and of God (1Co 6:10, Nor thieves, nor covetous, shall inherit the kingdom of God; Eph 5:5, For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nors unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God). We are further told that the citizen of the kingdom of God is to lay up riches in heaven (Mt 6:20); he must be content with food and raiment (1Ti 6:7-8); but the covetous act in opposition to all these commandments (Heb 13:5; Let your conversation be without
covetousness [ἀφιλάργυρος ὁ τρόπος]; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee). This state of the heart is very dangerous, for covetousness is the source of all evil, and brings forth all manner of sin (1Ti 6:9,19, For the love of money is the root of all evil; which while some coveted after they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows). Here the folly of covetousness is also shown, inasmuch as it is said to bring "many sorrows." It is further proved by the fact that earthly goods are perishable, and that their possession renders none happy. But it is corrupting as well as unsatisfactory. By attempting to gain the world the soul is wounded, and loses the everlasting life (Mt 6:20, Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal; 16:25, 26, For whosoever will save his life shall lose it, and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it; for what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul, or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?); Lu 12:15-21, And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness; for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth).
2. Avarice is also a part of covetousness. It consists in amassing either for the sake of possessing or from fear of future want. This phase of covetousness is the surest mark of a cold-heartedness and worldliness, making pure, high, and holy aspirations impossible. It is also a sort of idolatry, for it is the love of mammon (Mt 6:19-24). It is essentially uncharitable, and incapable of affection (Jas 2:15-16, If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those thing which are needful to the body, what doth it profit?). Covetousness is as painful as it is deceitful in the end; it cripples the natural powers, renders life miserable and death terrible. The pursuits to which it leads are painfully laborious, and the care of the possessions, once secured, is equally so. The labor it entails is sinful, as it does not spring from love, but from selfishness and worldliness. As the wealth amassed by the covetous is applied to the benefit neither of themselves nor of others, they undergo the severest privations in the midst of plenty (Horace, congestis undique saccis indormis inhians. Nescis quo valeat nummus, quem prcebeat usum). However great the natural power of a man, it is paralyzed by this sin. To the covetous death is horrible, as it deprives them of all to which the worldly heart most clings.
Considering the nature of covetousness, it cannot appear strange that the apostle particularly recommends a bishop to avoid that sin. The bishop, or spiritual head of the community, is to be spiritual (πνευματικός), the center of the Christian life of the community (1Ti 3:2-3); and covetousness is a mark whereby false teachers may be known (2Ti 3:2).Krehl, N.T. Handuworterbuch.