A few things worked together (in my mind) for this week’s exhortation. Last Tuesday our college Greek class worked through the paragraph in Colossians from which the main verse comes; the recent season of our study in Romans has had a lot about the implications of our death and resurrection in Christ; and it’s the week of the Thanksgiving holiday. So, Paul commanded the Colossians:
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5)
The “therefore” hinges off of having died with Christ (2:20) and having been raised with Christ (3:1). As in Romans, our union with Christ leads to sanctification, which includes mortification, or the killing of sin. Because we are saved from sin we put sin to death.
To the Romans Paul used the command against covetousness to point to the heart issue of the law (Romans 7:7). Here in Colossians he separates it out from the rest of the vice list (using an article in the Greek text – τὴν πλεονεξίαν, and through the extra clarification – ἥτις ἐστὶν εἰδωλολατρεία).
“Covetousness” is “the state of desiring to have more than one’s due” (BAGD). We might use the word discontent. Paul also calls it “idolatry,” which is even an English word that’s derived from the compound Greek word: εἰδωλολατρία, which is “idol” and “λατρεία” meaning service of worship. Some object, possession, or position becomes so desirable that a man’s thoughts and minutes and resources are spent trying to obtain it. He talks about it, he sacrifices for it, it is a kind of worship.
Kill covetousness. Don’t give it any oxygen. Bury it alive in box.
Among a list of five positive commands, so to speak, later in Colossians 3, Paul wrote:
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:15)
Be εὐχάριστοι = thankful. This is the way of God’s elect. We aren’t greedy or grasping, but we are those with gratitude.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (Colossians 3:17)