One of the trickiest areas of determining sin in our lives is with covetousness. The NT says that covetousness is idolatry, and Paul said that when he was young it was covetousness that tripped him up. (Colossians 3:7; Romans 7:7 ff.) So if I want a new car, am I being covetous? Should I suppress that desire? Let's see what the scriptures might say about things like that.
Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you." Hebrews 13:5
Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 1 Timothy 6:6-10Most of us are familiar with the latter part of the Timothy passage. The expression "the love of money is the root of all evil" is well known not just in the church but in the world. Unfortunately, the rest of the passage is not that well known. And I think that it holds the key to helping define what covetousness is.
I want to note that in both of these passages, covetousness is contrasted with contentment. In other words, a content person is not covetous and a covetous person is not content with what he has. So, contentment is a key factor in not being covetous, perhaps the main one. And we are given a good reason to be content - because God will not forsake us financially and materially. That is what it says in Hebrews. I don't think that most Christians are aware of the fact that the author of Hebrews talks about the Lord "never leaving us, nor forsaking us" in the context of finances.
Jesus Himself said, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these [material things]will be added to you." (Matthew 6:33) That means we do not have to worry and covet and put material things first. God will meet our material needs if we serve Him first. I think there is another key to understanding our relation to material things. Jesus did not say not to obtain things. Just don't put them first. Put Him first. (Material things might be down the list a ways.) It is okay to desire things as long as it is in its proper place in your life.
Example 1: I know a woman who hated her carpet and wanted to change it. However, things did not work out in such a way that she was able to get a new one right away. She had children in college first and then a major financial setback and then other things happened making it hard to get new carpeting without going into debt.Eventually, she got her new carpeting and she actually got new furniture to match the carpeting and more as well. She was very patient to get all this. She waited for 21 years! That is a long time, but though she really wanted that new carpet, she had other priorities. She was not covetous. She was content with what she had. (By the way, I am not suggesting that it is wrong to borrow money to fix up your house.) She is much better off financially today because she was not covetous.
Example 2: I know a woman whose husband loved and wanted to buy something nice for her - a beautiful necklace. Unfortunately, they could not afford it as it cost $800.00 and they were already in debt. Nevertheless, they went together and bought the necklace anyway. (Some would find this romantic; I find it to be foolish.) It put them into a terrible financial bind and with many other bad financial decisions, they got into debt and bondage. That was covetousness. Some would find it to be romantic and think that God must approve, but I doubt it. Could a poor couple like this be considered covetous? Yes. Poor people can be just as covetous as anyone. Sometimes that is their problem. They can't wait until they can afford something, they have to have it NOW! This couple never made it financially and eventually they broke up. I cannot say why but their mishandling money certainly did not help.
In conclusion, I think it is safe to say that contentment will prevent covetousness, but that does not mean that one cannot desire material things. We just have to give them the proper priority and also not buy things you cannot afford. "Godliness with contentment is great gain."