Coveting Gifts


We are not supposed to covet, so why does Paul say we should covet spiritual gifts? (Exod. 20:17, 1 Cor. 12:31).


Exodus 20:17 "You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."

1 Corinthians 12:31 (KJV) But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.

First, Exodus is commanding us not to covet (in a sinful way of unlawful craving) that which rightfully belongs to our neighbor and does not rightfully belong to us

Second, in 1 Corinthians 12, Paul is using the word "covet" in a good sense. The ESV states: "But earnestly desire the higher gifts." The NIV reads: "But eagerly desire the greater gifts." Paul is encouraging the Church at Corinth to receive and develop their spiritual gifts for the edification of the church. He uses the Greek word zelotes from which we derive our word "zealot." Paul says Christ redeemed his church "to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good" (Tit. 2:14; cf. 1 Pet. 3:13). So, we are to eagerly desire to do that which is good for the purpose of serving others.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).