Covetousness - Trench's New Testament Synonyms
Covetousnesspleonexia (G4124) Covetousness
philargyria (G5365) Love of Money
The same distinction exists between pleonexia and philargyria as between covetousness and avarice. Pleonexia is the more active sin, philargyria the more passive. Pleonexia refers to having more and (more usually) to the desire to have more, to seeking to posses what is not possessed. Philargyria refers to seeking to retain what is possessed and, through accumulation, to multiplying what is possessed. Pleonexia often implies bold and aggressive methods of acquisition; it frequently refers to behavior that is as free in scattering and squandering as it was eager and unscrupulous in acquiring. The pleonektes (G4123) is often rapti largitor, "a squanderer of what he has seized." Theodoret defined this sin as "the desire for more and the seizure of what does not belong to a person." Philargyria refers to miserly behavior that frequently is also cautious and timid, not necessarily having cast off an outward show of righteousness. The Pharisees, for example, are described as philargyroi (G5366, Luke 16:14), and this is not irreconcilable with the maintenance of a religious profession, as would have been the case with pleonexia. Cowley drew this distinction quite well:
There are two sorts of avarice; the one is but of a bastard kind, and that is the rapacious appetite for gain; not for its own sake, but for the pleasure of refunding it immediately through all the channels of pride and luxury; the other is the true kind, and properly so called, which is a restless and unsatiable desire of riches, not for any further end or use, but only to hoard and preserve, and perpetually increase them. The covetous man of the first kind is like a greedy ostrich, which devours any metal, but it is with an intent to feed upon it, and, in effect, it makes a shift to digest and excern it. The second is like the foolish chough, which loves to steal money only to hide it.
Another way of looking at the two terms is to see pleonexia as the genus and philargyria as the species. Looked at in this way, philargyria refers to the love of money and pleonexia to the sinner's drawing and snatching to himself of the creature in every form and kind. Bengel observed that Paul's lists of sins often associate pleonexia with sins of the flesh (1 Cor. 5:11; Eph. 5:3, 5; Col. 3:5). Bengel stated: "It is customary, however, to link covetousness [pleonexian] with impurity, for a person without God seeks nourishment for the material body either through pleasure or through greed; he takes for himself another's good." The connection between these two provinces of sin is deeper and more intimate than Bengel realized. Not only is pleonexia, which signifies covetousness, used to refer to sins of impurity, but the word is sometimes used to designate these sins themselves as the root from which they grow. Pleonexia refers to the ever-increasing desire of the person who has forsaken God to fill himself with the lower objects of sense. The Roman emperors were monsters of lust as well as covetousness. In this respect, pleonexia has a much wider and deeper sense than philargyria. Plato, in his commentary on this word, likened the desire of man to the sieve or pierced vessel of the Danaids, which they were ever filling but might never fill.Plato's definition summed up that ever-defeated longing of the prodigal son who despised the children's bread but was forced to satisfy his hunger with the husks of the swine.