“Therefore, put to death what belongs to your worldly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5 HCSB).
In addition to sexual immorality, Colossians 3:5 continues with a few additional traits that are inconsistent with God-honoring character. One such quality is impurity (ESV) or uncleaness (ASV). In a Biblical sense, these terms serve to identify those who possess immoral motives. While this idea primarily involves our internal thought life, it can also apply to the words and actions that proceed from those thoughts as well.
Another example is “passion” (RV, ESV). Unlike the romantic passion that often exists between young lovers, this characteristic is associated with an uncontrolled and illegitimate desire. (1) Other translations use phrases like “inordinate affection” (KJV) or “shameful passion” (NET) to differentiate this illicit form of passion from its healthy and appropriate alternative.
Next comes a related term: evil desire. This phrase is closely associated with the word “lust” as seen in the passage quoted above and identifies a craving, urge, or longing for something forbidden. (2) In a general sense, “lust” describes the mindset of a person who uses someone else to fulfill his or her desires. Lust differs from love in an important respect: love involves giving and selflessness (see 1 Corinthians 13:4-7), while lust involves exploitation and selfishness (1st Thessalonians 4:3-5). Since God is love (1 John 4:8), lust is incompatible with His character.
Finally, this verse references greed or covetousness (ASV). This refers to an exorbitant drive to accumulate financial or material wealth or an intense desire to possess something (or someone) that belongs to someone else. According to one source, this word is used to identify one who is eager to have more, especially what belongs to others. (3) It also implies an attitude of jealousy towards those who seemingly possess something more or better than what we already own.
Colossians 3:5 associates this attitude with idolatry. Although we often associate the concept of idolatry with the worship of false deities, an idol can represent anything that takes the place of God in our lives. For instance, an idol can take the form of a person, a cause, a material object, or anything we love, fear, respect, or depend on more than God. Once something becomes more important than God in our lives, that thing (whatever it is) effectively becomes an idol.
As Jesus reminded us in Luke 12:15, “…Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”
(1) Richard C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians, to the Thessalonians, to Timothy, to Titus and to Philemon, pg. 158, quoted in Notes on Colossians 2019 Edition Dr. Thomas L. Constable (2:9-10a), https://www.planobiblechapel.org/tcon/notes/html/nt/colossians/colossians.htm#_ftn258
(2) G1939 epithymia https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=kjv&strongs=g1939
(3) G4123 pleonektes Thayer’s Greek Lexicon https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=kjv&strongs=g4123