I recently finished reading Melissa Kruger’s The Envy of Eve: Finding Contentment in a Covetous World. One of my friends gave it to me for my birthday. She read it last year and it changed her life. This year God has been working through this book to change me too. What a gift!
If you had asked me before I started reading The Envy of Eve whether I struggled with the sin of coveting, I probably would have said no. And I probably would have claimed to be pretty content. I would have been lying. I do covet. I struggle with contentment every day.
The book starts by unpacking what coveting is and how it is different to longing for something in a good way. She says that there are three characteristics of coveting which make it a dangerous sin to ignore and leave to grow in our hearts:
- Coveting is a sin pattern, not a circumstance. Kruger says, “Coveting can so blind our minds that we come to believe that if we could just attain the longed for item (a job, a baby, a spouse, healing) then we would be able to be content in life. However, our inordinate desires are never sold by attainment. Today we may covet one item, but once it is given, we will soon begin to desire something else.” (p.25) How often have I wrongly believed that if my circumstances were different, I would act differently/not sin/be happy?
- Coveting is marked by comparison and entitlement – we think that if others receive something we want, that we deserve to have the same. If we don’t get what they have, then we wrongly believe God has failed to be good to us. There are lots of problems with this, but I was particularly challenged to reflect on the fact that when I compare myself to friends, neighbours or colleagues, I’m failing to love that person.
- Coveting is a ‘begetting sin’. Coveting inevitably leads to other sins like envy, greed and lust (cf. James 1:14-15). It’s dangerous.
One of the things I loved about the book from the start was that it’s so grounded in God’s word. Each chapter focuses on a different story in the Bible and the ways that people like Eve and David fall into coveting, as well as highlighting God’s grace to them despite their sin. All coveting comes out of unbelief in God. It is a failure to trust in God’s sovereignty, love, power and provision in my life. As Eve doubted God’s character and the truth of his promises in the garden of Eden, leading her to sin, when I covet a friend’s circumstances or abilities, I’m actually failing to trust that God is good, sovereign and loving towards me.
But God is absolutely good and sovereign and loving. And because of this, he is working in and through me and the circumstances, relationships and gifts he has ordained, for the best purpose of all (cf. Romans 8:28):
At every moment, God is working to conform each of us into the likeness of Christ. Thus, whatever we lack, it is so we will grow to look more like Christ. Both our blessings and trials propel us toward this ultimate and better good.
Whether life is difficult or good, I pray that I will keep coming back to this truth and believe that the God of the universe loves me and is achieving a greater purpose – to mould me to be more like Jesus. And there’s nothing better than that.
More reflections on what I have learned to come…I hope.