March 28, 2016

I Have Learned To Be Content (A Review of The Envy of Eve)

Are you guilty of coveting? In her book, The Envy of Eve: Finding Contentment in a Covetous World, author Melissa Kruger defines covetousness as “an inordinate or culpable desire to possess, often that which belongs to another.” (p. 24) And covetousness spreads destruction—not only in our own hearts, but also in our relationships with others, and, particularly, in our understanding of God.

That comparison game—who got a promotion, a dozen roses, a new baby?—is played out all over the Christian community every day of the year. Whether it's our churches or our clothing, we are prone to look over our shoulders at other women and demand from the Lord: “I’ll have what she’s having.”

 As Kruger writes:
We usually covet in the areas where we compare ourselves to others the most. We compare colleges, boyfriends, weddings, children, parents, homes, jobs, trials, gifts, ministries, grandchildren, health, and numerous other items. Usually, at the heart of this comparison trap is the mistaken belief that another person is getting it all while we are getting second best. (p. 84)
In the midst of a covetous society, The Envy of Eve is exactly the kind of remedy we need.

Its first four chapters are foundational, detailing the root causes of covetousness and the ultimate solution for it, found only in Christ. The remaining five chapters then each address a specific type of coveting (money and possessions, romantic relationships, family and friendship, seasons and circumstances, giftedness and abilities) with an accompanying Biblical character as illustration.

 Each chapter concludes with several questions, ranging from the merely factual to the personal. The book makes an excellent group study resource (I've used it twice now) or even a tool for an older Christian woman to use as she mentors a younger woman.

 At the root of coveting, Kruger writes, is unbelief: “Coveting does not result because we don’t have something. We covet because we fail to believe something.” (p. 66) She expands on this with a beautiful account of God’s loving and trustworthy character, which enables us to accept all things trustingly from his hand. Believing that everything we have comes from God, and that God is working for our good and His glory, is our best weapon against envy.

 Kruger applies this root of unbelief to multiple situations, explaining why, for example, it is bad theology to comfort ourselves in affliction with the thought that at least we don’t have it as bad as someone else. Kruger writes,
The Scriptures never tell us to find our joy in the fact that our situation is not as unfortunate as possible. We are told to find our joy in the fact that all our circumstances flow from God’s loving hand. One day, we may face the earthquake, flood, or other disaster that we once used to gain perspective. If we are holding onto our contentment because circumstances could be worse, what happens when our situation is more difficult than anyone else’s we know? (p 212) 
The Envy of Eve details four steps to coveting: see, covet, take, hide. Kruger introduces this pattern through the story of Eve in the Garden, who looked at the fruit, desired it, ate it with Adam, and hid. She then applies this pattern to other situations, both biblical and modern, and aptly demonstrates how we are all daughters of Eve.

I find particularly interesting her broad application of the “take” portion of the coveting scenario. Just as Eve took the fruit and Achan took the plunder, so covetousness also leads us to take from our neighbor. The act of taking may include outright stealing, but Kruger wisely and pointedly directs readers to think beyond that simple box. She details other, more common, ways that we take from our neighbor:
We take away from a friend’s reputation by gossiping about her or sharing confidential information. We take away from missionaries or those in need in our own community by spending carelessly when they have great needs. We take from another’s joy by failing to rejoice with her because we believe that God has failed to be good to us in some area. Our sourness about our own situation takes from her joy. (p. 84) 
Thankfully, Kruger does not stop with an exploration of our sin habits. Instead, she offers a new way of righteousness, the pattern followed by Christ himself in the face of temptation. When Christian women find themselves falling into envy, Kruger encourages them: seek the Lord, desire rightly, give generously, and confess freely. The pattern of wickedness is replaced by a pattern of holiness.

In my mind, the most useful chapter of her book is the one that deals with the ways we are tempted to covet the seasons and circumstances of others—which, in my experience, is widespread among even Christian women. She concludes this chapter with a beautiful picture of how women of various circumstances who value one another (rather than competing) accomplish God’s kingdom purposes for his Body.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough.


A version of this review originally appeared on The Aquila Report.

Kruger, Melissa B. The Envy of Eve: Finding Contentment in a Covetous World. Christian Focus: 2012. ISBN: 978-184550775-6


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