Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Disguises Envy Wears

Leslie Basham: Here’s Melissa Kruger.

Melissa Kruger: Each of us will doubt in different ways. For me, it tends to go to, “Is God really good to you?”

Erin Davis: Yes.

Melissa: For others it would be, “Can God really do what He said He was going to do? How can He fulfill His good promises for me if this the truth in my life?” We’re always wrestling with these same types of unbelief . . . it can just be in different ways.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Holiness, for Tuesday, August 15, 2017.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: If you’ve been following along with Revive Our Hearts this month, you know that we’ve been talking about the letters that Jesus wrote to the churches in Revelation. And we’re going to pick that topic back up on Friday.

But first, we’re going to take a three-day break to explore the topic of envy. Envy is one of those sins that can be difficult to define. We all know it’s wrong, but it can be hard to identify it in our day-to-day lives.

The fact is, I think we’re tempted by envy more often than we realize, and today our guest, Melissa Kruger, is going to help us recognize it. She’ll show us how envy relates to money, popularity, and material possessions.

And she’ll show us how it can lead to other sins like discontentment and idolatry. My friend and colleague, Erin Davis, talked with Melissa at a women’s conference, and you’ll hear some noises from the convention center in the background—but let’s listen with open hearts as these women talk about the danger of envy.

Erin Davis: We’re talking about your book, Melissa, The Envy of Eve. It’s been a while since you’ve written it. In the introduction you’re describing this sort of hectic season of life where you have three young kids and a part-time job at the church—and you move internationally—and then you decide to write a book on envy! 

So peel back the layers there and help us understand why you decided to write a book on envy?

Melissa: I think it ended up being, in some ways, because the Lord wanted to convict me of it for the next six years! That’s all in jest, but in reality, I started to see when I was living in a city that, truthfully, was really wealthy, really affluent. Women, in some ways, “had it all.”

In some ways, I was living that as well, and yet we were also struggling with contentment. It seemed to be this elusive thing that was always around the corner: “Oh, when they all get to elementary school . . . when we get the right house . . . when we get in the right neighborhood . . .”

And this game had been played since college, right? Or maybe it was even before college: “When I get into college . . .” I started to notice this seemed to be a pattern of life that maybe had something to do with me, rather than just my circumstances.

It was in that wrestling—and really in my study of Scripture—that I came to see, “Oh, this is a pattern of sin and how it works in my heart,” rather than just, “Circumstances that keep happening to me.” And I really saw that it resonated with the women in my church as well.

Then I thought, There’s really not a lot written about the tenth commandment. It’s kind of that hidden sin that we think, It’s not so bad. It was in studying it that I realized, “Oh, I have a big problem!”

Erin: Do you think women are especially prone to struggle with envy?

Melissa: I think we probably struggle with it in different ways, maybe, than men. But I really have come to find, wherever I’m comparing myself the most with others . . . As women, we tend to compare in different ways, where men might compare in other ways. That’s natural.

Most men are not comparing the cute shoes; we might. Things like that. I do think there are some differences, but I think we both really suffer from it. It’s just this robber of life—even though we keep searching for life in those things—but they’re really taking life from us.

Erin: Looking back, before the Lord exposed envy in your heart (or began to deal with it), did you see ways it was robbing you, specifically?

Melissa: Absolutely! When we first moved to Scotland, I was there, but I was not there very joyfully. I kept looking back at all my friends. They still lived near each other. They were all at a church we loved. They seemed to be getting it all. And here I was, coming to Scotland with my husband, and that was all I had. I wasn’t quite sure. I felt like I had left everything in my life behind, and it was a real struggle!

I felt isolated and lonely, and it really robbed me of a lot of joy. Tather than accept, “This is the Lord’s will for my life,” I really fought it in my own heart. And some ways that came out were: I blamed my husband. I would take it out on him.

One day the Lord really confronted me with His Word. It was that verse: “Do not be like the horse or the mule, who have to be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you” (see Psalm 32:9). I heard the Holy Spirit whisper, “That’s you!”

And it was just this, “Oh, I’ve got a problem that is deeper than my circumstances.” The Lord really roped me in and showed me my sins.

Erin: That’s where you started to wrestle with this sin of envy?

Melissa: I think it’s the first time I really started to wrestle with the inner desires of my heart. But it wasn’t until a few years later, when I was studying the book of Joshua, and I saw the character of Achan and this pattern of seeing, coveting, taking, and hiding, and I saw that it related back to the garden and what Eve had done. She saw the fruit; she desired it; she took it, and she hid.

Then you start seeing it all over. David did the same thing: He saw Bathsheba. He coveted her by lusting after her. He took her, and then he tried to hide what he was doing.

It was that, in addition with scriptural study through the years, that really opened my eyes. “Oh, this isn’t just a Melissa problem; this is a human problem!”

Erin: You follow that pattern with several characters in Scripture: with Job, with David, with the Israelites in the desert. Explain that pattern to us one more time.

Melissa: Yes, the pattern I really saw is most apparent, probably, with Achan. He saw this robe from Babylonia, and he coveted it. He took it, and then he hid what he had done. He hid the robe under his tent. And he wasn’t supposed to take anything from that city, so that’s why it was a problem.

I really think that pattern works itself out in our lives as women. It starts by seeing. You know, I can be fine with my living room, and then I get the Pottery Barn catalog. I see what mine “should” look like. That inner discontent starts to well, and I covet it more.

And then, I’m not going to Pottery Barn and steal it probably, but maybe I spend more than I should—or that we have in our bank account. I might try to hide a purchase from my husband or something like that that’s wrong to do.

So we take, then we might hide what we did.

Erin: Yes, it’s the old sneaking-the-shopping-bag-in-the-house thing.

Melissa: Exactly! It works it out in different ways, maybe, in our day and age, but it always has consequences. These inner desires don’t stay down. They’re like “Whac-a-Mole.” They keep popping up in other ways.

Erin: Yep. As you’re describing that pattern, I couldn’t help but think that maybe we’re seeing more and therefore coveting more in this time. There are plenty of people villainizing social media—and I don’t necessarily want to jump on that bandwagon—but I am interested in, let’s be honest about the ways it’s affecting us, because it is.

There are so many ways that we are seeing more bodies than we’ve ever seen, seeing more living rooms than we’ve ever seen, seeing more adorable children than we’ve ever seen. That, I imagine, can cause that “Whac-a-Mole” in our hearts don’t you think?

Melissa: Yes. I completely think so. Your neighbor . . . here in the Old Testament it said, “Don’t covet your neighbor.” Why? Because you see them. But now, our “neighbor” has greatly expanded. It’s kind of exhausting how many “neighbors” we have to see and think, Oh, my life should look like that!

It really is a much broader perspective of seeing what other people have than ever, I think, in the history of the world. Because I can actually see—around the world—what people have! 

Erin: What I appreciate about the book is that you just keep bringing it back to the fact that it’s a heart issue. So, while the seeing may be causing us to feel the envy more, the envy is really rooted in our hearts.

Melissa: That’s exactly right. The unbelief that God somehow hasn’t been good to me is what makes the seeing have power. So, we can see and be really thankful for our friends. That is a possibility.

Erin: Sure.

Melissa: I think as Christ is more in us and the fruits of the Spirit are being born in us, we can really live that way—even if it’s things we long for and don’t have. He can do that in our lives, but often, I think, we surrender to our circumstances and we say, “It would be impossible to be joyful when she has what I want!”

Erin: I wonder if we’ve normalized it in some way, or just gotten so used to those feelings of envy and covetousness that they don’t feel wrong to us anymore.

Melissa: Yes, that’s right. For me, one of my big tasks is, can I weep with the person’s who’s weeping, and can I rejoice with the person who’s rejoicing? That helps me find where it might be.

We can even compare our suffering, and so sometimes we fail to weep with someone because we’re like, “Let me tell you about my life!”

Erin: Yes . . . “Let me one-up you.”

Melissa: Yes. So even our suffering can be a comparison game. And so, if we’re doing that, that’s not how we’re called to live as a body. We’re called to weep with our sister who weeps. Because the reality, we all know, pain is pain. It might be different levels of it. There are definitely harder things that some of us face, but we should be able to enter in with other people.

And then, rejoice with those who rejoice. That’s hard sometimes. Anyone who has walked through infertility, and everyone around them is getting pregnant . . . That’s gut-wrenching; that’s hard!

Erin: Or they’re single much longer than they thought they’d be, but they’ve been a bridesmaid seventeen times!

Melissa: Yes. Those are deep places of ache; it’s hard! We should mourn with that sister while we still rejoice with our other sister who’s getting married. I think that’s how coveting can really break our fellowship with one another. We isolate ourselves from the very people who can bring the healing we need.

Nancy: This is Revive Our Hearts, and we’re listening to a conversation between Erin Davis and Melissa Kruger—who’s the author of a book called The Envy of Eve: Finding Contentment in a Covetous World. Now, let’s get back to their conversation.

Erin: There are only two kinds of toys every child wants, and that’s new toys and someone else’s toys. Right? It doesn’t matter what it is. It can be a stick or a deflated ball, and if one of them wants it, they all want it.

I’ve learned to ask this question: “Which is more important? The toy or your brother?” And they sometimes, under duress, say, “My brudder.”Then we talk about, “Is that worth breaking fellowship?” [child] “No, momma, it’s not worth breaking fellowship.”

But that is the impact. The same thing grows up in is. We break fellowship with other women, with other Christians because of this root, envy.

Melissa: I think that’s a really wise way to even say it, because you’re putting in their brains, “This breaks fellowship.” So they’re seeing the consequences. You’re rooting it in something that’s true for the rest of their lives.

Erin: Yep. And I’ve struggled with this as a mom (and I’d be interested in your insight), whether to use that word “covet”—or “covetousness”—with them, because it’s a bit of a church-y word. It’s a big word.

But I wanted them to know that was what happening wasn’t just bad-boy behavior . . . but it’s sin! What’s happening is sin, and it’s grievous against your brother, of course, but against Jesus. So I do use that word, “covet,” even with my little guys. I wonder how you talk about coveting with your children.

Melissa: We definitely do. We use that. I think of the term “coveting” as the “umbrella” sin, and then under it is envy and greed and lust. So those are three types of coveting. Now, we haven’t gotten to the lust part yet, but that’s one. That’s a covetousness that’s sexual in nature.

Erin: You want someone who’s not yours.

Melissa: Exactly. And then you have greed, which is often about wanting money or possessions more and more. It doesn’t even matter if you’re the wealthiest person you know. You want more.

And then, envy is more that someone near me has something—and I want it. It’s that neighborly coveting, which is what we see, mainly, between siblings. I hear it all the time. “You took her for ice cream!?” It’s like I have hurt them, because I didn’t take them.

We want a quality, in some ways, and that’s really not the gospel—because the gospel isn’t about getting what we deserve, it’s about getting what we don’t deserve!

Erin: Right.

Melissa: And so in some sense, they’re always measuring things.

Erin: Yeah, it’s just our sin, flesh rearing up. I see that in them, and again, I think it’s good to apply gospel language—not that I do that all the time. Sometimes I just say, “Knock it off!” But, sometimes, the Lord gives me the discernment to talk about, “This is not just about a toy! This is about coveting, this is about wanting something that’s not yours.”

Melissa: And, for most kids, it might be the first one of the ten commandments they can actually recognize that they’ve broken. That is a way to grace, because we have to understand we’ve broken the law of God before we can understand that Christ has redeemed us from breaking the law.

So, for most kids, they might not have done the other sins, but this is one that they do pretty early!

Erin: I love that description of it. I think maybe part of the reason we gloss over that commandment is because it talks about not taking your neighbor’s oxen or wife or male slave or maiden slave. And so, some of those references—even though all of God’s Word is useful and timeless—I can’t remember the last time I wanted somebody’s oxen!

But we can give ourselves and our children some language there that would help them understand that commandment.

You say the cry of the covetous is, “Life’s not fair!” How do you trace that sense of injustice to covetousness?

Melissa: I think it is at the root of us, that we look at the way life’s going and we . . . I did this as a kid. It was between my brother and me, just like we’re talking about siblings. It’s a great place to learn about your sin—just by having a sibling.

I can remember going to my mom and saying, “That’s not fair! Life’s not fair!” And my mom, she would always respond, “Life isn’t fair.” I think it’s one of the best things she taught me, in some ways. What a preparation for life! It’s not fair.

Some people will get into better colleges than you. Some people will make more money than you. Some people will have better marriages than you, better children than you. I mean, this is life—that we don’t really know what our lives will be.

I don’t even think we know how many expectations of life we have until we get into life, and all the sudden we realize they’re not being fulfilled. In our soul we’re crying out to God, “You haven’t been fair to me!” It’s such a deep sorrow.

The gospel says, “Life is not fair—in your favor! You deserved an eternity of punishment and wrath, and it has all been poured on my Son!”

And so, if life hasn’t been fair, the Person it has not been fair to is Christ! And here I am—His blood has been shed for me—and how can I ever say God hasn’t been fair to me? It’s really an insult to the grace that I’ve gotten, and I’m basically equating the thing that I don’t have with the cross of Christ.

Let’s say I don’t have a minivan with sliding doors (which is not what we’re normally crying about, but just to give a simple example). Am I going to say, “I know You gave the cross for me; I know You died and bled for me . . . but WHY haven’t You given me this minivan with sliding doors!?”

How embarrassing is that? It’s kind of like the person who gives you a million dollars, and you say, “But, can you give me this penny?” It shows that really don’t value the cross of Christ and what’s been won for us.

Because, if God gave us His Son, can’t we trust Him with whatever He withholds? In a lot of ways, we don’t—and we cry out, “It’s just not fair!”

Erin: It reminds me of Galatians 1, when Paul’s saying, “I’m shocked how many of you have been drawn to another gospel, not that there is another gospel . . .” But it’s like, “I need Jesus . . . AND . . . (fill in the blank).” So we’re adding to the gospel.

I think in the course of our day, we don’t peel back the layers that much, so I appreciate that you make the connection between, “I’m feeling discontent, I’m feeling restless, I’m feeling unhappy,” to “Life’s not fair!” And then, really, that’s about the cross.

And you talk about it being an issue, really, of unbelief—that God isn’t good, because He won’t take care of you, that He’s not sovereign. 

Melissa: I think that’s our biggest problem. And really, that’s what Satan did in the garden with Eve. He stirred up her unbelief. I think he did it in two areas. He did it in, “Is God really in control?” He says, “Surely you won’t die.” And that’s basically a question: “Is God going to really fulfill His will? Is He going to do what He said He would do?”

Erin: “Will he keep His promises?”

Melissa: Yes, and then, the second thing, he goes in and he questions God’s goodness. It’s almost like he’s censuring God for holding something back from Eve. “Oh, what about that tree? Why can’t you eat of that? Oh, God knows you’ll be like Him.” He stirs the pot of unbelief—challenging God’s goodness and sovereignty, that God’s reigning.

I think that’s what he does with us. Each of us will doubt in different ways. For me, it tends to go to, “Is God really good to you?” But for others it would be, “Can God really do what He said He was going to do? How can He fulfill His good promises for me if this is the truth in my life?”

So we’re always wrestling with these same types of unbelief; it just can be in different ways. But I think unbelief is at the heart of most of it.

Erin: As you were retelling Eve’s story, I was thinking how easy it was to trick her. I mean, she fell for it! Really, there wasn’t any convincing; they didn’t have to hash it out. I think those lies are so close to the surface of our heart that we fall for them. I know I do, over and over again.

Melissa: Oh, yes. It’s just those little questions that stir it up.

Erin: Sure. You give three characteristics of coveting, and they’re heavy hitters, these characteristics. One, coveting is a sin pattern—not a circumstance. Ouch! What’s the difference?

Melissa: I know. Well, I think what most of us can see . . . We can look back at a pattern in our lives. If you think back to what you really did want when you were fifteen, you might laugh to yourself.

Erin: A boy!

Melissa: Yes, and you’re like, “Now, I’m so glad I didn’t get that boy!”

Erin: I am!

Melissa: Exactly. And you really wanted something or someone. You look at your twenties, and you were aching for something else. Then you go to your thirties, you’re aching for something else. Then your forties . . .

It’s this pattern that continues in life. I realized, it really is a sin pattern that continues to rob us of joy—not just our circumstances. The reality is, Jesus said, “In Me you’ll have peace; in this world you’ll have trouble; take heart, I’ve overcome the world” (see John 16:33).

It’s like we don’t want that second part. We want hear about the peace, and so we think it should just descend on us. But He’s saying the world, the circumstances you’re going to face in the world, are full of trouble. “In Me you’ll find peace, not in the circumstances I give you.”

When we feel enslaved to our circumstances, we’re just always reacting to them—and we feel beat up about life. But when we recognize it as a sin pattern—hold on! We know we can fight a sin pattern.

You can’t fight a circumstance. We do try to control it and make it happen the way we want. Sarah did that with Abraham. It didn’t go well. We have examples of people who did that.

But the reality is, this pattern is going to continue no matter what our circumstances are. And so we need to accept, “I may get the thing I want, but my heart will still be struggling with this pattern.”

Nancy: I’ve got to break in here. Tomorrow we’re going to pick back up on this conversation between Erin Davis and Melissa Kruger. Melissa has written a book called The Envy of Eve. I hope you’ll get a copy from Revive Our Hearts.

In these pages, Melissa will help you identify envy that may be lurking in your heart. Now, you may not typically come right out and blatantly say, “I want what this other person has.” But we can still be tempted by envy in more subtle ways.

In this book, Melissa Kruger helps us to be aware of different forms envy can take, like: coveting, discontentment, feeling entitled, and unbelief. When you support the outreaches of Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size, we want to say "thank you" by sending you Melissa’s book.

The only way we’re able to bring you practical discussions and biblical teachings like these each weekday is because of support from friends like you. To make a donation, visit us at or give us a call at 1–800–569–5959. When you make your gift, be sure and ask for a copy of Melissa’s book The Envy of Eve.

Leslie: Erin and Melissa will be back tomorrow to pick back up on the helpful conversation on avoiding envy.

Melissa: You’re never going to steal if you haven’t first coveted an item. These desires that are working in our heart, they don’t stay there. They come out and break the other ones. You’re not going to commit adultery if you haven’t first been lusting, which is part of coveting after someone.

You’re not going to commit false testimony if you’re not wanting some desire in your heart. It’s almost like God wants to wrap up the ten commandments and say, “Just in case you thought you were safe, I want you to know it’s not just the outer.” It shows He’s always going for the heart.

He says, “I want to peel back the layers and say, ‘No, even your desires are wrong!’ Just in case you thought your actions were okay, let me make sure we’re going to clear this up. You need Me way more than you ever thought you did!”

Coveting just gives birth to all these other sins. We can fight just the outward sin, or we can really fight in the place of the heart. And I think Christ is constantly calling us to go to the heart.

For me, it’s been such an exercise of grace, because I continue to fail in this area. What God continually shows me is that He is big enough, His redemption is enough for my sin. I’m a lot more gracious toward other people who are fighting with sins, because I realize how hard it is to fight any sin.

Leslie: Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you keep your eyes on Jesus. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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