Wednesday, March 27, 2013

One Old Pattern and One New

Do you wonder if you’re fated to become your mother? The thought might send pangs of fear through some of us more than others, but either way I’m sure you’ve pondered the possibility. We can all think of daughters who think and do just as their mothers do, but is this a path with no alternative route? Chapters 3 and 4 of The Envy of Eve considers the same question about coveting.

In Chapter 3 Kruger suggests that coveting unfolds in a pattern. We see, desire, take, and hide, all of which leads to consequences that we bear. We’re shown this in the first example of coveting in the Bible- Eve in Genesis 3. What Eve once looked upon as something to refrain from because of the command of her good and loving creator, she now looked upon through a lens tainted by unbelief, prompted by the snake. She then set her heart upon it, to the neglect of rejoicing in the remaining abundance God had provided. To satisfy what had taken God’s place as her heart’s deepest longing, Eve took. She plucked the fruit from the tree and took what she knew not to take. Then in their guilt, Adam and Eve made the futile attempt to hide from God and hide their sin from Him.

We’re then taken to Joshua 7 and Achan’s spiral into sin. This was a story that I was less familiar with than that of Eve, but one which is just as entrenched in the pattern of coveting. Despite seeing God’s goodness to Israel, Achan set his heart on that forbidden by the Lord. Achan’s greed conceived stealing from God. He hid the items in his guilt, never really enjoying what he first coveted. Achan, his family, and Israel suffered from his coveting.

The pattern of see, desire, take, and hide is a recognisable one when it comes to Eve and Achan, but also one we can readily recognise in our own lives, minds and hearts. However, when this pattern was first raised in the book, I wondered whether taking really is something we do after desiring? In fact doesn’t coveting often breed out of our incapacity to acquire what we desire? But as the pattern was drawn out it was clear that because of our coveting, we take in more ways than the obvious. On the slope of coveting we take away from our relationships with each other and God, we take from our joy in the blessings we do have, and we take from service of God and His people. 

One other striking notion towards the end of Chapter 3 was that our covetousness and chasing of worldly passions can speak a false but loud and clear message to others about the God we follow. This was captured on page 88 as Kruger spoke of how, “Our incessant cravings suggest to others that we worship a God who is not able to satisfy... Chasing after our covetous desires shows the watching world that we believe life is found in temporal pleasures rather than the Lord Himself.” Our covetousness is not just our problem but could pose a stumbling block for others who perceive us following a God who doesn’t satisfy. In truth though, we’re just followers whose belief in our God’s goodness can wane and drift away.

But after all this, the sigh of relief comes in Chapter 4, ‘The Power Over Coveting’. This chapter asserts that though we dwell in a pattern of coveting, Jesus sets the example for a new pattern, and that God’s power working in us enables us to put on this new pattern. It is Christ’s obedience that both makes it possible for Him to redeem us, and gives us a new pattern to follow. In the face of temptation greater than that of Eve and scarcity of provisions opposite to the abundance Achan enjoyed, Jesus triumphed because of his inner belief.

This chapter is candid about the difficulties we will still face in putting off coveting. Our goal is to cultivate a desire and hunger for the Lord that overrides the pattern of coveting. It’s not a goal with a quick fix, but also one we’re not alone in achieving. Kruger reminds us that, through the help of the Spirit in us, it is the daily nourishing of our spiritual stomachs through prayer, savouring of God’s word and fellowship that will help us to turn from the pattern of coveting. We need to remove our gaze from worldly things to taste the sweetness of fellowship with God.

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