Do you ever find yourself wondering, “why him, not me?” It is a common sin called envy. The dictionary defines envy as “a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or situation.” It creeps up on all us, at least occasionally, when we look around and compare ourselves to others. We like to think that there is a direct connection between cause and effect. Solomon says what we all know, but do not like to acknowledge: “I have observed something else in this world of ours. The fastest runner doesn’t always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn’t always win the battle. The wise are often poor, and the skillful are not necessarily wealthy. And those who are educated don’t always lead successful lives.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11, NLT)
From our perch on the timeline of history we could conclude, as Solomon did, that it’s all just ‘chance.’ We could, and many do, become bitter when the evil prosper and the good suffer. No one can explain what looks like ‘luck’ to us. Yes, we know that there is the principle of the harvest – that what a person sows, he will reap. Generally it is true, but we have observed exceptions; seeing very bad people escape the consequences that should be their due, or someone who has not been very diligent enjoying recognition he has not earned! What we often fail to account for in such circumstances is the final accounting before God.
Here is something I do know. Envy is a deadly sin of the soul! Repeatedly, the Bible warns against allowing envy to own us. “Stop your anger! Turn from your rage! Do not envy others— it only leads to harm.” (Psalm 37:8, NLT) “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” (Proverbs 14:30, NIV) “For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.” (James 3:16, KJV) Jesus includes envy in the catalog of human sins right alongside of greed, lewdness, deceit, and arrogance. (Mark 7:22) Paul says that envy lives among things we would call the grosser sins; things like witchcraft, orgies, and debauchery! (Galatians 5:21) Though we may excuse our comparing and coveting as ‘just being human,’ in fact God says that envy is a serious issue, a sin of great consequence that we must overcome with the help of the Holy Spirit. It of such consequence that the 10th commandment addresses it: “Do not covet your neighbor’s house. Do not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else your neighbor owns.” (Exodus 20:17, NLT)
So what can we do about this all too common response to life?
Stop excusing envy and confess it as the sin it is.
We cannot gain mastery over any weakness or failure by our own determination alone. But, when we agree with God, His Spirit will work within us for change. When you feel that surge of envy, when you wonder, ‘why him, not me?’ meet it with a prayer of confession that names it as sin.
Look up, not around.
Comparing ourselves to others is something we do almost without conscious thought. “Where do I fall in the order of things?” we wonder. “Who is winning, who is losing?” is a question we frame in many different settings using all kinds of measuring sticks. I remind you that the only measure that matters is God’s! “ I lift my eyes to you, O God, enthroned in heaven. We look to the Lord our God for his mercy, just as servants keep their eyes on their master, as a slave girl watches her mistress for the slightest signal.” (Psalm 123:1-2, NLT) Our horizontal view is too limited by the boundaries of time to understand those things that appear so unjust or unfair. So, we must trust God, always looking up and taking this day from His hand.
Paul’s words inspire me. “I have learned to be content,” he says, “whatever the circumstance.” (Philippians 4: 12) This contentment grows out of a habit of thankfulness that focuses on God’s promise. We need not deny our present reality, be it pleasant or miserable. We are not required to become stoics, living above all emotion. We laugh, we cry, we mourn, we rejoice – all in the course of life. But, in it all, we refuse to surrender to the toxic sin of envy that says, “He has more and I deserve it!”
Are you gripped by envy today? Is this sin destroying you from the inside out, causing you to see only what you lack, not what you possess? Are you letting days pass by when you could know the contentment of being exactly who God desires you to be, in the very place that He has prepared for you at this present time?
Here’s the word from the Word. “So clean house! Make a clean sweep of malice and pretense, envy and hurtful talk. Now, like infants at the breast, drink deep of God’s pure kindness. Then you’ll grow up mature and whole in God. You’ve had a taste of God. Welcome to the living Stone, the source of life. The workmen took one look and threw it out; God set it in the place of honor. Present yourselves as building stones for the construction of a sanctuary vibrant with life, in which you’ll serve as holy priests offering Christ-approved lives up to God.” (1 Peter 2:1-5, The Message)
Beneath The Cross Of Jesus (Saint Christopher)
Beneath the cross of Jesus,
I fain would take my stand.
The shadow of a mighty rock,
Within a weary land.
A home within the wilderness;
A rest upon the way,
From the burning of the noontide heat
And the burden of the day.
I take, O cross, thy shadow
For my abiding place.
I ask no other sunshine than
The sunshine of His face.
Content to let the world go by,
To know no gain nor loss.
My sinful self, my only shame,
My glory – all the cross.
Elizabeth Cecilia Clephane | Frederick Charles Maker
© Words: Public Domain