John T. Willis

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Envy: This is a Heart Issue

A very prevalent attitude of the heart is comparing oneself with another person. If one thinks that another person is better than oneself, this often leads to envy. This is a huge problem for many people in the family, in the church, and in human society small and large. Here are a few thoughts about envy. 1. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10:12: "We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they do not show good sense." Each person is unique. Each person will find others who have inferior gifts compared with that gift and find others who have superior gifts compared with that gift. In making such comparisons, a person will soon feel superior to another person and inferior to another person. One cannot win anything by comparison oneself with someone else. It just does not work. 2. In Galatians 5:24-26, Paul says: "Those who belong to Jesus Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another." By nature, competition is huge in American society and throughout the world. Everyone yearns to SUCCEED and to EXCEL. This is why we have the World Series, the Super Bowl, the Olympics, etc. All of this is interesting and attracting. But spiritually, under God through Jesus Christ there is an entirely different way of thinking and living. Christians have the goal of pleasing and serving God. When we do this, we succeed and excel. But in doing this, we do not need or want a reward. God will take care of all rewards. Our goal is to please and serve God. Otherwise, even in the church we will constantly be competing with others in the church and being envy of other Christians. 3. James 3:13-18 describes a clear, sharp contrast between earthly wisdom and heavenly wisdom: "Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that you works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have BITTER ENVY and SELFISH AMBITION in your HEARTS, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where there is ENVY and SELFISH AMBITION, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom that is above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace." Envy--wanting to be or do what other people are or do--is contrary to the spirit of God through Jesus Christ. Instead, each godly person must strive to focus positively on God, Jesus Christ, and God's word. 4. A great example is Psalm 73. The psalmist describes his own earlier heart attitude of envy. "As for me, my feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped. For I was ENVIOUS of the arrogant; I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For they have no pain; their bodies are sound and sleek. They are not in trouble as others are; they are not plagued like other people. Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them like a garment. Their eyes swell out with fatness; their HEARTS overflow with follies. They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression. They set their mouths against heaven, and their tongues range over the earth. [The psalmist continues several more verses, then he comes to his senses and turns to God, saying] When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in HEART, I was stupid and ignorant; I was like a brute beast toward you. Nevertheless I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven by you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire other than you. . . . But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, to tell of all your works." 5. When human beings SUCCEED or EXCEL, they become different people who are unacceptable to God. One example is Saul: as a young man, he was very humble when God called him to be the first king of Israel. But not long after he became king, he became another person. He began to take things into his own hands instead of pleasing and serving and honoring God. God rejected Saul and made David the next king over Israel. The account of Saul appears in 1 Samuel 8-15. A humble, good, honest person often becomes CEO, president, governor, boss, etc., and turns into an entirely different person. He has achieve SELF AMBITION, and has self-destructed. Share YOUR insights and explanations and misgivings and remorses and shortcomings and desires with others. Let me hear from YOU. John Willis


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