Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Green Monster

…are you envious because I am generous?
(Matthew 20:15 – NIV)

There is a difference between jealousy and envy in Scripture. Jealousy involves the desire to have what somebody else has. That may be wholesome, particularly when we desire to develop in our own lives the positive spiritual qualities we see in others, or when we seek to enjoy the spiritual riches which are ours in Christ just as we see others enjoying them.

In like manner, God wants what is His: the exclusive devotion of His people. It is only right and good that He should. “Then will the LORD be jealous for his land, and pity his people” (Joel 2:18). We should strive for a godly jealousy, as Paul had; “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:2).

But for us, jealousy may degenerate into something bad, as when we feel frustrated and bitter because we cannot obtain what we want, or when we find fault with those who have what we want or who keep us from getting it. God is not capable of experiencing that sinful jealousy. The point is jealousy can be either good or bad. On the other hand, envy is nearly always bad. It is a feeling of displeasure over the blessings others are enjoying and it makes us want to deprive them of that enjoyment. Jealousy wants what others have, while envy wants to keep them from having it. It is a vicious and malicious trait which Solomon calls “rottenness to the bones” (Proverbs 14:30).

There are some notorious examples of sinful jealousy and envy in Scripture. For example, because of Joseph’s favored position with his father and because of the regal coat that Jacob gave him, “his brethren envied him” (Genesis 37:11). Their sinful attitudes resulted in sinful acts; first they plotted his death, then cast him into a pit, and finally sold him into slavery. Selfishness and sinfulness were written all over their lives.

Another example of sinful jealousy is found in the book of Acts when the apostles preached with power and performed miracles of healing. Multitudes were added to the Lord and the Jewish religious rulers were furious over this threat to their position and authority. Scripture records, “they were filled with jealousy” (Acts 5:17 – NASB). First, they threw the apostles into prison and later had them flogged. Their selfish motives were unmistakable.

When we are jealous in a sinful way, we often try to hurt others, just as Joseph’s brothers and the Jewish religious leaders did. We pick at them, find fault with them, and gossip about them. Critical attitudes toward other people are often spawned by selfish jealousy. But there is not a trace of selfishness in God’s jealousy. It is perfectly pure, as its expressions reveal.

Not one of us likes to be called “green”. We relate that color to being nauseous, being ill. When we see someone that is seasick we tell them that they look green, and they do. There’s an illness that we have all dealt with, though, that causes the color green to show through in our lives. In fact, William Shakespeare called it the “green sickness”. Envy demands us to be sad at someone else’s success and be a fan of their failures. But God calls us to, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn" (Romans 12:15 – NIV).

We should be thankful when those around us are successful. But when we allow envy to come into our lives, we flash its fangs to those around us – its green spirit fangs. We’ve all done it at some point. We’ve flashed the green spirit fangs of envy at our neighbor when they bought the new car that we wanted. When our co-worker got the big promotion that we were going for, we flashed the fangs. The word that is used in the Bible for envy translates literally to, “having an evil eye”.

Envy is evil. There’s no way to get around it. When we are envious, we exude evil. God, though, tells us that we are not to be envious of others. He wants us to see that He blesses each of us in different and unique ways. When we let envy into our lives, we forget the blessings that God has given us because we are too concerned with what other people have. This week, remember the blessings that God has given to you. Don’t focus on what you don’t have. Thank God for his grace and mercy in your life. And when you see that someone else has been blessed, be thankful that God has done that, too. Don’t let the green spirit fangs of envy ruin what God has done in your life.

1 comment:

Even So... said...

No comments? Well, I guess I was just envious of those others that do get posts, or perhaps I was just coveting one, ha ha.