During Lent we are tracking through the “7 Deadly Sins”: pride, envy, anger, sloth, avarice, lust, and gluttony. We are spending this time dealing with the sin our lives because “Sin is real, and it’s a part of each of us” (Dunnam & Reisman).
Last week, we looked at pride, the itch for recognition, and today we’ll take a look at envy, which says, “What’s yours should be mine!” The Latin word for envy is invidia, which means “to look maliciously upon.” And the New Testament Greek word means to have an “evil eye.”
Think for a moment: what kinds of things do people envy? And more specifically, what kinds of things do you envy? Some answers include things like wealth, looks, talents, possessions, etc.
In my world, I think there’s a real tendency for preachers to envy other preachers. I love to listen to preachers like Ed Young, Rob Bell, and TD Jakes. But the reality is, I’m not anything like these guys. While I want to learn all I can from them, and many other communicators, I do not want to envy them, emulate or copy them. I want to be the communicator God has called me to be.
Here are a few quotes from Dunnam and Reisman’s workbook on the seven deadly sins …
- “At the root of envy and covetousness is a terrible sense of inadequacy and inferiority.”
- “Envy is the consuming desire to have everybody else as unsuccessful as you are.”
- “Since envy always desires what it doesn’t have, it will always go unsatisfied.”
Saul’s envy of David
Today, we’re going to look at a story that shows the deadliness of envy in a person’s life. Read 1 Samuel 17.55–18.9, and notice especially the last line there: “So from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David.” The CEV says, “Saul never again trusted David.”
“Envy is a major cause of unhappiness” (Dunnam & Reisman), and that was certainly the case in Saul’s life. This was the turning point for Saul. Think about Saul’s legacy. Saul is not one of the biblical characters that many of us want to be like. And Saul’s legacy was, in large part, a result of his relationship with David. They got off on the wrong foot from the very beginning.
Envy, if unchecked and not dealt with in our lives, will lead us down a path of destruction, too. Dunnam and Resiman list several results of envy: anger, malice (gossip/backbiting), jealousy, dejection, hypocrisy (desiring that others to envy us), and self-contempt.
So, how can we overcome envy?
>> Accept God’s love
“When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners …” (Read a little more of Romans 5.6-10)
If we’re going to do a better job of not envying others, I think it has to begin with us accepting the fact that God loves us. God created us with the gifts and abilities and temperaments that we have. We can be content in that!
>> Focus on loving God
“The antidote to envy begins with kindling our love of God and affirming God’s mercy and goodness.” (Dunnam & Reisman)
When we focus on loving God, we will waste less time and energy envying others.
>> Own your uniqueness
God created you to be, well, YOU! God doesn’t call you to be someone else. When you stand before God after your life on earth, God will not ask you, “Why weren’t you more like _________?” God will be more interested in what you did with the gifts he gave you!
There are some great statements in Romans 12, a chapter where Paul speaks about giftedness. Here are some fitting statements …
“God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well. … Don’t just pretend that you love others. Really love them. … Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. … Be glad for all God is planning for you. … When God’s children are in need, be the one to help them out. … When others are happy, be happy with them. If they are sad, share their sorrow. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t try to act important, but enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!” (Romans 12.6-16)
Read Psalm 37.1-8, especially the part that says, “Don’t envy those who do wrong. For like grass, they soon fade away. Like springtime flowers, they soon wither” and “Do not envy others—it only leads to harm.”
The good news, as Psalm 37 goes on to say, is that “the steps of the godly are directed by the LORD. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will not fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand” (37.23-24).
Friends, God loves you so much! Don’t spend your time trying to be someone else or wishing that you had what someone else has. Be grateful to God for all that he has blessed you with!
O God, thank you so much for creating us. I’m so glad that you did not have some kind of cookie cutter that you used to create human beings, but that in your amazing creativity, you created each of us with our own individual uniqueness. Help us, Lord, to accept the fact that you love us with an impossible-to-comprehend kind of love. Help us to focus on loving you with everything that’s in us. And help us to own our own uniqueness. For it’s as we do these things that we will overcome the deadly sin of envy in our lives. Amen.
For another perspective on envy, be sure to check out Joleen’s sermon.