The sin of the evil eye
Envy defined: from the Latin, “to look maliciously upon.” The New Testament Greek literally means “to have an evil eye.” Saul and David 1 Samuel 18.5-9, “Saul killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” This made Saul angry “So Saul eyed David from that day on.”
What is yours should be mine
Envy wants what is sees
Envy is never satisfied
Everything should revolve around God, but envy says everything revolves around me (even God). Envy says, “what is your should be mine.” There is never any gratification. Envy sees and wants what it doesn’t have and since there will always be more to see than what one can possess, one is never satisfied. [Also, there is a neglect to acknowledge that everything belongs to God, we are only stewards.]
The story of Haman from the Book of Esther
The story of Haman demonstrates both pride and envy. You will remember that these 7 deadly sins rarely will stand alone, but will interweave. This is a good example of that.
Esther, a Jew, is taken by King Xerxes as his wife. No one knows that Esther is a Jew.
Mordecai, Esther’s (adoptive) father, overhears a scheme to murder the King and warns the King and his life is saved.
Haman is given a special elevated position by the king. All the royal officials at the king’s gate, except Mordecai, kneel in Haman’s honor. Haman’s anger burns at Mordecai. Haman finds our Mordecai is a Jew. Haman’s anger is projected unto all Jews. He devises a way to kill them all. The King gives Haman permission to do as he pleases.
Haman calls his friends and his wife together and he boasts to them about his wealth, his many sons, and all the ways that the king had honored him and how he had elevated him above the other nobles and officials. "And that’s not all," Haman added. "I’m the only person Queen Esther invited to accompany the king to the banquet she gave. And she has invited me along with the king tomorrow." But Haman goes on to say that this gives him no satisfaction as long as he sees that Jew Mordecai sitting at the king’s gate. So his wife and friends suggest he build a gallows 75 feet high and to ask the king in the morning for Mordecai to be hung on it. Haman likes this idea.
The next morning before Haman could ask the king, the king called him in and asked him, "What should be done for the man the king delights to honor?" Now Haman thought to himself, "Who is there that the king would rather honor than me?" So he said to dress him in the king’s own royal robe, and let him be led through the streets on the king’s own horse by one of the king’s servants who will shout, "This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!"
Well, the night before the king could not sleep and he sent for someone to read the history books to him. The king discovered what Mordecai had done in saving his life and that nothing was done to honor him and so the king instructed Haman to at once do what he suggested for Mordecai.
Of course, Haman in humiliated. And now he must go immediately to the banquet with the king and Queen Esther. The king asks the queen, "What is your petition?" Queen Esther answered, "If I have found favor with you, O king, and if it pleases your majesty, grant me my life—this is my petition. And spare my people—this is my request. For I and my people have been sold for destruction and slaughter and annihilation." King Xerxes responds, "Who is he? Where is the man who has dared to do such a thing?" And Esther said, "The adversary and enemy is this vile Haman." The king is so upset he leaves, but upon his return, one of his servant says, "A gallows seventy-five feet high stands by Haman’s house. He had it made for Mordecai, who spoke up to help the king." The king takes this as the fitting punishment.
This is an extreme example of how envy can consume one. And how malicious one can become. In our own lives probably the best way to identify envy is in making comparisons.
The sin of making comparisons
This is something most of us are guilty of. We compare ourselves with others. We compare our gifts with others. We even want to be that other person. (King Saul and David)
We may say things like:
~If I could only play ball like…
~If I could only play the piano like…
~If I could only teach/pray like…
~If was handyman like…
~They have a higher salary because of seniority by I do more around here than… or I know more about this job than… (Mt 20.1-16)
~I wish our church had that…
~Why isn’t our church growing like that church…
And we really get in danger when we start thinking:
~I wish my marriage was like…
or when we say to our children
~Why can’t you be like…
“When have I been envious?”
It’s a question of worth
[I would venture to say that Haman was gaining his sense of worth from position, from family, from wealth, from the honor of others.]
Do I have any worth? Am I adequate? Do I believe that God uniquely created me? Do I believe that God made me just the way he wants me? Do I believe that God gave me the gifts he wants me to have and he gave me the right portion of talent that he wanted me to have?
Remember envy always sees more. There will always be someone more intelligent, more athletic, more gifted … Envy is never satisfied.
“Envy hinders us from finding meaning in who we are and making the best and rewarding use of our gifts.” (D&DR)
A person of worth is satisfied. They have found their worth in who God created them.
Affirmation: “I am a unique, unrepeatable miracle of God.” (D&DR)
A person of worth knows that they are loved and accepted by God, even with all our weaknesses and inadequacies.
Symptoms of Envy
Malice: “ill will with the desire to harm” (Gossip & backbiting seeks to destroy the reputation of another)
Jealousy: sin amongst equals
Dejection: sorrow for another’s good
Hypocrisy: pretend to be joyful/sorrowful for someone’s joys/sorrows.
Lovelessness: can’t love self; can’t love others (self-contempt) Unhappiness.
Antidote to Envy
1. Kindle our love of God and affirm God’s mercy and goodness.
2. Accept ourselves and God’s gifts.
3. Utilize God’s given wisdom and ability to reason. “Things are not always what the seem.” The grass is not really greener on the other side.
A story from the Taoist literature of ancient China (D&DR)
There once was a wise man who owned several beautiful horses. One horse, in particular, was so fast and strong and magnificent that it evoked the envy of the man’s neighbor. Unfortunately, one day the horse broke free and ran into the hills. At once the neighbor’s attitude changed from envy to pity at the man’s loss, but the wise man said, “Who knows if I should be pitied or if I should be envied because of this?”
The next day, the horse returned to the wise man leading a herd of fifty equally magnificent wild horses with him. The neighbor was again filled with envy, but again the wise man said, “Who knows if I should be envied or if I should be pitied because of this?” Not long after he had said this, his only son tried to ride one of the wild horses but was thrown off and broke his leg. Again, the neighbor’s envy changed to pity, but the wise man answered once more, “Who knows if I should be pitied or if I should be envied because of this?”
The following day, an officer in the emperor’s army came to draft the man’s son for an extremely hazardous mission. Because his leg was broken, he was relieved of the responsibility for the assignment that would almost certainly have meant death. The neighbor’s son was taken in his place and as a result, once again envied the wise man. As he had before, the wise man responded, “Who knows if I should be envied or if I should be pitied because of this?”
The story continues in this same way with the neighbor’s emotions shifting from envy to pity and back again as the events unfold. It doesn’t take long to see the point of the story: Things are not always what they seem. Sometimes hardships come into our lives and God works this miraculous wonder in our midst and sometimes something that appears good can bring sorrow. Take winning the lottery for example. We may say look in envy at someone who wins a big cash pot, thinking they are going to walk done easy street from now on, but in reality, many who come across winnings like that end up filing bankruptcy-they have lost everything! The are worst off than before.
Dunnam and Dunnam Reisman offer these steps in prayer and I encourage us to use them today and throughout this series of self-examination.
~Examine for the sin of envy.
~Claim our justification, the gracious forgiveness and pardon of God.
~Yield our lives to Christ, with special attention to the area of our lives where sin is expressing itself.
~Invite Christ to take that sin from us.
~Claim the power of the Holy Spirit to give us the desire and the strength of will to overcome sin’s grip.
~Practice the disciplines that free us and even protect us from willful sin.
Psalm 139.23-24 (David’s prayer of self-examination)
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting
Throughout each day this week, “pay attention to how you look at things, what you desire, and why you desire it.” (D&DR)
Affirmation “I am a unique, unrepeatable miracle of God.” (D&DR)