Friday, March 25, 2011

Moses (Part 4: The Problem with Envy)

The Problem with Envy, image courtesy of

The Problem with Envy: As I indicated, the problem with lust is characterized by the demand:

I want it!

Lust objectifies what it wants because relationship is not a factor. A man rapes a woman not because he wants a relationship with her; he simply sought to gratify his desire for sex. The methodology one uses to gratify lust is unimportant because the mindset is always, get me that. Lust seeks to get; it never gives. I believe this is true in every instance of lust.

The problem with greed is characterized by my answer to the question, how much is enough?

It’s never enough!

Greed establishes a conduit relationship solely for the purpose of abusing it to get what it demands. The alcoholic bonds with a container, not because she wants a relationship; the container is simply a conduit through which she abuses her access to drink alcohol uncontrollably. I was in a building where a fire started and I foolishly tried to put it out. I had no idea how quickly fire could spread. I witnessed the flames consume everything because the thirst to burn was insatiable.

Petty thief or corporate exec, greed operates the same in both. There are many factors why so many Americans are unemployed, why so many homes are in foreclosure, and why the price of goods and services are so high, but I believe at the root of these problems is the problem with greed. We will never be satisfied in our abusive acts of greed.

The problem with envy is characterized by the acknowledgement of:

You don’t deserve that, I do!

Envy can never be pleased with the success, accomplishments, or life of another. Envy determines that I am better suited to have what belongs to another. Envy says,

That should be me!

Envy does not comprehend joy. Envy will not embrace love. Envy cannot live in peace. Envy does not despise what another has; envy despises another for having it. In my youth, I played sports and I hated losing, but I didn’t hate my competitors. I admit that in competition, there is a certain element of animosity present that is directed towards one’s opponent; but envy doesn’t want to succeed as others have, envy wants to take what others have. What I’ve come to believe is that in every instance, a relationship with God (or another person) is always superseded by an object. In Romans, Paul writes:

They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen.1

It is the ultimate insult that Satan desires when we usurp our relationship with God for a thing. It also occurs to me that each of these problems must sacrifice something on the altar of idolatrous worship:
  1. Lust sacrifices relationship in order to get
  2. Greed sacrifices humility and self-control in order to feed
  3. Envy sacrifices love, godliness, contentment and joy in order to hate
At the root of all envy is an unwillingness to love another. I’m unwilling to love someone because I want to take from them. I want to take from them because I believe I am more deserving than they are. I’m more deserving because I am superior. I’m superior because I believe myself to be better than others. I’m better than others because I deny the truth of how God views me.

A coach once remarked to hall of fame basketball player Michael Jordan, “There’s no 'I' in TEAM!” Immediately, Jordan shot back his response with, “Yeah, but there is in WIN!

Envy is all about I, me, and mine.

Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other.2

Speaking of those who dispute the gospel message concerning salvation through Jesus Christ, Paul writes:

…he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.

But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.

What is godliness?

The Greek word for godliness is eusebeia (yü-se'-bā-ä), which means reverence, respect, piety towards God, godliness, the doctrine that promotes godliness, the truth that leads to godliness. It is an attitude of devotion towards God that is committed to pleasing God.4 It is one who believes and confesses the truth regarding Jesus Christ.

By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness:
He who was revealed in the flesh,
Was vindicated in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Proclaimed among the nations,
Believed on in the world,
Taken up in glory.

"Godliness is the sum of religious virtues and duties, bringing to its possessor blessedness here and hereafter."6

...On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.7

Godliness is the consistent practice of devotion to God by having the same attitude as Jesus Christ.8

Then Jesus went to work on his disciples.Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat; I am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I'll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?’”9

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.10

How do I resist envy?

Resisting envy does not mean that I don’t have desires, or I deny the presence of desire in me. A person may desire to go to college, get married, have children, start a business, become a doctor or president; these are healthy human desires. I must understand that I am a steward of God’s life in me. This means that I understand my desires must conform to the will and purpose God has for my life. Operating outside those parameters negates my devotion to God. I must understand that when I desire what belongs to another, I’m embracing an attitude and philosophy that only seeks to please myself; not God. Godliness overcomes envy. It means that everything that I do is with the attitude that God Himself has asked me:

And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.11

Envy is also overcome when I demonstrate contentment in my life. I learn to live in the spirit of contentment and joy when others succeed in life. I no longer measure myself through the lives of others; I now seek to please God, regardless of my material status in this life. Rich, poor, Black, White, Red, Yellow, tall, short, large, or small; my life belongs to Christ, it is no longer mine.

This is what often frustrated me in my relationship to God and others. The truth is I was unwilling to put God or anyone above my own desires; I always came first. I’m thankful that I’m finally learning that the frustrations I created for myself (and others) has been replaced with a Godly contentment and joy that seeks to please God. Like anyone who runs a business, I want and desire my business to grow, but I thank God for where I am; I realize this is where he wants me for this season. I’m not measuring myself against others. I am living the life of godliness and contentment; I also have joy.

Father God,

So often in my life I've sought to please myself at the expense of sacrificing my relationship with You. I created so much frustration for myself. Heartache, disappointment, and disillusion always followed my selfish and destructive behaviour. You are teaching me the more excellent way of following Christ. Praying, searching the scriptures, and living a life of faith and obedience. My goal is the upward call of Christ; that the offering of my life in sacrifice is pleasing to You. I pray Father for those who struggle with heartache, disappointment, disillusion; who experience frustration rather than joy. May we who call upon the name of Jesus, be used to illuminate the light of truth by our life; revealing a love, joy, peace, godliness, and contentment that connot be discerned by human thinking. There are so many needing to be touched by You Lord. Reassure them that they are not alone. Where there is sickness, speak forth the word of healing. Where there is lack, speak forth the word of increase. Where there is anger, strife, and unforgiveness, speak forth the word of peace. May I and other believers be vessels worthy of Your calling and purpose. In Jesus name, Amen.

Spiritual Sunday'sNote: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte and Ginger).

  1. Romans 1:25, NLTB
  2. Titus 3:3, NLTB
  3. 1 Timothy 6:4-6, NASB
  4. Eusebeia, reference number 2150, Greek Dictionary of the New Testament, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance.
  5. 1 Timothy 3:16, NASB
  6. Godliness, page 411, Unger’s Bible Dictionary.
  7. 1 Timothy 4:7-8, NASB
  8. Philippians 2:5
  9. Matthew 16:24-26, The Message Bible
  10. Philippians 2:3-4, NIV
  11. Colossians 3:17, NLTB
  1. The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6
  2. The Amplified Bible, by The Lockman Foundation, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, Michigan, ISBN-13: 978-0310951414
  3. King James Version, The Crusade Analytical Study Edition, Crusade Bible Publishers, Inc., PO Box 90011, Nashville, Tennessee 37209
  4. The Message Bible, by Eugene H. Peterson, NavPress Publishing Group, Colorado Springs, CO, ISBN-13: 978-1600060250
  5. The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA
  6. The New Living Translation Bible, by Tyndale Charitable Trust, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois, ISBN-13: 978-0842384896
  7. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, By James B. Strong, S.T.D, LL.D., Riverside Book and Bible House, Iowa Falls, Iowa 50126
  8. Matthew Henry's Commentary, McDonald Publishing Company, McLean, Virginia 22101, ISBN 0-917006-21-6
  9. Unger's Bible Dictionary, By Merrill F. Unger, Moody Press, Chicago


Stuff could always be worse said...

I pray and do try to resist Envy in my life! We do have a problem with envy though. It is a battle

Sharon Kirby said...

This was a wonderful message on envy. You know, if I'm totally honest, one of the worst ways that Satan twists the good things of God, is in this area. He has, at times, made me envious of other believers, and their "successful" ministries. I'm ashamed to admit that - but I'm hoping that I'm not alone.

In this, I have to ask the Holy Spirit to fight against that natural tendency to want what others have. Even in the area of serving God.

After all, it really isn't about what I DO for Him, it's all about how I humble myself TO Him.


(P.S. Loved the letter you wrote to your wife. Prayers for that...)

Renee said...

Envy can sneak up on us...can become powerful in our lives if we don't stay alert to it. Great post to bring this sin to the forefront. I like Lucado's one book, "It's Not About Me". God bless.

Charlotte said...

I think this is one of the biggest problems in our country today. Sadly it isn't just in the world, but in the church as well. Thank you for this insightful post.

Ginger~~Enchanting Cottage said...

I think that this is a problem that won't go away anytime soon. So many people have never just been content.
Thank-you for this important post today.

Saleslady371 said...

These are great scriptures to back up your message and I enjoyed the illustrations too, especially the uncontrollable fire referring to greed and the "all about me" of envy in the Michael Jordon quote.

Still praying,

sarah said...

good message....good illustrations. Hope your weekend is going great.

no spring chicken said...

Very convicting post. Truly, just the choice to be thankful in all things brings about a change of heart. Whenever we feel that green eyed monster rearing its ugly head, it's time to begin praying our list of thanks. Tried and true. He is always faithful to quick charge my heart with contentment and joy.

Renee Ann said...

This is a great study and powerful post! There have been times when it was hard for me to see what God had given others--and denied me--and not lean towards envy. Just as you put it, "You don't deserve that, I do!" When in truth, I deserve worse at God's hands than I could ever imagine. He is merciful, and all His gifts are good. I'm visiting with Spiritual Sunday from Doorkeeper. Blessings!

Whidbey Woman said...

Wow. What a great message. Do you ever teach adult Sunday school or lead a bible study? You really have a gift. Happy Spiritual Sunday!

Vintagesouthernlife said...

Wonderful post! It is so easy so let envy creep in. We must remember to count our blessings and it makes the envy go away.

Cathy said...

Amen! Thanks for sharing those thoughts. Blessings ~

Dean Spencer said...


Another great post! You systematically break down the human condition and expose those areas of our lives that our not consistent with God's standards. Envy is another one of those areas.

I just makes me think even more about what Jesus said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

If we truly did this envy, greed, lust, or any of these things would not be an issue.

Thanks MTJ for sharing this.

God bless!

Pamela said...

I'd like to say envy never called my name. Unfortunately I found myself just last year envious of a friend. God called me on it -- and I'm thankful for His grace. This was well thought out and has such truth attached to it. It would make a great lesson for a Bible Study. Thank you for digging it out.

Anita Johnson said...

Your writing is amazing and I am ending my long day with your beautiful prayer...thank you.

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Karen said...

There is a lot of truth here. I was thinking recently that in our schools in America, we don't even acknowledge God as creator anymore, and that opens the door to many ills in our society. Thanks for your kind comments on my post. Bless you.

Mari said...

Envy is so damaging. I pray that the Lord keeps me from envy and protects me from it.

Great post, it very much needed. Thanks

Lloyd said...

MTJ, this post really hit near to my heart this morning. "Lust" and "Envy" are sins that we battle daily in our walk with the Lord. Thank God for the blood of Jesus.

As you point out, "Godliness is the consistent practice of devotion to God by having the same attitude as Jesus Christ." We must always stay focused on our Lord and Savior. God bless, Lloyd

B. Niles said...

Great post MTJ. When we stay transparent and close to The flame of God through prayer and study of his Word and allow the Holy Spirit to do his daily work in our lives, only then, I believe can we live lives free of envy and lust.

Seek first, the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto us.

God be with you as you shine forth his light.


Ken said...

Very good teaching!
God bless,