The Big 7: Envy

 

Opening

Good morning!  I’m Michael Hockett, the Pastor of Adult Ministries.  For the last few weeks we’ve been talking about the Seven Deadly Sins, The Big 7.  And this week I have the unenviable task of talking to you about your envy problem . . .  and mine. . . .  But here’s the good news:  talking to you about your envy problem is not nearly as unenviable as talking to you about your lust problem.  Brad gets to do that next week, and I think we should all be praying for him!  More seriously, if you normally bring elementary-aged children to this service, next week you may want to consider their age and maturity and the appropriateness of the content matter for them.  You may decide AdventureLand would be the better venue for them given the topic.

 

But getting back to envy, most of us can think of times we’ve envied others.  The first serious case of envy I had could have killed a relationship before it even got off the ground.  It was the summer before I started high school, and my family had just moved to Omaha.  Another boy my age, Jim Wojtas, lived just down the street, and both of us had gotten our first 10-speed bicycles that summer. I absolutely loved my bike . . . until I saw his.  His was an expensive Schwinn, while mine was a cheap Huffy.  As I started to get to know Jim and the other kids in the neighborhood, I’d look at his bike and say things like, “I’m going to get wheels like Jim’s,” and “I’m going to get a seat like Jim’s,” and “I’m going to get brakes like Jim’s.”  After this went on for a few days, Cindy, one of the older girls in the group, said, “Mike, it sounds like you want to be Jim.  What’s wrong with just being you?”  (I think Cindy’s probably a psychotherapist now.)  God had her say just the right thing at the right time at the beginning of that relationship, because although I still always admired Jim’s bike, I let go of the need to have it.  So instead of me sabotaging our relationship right off the bat, we ended up riding all over the paved farm roads of Nebraska and becoming best friends in the process.  We had some incredible high school years together, and I thank God for having Cindy speak up and nip that sin of envy in the bud!  And envy is a bud that God tells us we all need to keep on nipping with His help throughout our lives. 

Introduction

In his book Sinning Like a Christian, William Willimon points out that of the Seven Deadly Sins, envy isn’t one of the “fun” ones. As you’ve seen over these past few weeks, they include pride, greed, gluttony, sloth, anger, envy and lust.  Willimon notes,

 

Lust and anger have a warm-hearted, hot-blooded “human-all-too-human” quality about them. Envy is cold-blooded and cruel, even among friends, especially there. Most of the other Seven can be fun, let’s admit it. Lust is at least momentarily pleasurable; so is gluttony. But who enjoys Envy, even for a moment? (51)

 

The reason envy has little warmth or fun to offer is because it puts us at odds not only with others but also with ourselves.  No one wins, not even for a moment!

 

Envy causes us to view even our friends and family as competitors and enemies.  This is particularly true for us in our American culture. In America, contentment is making $10 a month more than your brother-in-law.

­

The History Channel just did a series on the Seven Deadly Sins, and for envy they did a little survey to see what Americans would prefer: to make $50,000 while those around them make $25,000, or to make $100,000 while those around them make $200,000.  Guess what over 50% of Americans chose to make: $50,000 or $100,000?  $50,000.  Most Americans would prefer to make half as much as they could, given everyone else was making half as much as them.  Pure Envy!

 

Here’s the problem with this pervasive cultural vice, especially for us as Christians:  when envy bites, instead of loving others as Christ calls us to, we end up hating them and ourselves—even if ever so subtly—because we believe that they have things or have lives we feel should be ours.  Subconsciously or even consciously, we start to believe God has been overly generous to them . . . . while He’s given us a raw deal.

 

If you want a quick-and-dirty definition of sin, it’s simply not fulfilling the good purposes God has created us to fulfill.  The clear, primary purpose God has given us is to love . . . to love Him, to love others, and to love ourselves.  Jesus teaches,

 

Matthew 22:37-39

 “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

 

Envy twists love for self and love for others into hate for self and hate for others … and ultimately hate for God. We end up resenting Him because we believe He’s holding out on us.

 

We see very quickly in the Bible in Genesis 3 that envy began with Satan’s resentment of God’s relationship with humanity, which Satan started attacking immediately with Adam and Eve.

 

And we see envy produce humanity’s first physical death in Genesis 4:  the cause of death—murder. Like Satan, Cain started to envy Abel because of his relationship with God, and that envy turned to hate.  But here’s something interesting and important for us to note for our own lives:  before Cain could turn murder in his heart into murder in the flesh, God came and warned him about the trap he was walking into and showed him the way out. God said to Cain, 

 

Genesis 4:6-7

“Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

 

 

God loves Cain—He sees that envy is driving Cain to destruction, and God is trying to counter that envy and woo Cain back into a relationship with Him.  We encounter this same dynamic:  Envy is crouching at our door too, waiting to spring a trap on us.  But we see through God’s intervention with Cain that if we do what’s right—if we look to God for His offered help, He will gladly help us and accept us.  And it’s with this focus on Him and the way His acceptance changes our hearts that we master all sin.  So let’s look at how envy lays traps for us, and then let’s see what we can do with God’s help to counter them.

 

1.  The traps of envy.

  1. Let’s begin with  

a. The trap of envying others’ goods.

Only a few of the deadly sins have a direct counterpart in the Ten Commandments, and envy is one of them:  it’s the tenth command, which tells us not to covet.  Coveting is having a strong desire for someone else’s possessions: 

 

Exodus 20:17

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

 

How many of your neighbors have an ox or donkey?  Mine, neither! But my next-door neighbor does have a white, 4×4, Toyota Tacoma, supercab he inherited from his grandfather when he passed away. . . . When my grandmother passed away, I got her stuffed Easter Bunny…. But I’m not envious. 

 

Envy in the form of covetousness focuses mainly on others’ goods, including the good of those they have in their lives, from family members to servants.  If we allow our focus to evolve into a desire for their goods, and we let that desire take root in our heart, it becomes envy in the form of covetousness, and that’s a very dangerous sin to have take root.  Just look at the trouble David got into with Bathsheba:

 

 

 

2 Samuel 11:2-4

2 One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, 3 and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “Isn’t this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” 4 Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her.

 

In many cases the Seven Deadly sins blend together to concoct a real witches’ brew!  What’s the first deadly sin here that sets David off on the wrong path. . . ?  Lust!  And we also see greed coming into play, because David already has a whole stinkin’ harem of his own. (That’s a whole lot of perfume all under one roof!)  David doesn’t just have more wives than he can handle in a night; he has more than he can handle in a year.  What on earth does he need another woman for?!  But greed always says, “Too much of a good thing is . . . a good thing.” 

So lust and greed kick off this wicked bit of business with Bathsheba.  But envy comes into play as well.  David covets something that belongs to his neighbor—he wants Uriah’s wife.

 

With lust, greed, and envy all banging at David’s door, it’s easy to think that the poor fellow never had a chance! But the Bible warns us we cannot claim victimhood in our sin. As He did with Cain, God always provides a way out if we’re simply willing to take it:

 

1 Corinthians 10:13

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

 

We can see the way out God provides in the case of David and Bathsheba.  God fires a shot right across David’s bow before he steams full-speed-ahead towards Bathsheba.  And God doesn’t hit him with the lust issue; He goes after the envy. Let’s look at that passage in Samuel again [underlined segment]:

 

2 Samuel 11:2-4

One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, 3 and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “Isn’t this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” 4 Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her.

 

This member of David’s court respectfully but directly implies to him: “You’re desiring someone who rightfully belongs to a husband, Uriah, and to a father, Eliam.”  If David had had ears to hear, God was reminding him through this servant that Bathsheba was loved and protected by others.  David would not only harm her and himself, but he’d devastate these two loyal subjects in his kingdom.  The servant is politely saying, “She’s not yours to have, O king.” 

 

But like Cain when he went ahead and murdered Abel, David chose to ignore God’s warning, and this cocktail of deadly sins led him into adultery, lies, betrayal, and ultimately murder. The end of this sordid affair was short, brutal, and ugly:  Bathsheba gets pregnant, and David can’t entice Uriah to sleep with her by giving him a little R&R from the warfront. (Uriah feels it would be unkind to his fellow warriors to enjoy something they cannot, which is darkly ironic given that David obviously has no such thoughts as the Commander-in-Chief.) So David has his commanding general order Uriah not only back to war, but to the bloodiest frontline he can find. . . . Then the moment Uriah’s killed in battle, David marries Bathsheba to cover up their pregnancy.

 

It’s just one rotten choice after another: that’s what’s so awful about envy.  It not only wants what rightfully belongs to another, but allowed free reign in our lives, it will completely derail us from the mission God has given us to love others, to love the people He has put in our lives to serve and protect. 

 

It’s easy to think, “Well, David was a real creep.  Unfortunately, there are those kinds of people in the world.  Why doesn’t God take care of that?” . . .  But this isn’t just David’s story.  It’s humanity’s story. It’s our story.  All you have to do is read this morning’s paper, consider what you’ve read about any era in history, or think about the lifestyle of your brother-in-law. . . .  (By the way, I’d just like to note for the record that all three of my brothers-in-law are admirable fellows.)

 

Probably none of us here are on the verge of physically stealing from someone or harming them because we envy what they have.  What’s more likely is that we’ll try to steal their reputation or we’ll harm our relationship with them because of the things we think or say:

 

Ill.  When someone gets a new car, or they make an addition on their home, or they send their kid to a great university, we may be prone to think or say something like, “Yeah.  But I bet they had to go into a ton of debt to do it.”

 

Ill. Have you seen the bumper sticker that says,“My kid beat up your honor student”? Guess what drives this sort of dark humor?  Envy!

 

Ill. When I completed my master’s thesis in English, one of my relatives asked to see it.  After flipping through it briefly, he handed it back and said in total seriousness, “Mine’s bigger.” . . .  His master’s thesis was about city planning, so I responded, “Mine doesn’t have pictures.” . . .  Envy.  Neither of us could simply be happy for the other and satisfied with our own achievements.

 

Trans: So one trap we encounter is wanting others’ goods.  The other is …  

b. The trap of envying others’ lives.

Sometimes we don’t so much envy what people have, but who they are. We elevate them while we discredit ourselves.  So we end up envying their lives and degrading our own.  Willimon notes that

 

When we Envy someone, we tend to magnify that person’s good fortune while at the same time minimizing our own. . . . Indeed, of all the sins, Envy seems to be its own punishment. In envying another, my self is diminished, continually diminished every time I make the invidious comparison. (51, 57).

 

Ill:  I remember the first time this type of devastating, life-destroying envy bit me. . . .  I was in third grade. . . .  I was living in Wyoming, and John Denver was a smash hit, particularly in that region of the country.  My parents had his albums and listened to them all the time.  When I started the school year, there was a boy in my class who looked just like him: he had his long flowing hair, he had his funky round glasses, and he had his brown bell-bottom corduroys.  (My parents were John Denver fanatics, but his must have been regular groupies!)  So I thought he was about the coolest thing walking on two legs. For the first few weeks of school I had this recurring daydream of being him. I’d think, “So this is what it’s like to be something really special:  cool hair, cool glasses, cool bell-bottoms…. I finally got over that bit of envy, and I’m happy to report I don’t have a single John Denver album in my house—not even an eight-track.  But I haven’t gotten so far past childhood as to completely escape the trap of wanting to be like someone else.  When I see Joe or Matt or Brad preach, and I see the amazing gifts God has given them, I still catch myself thinking, “If I could only have Joe’s hair, or Matt’s glasses, or Brad’s bell-bottoms . . . .”  Honestly, when it comes to our spiritual maturity . . . do we ever get out of third grade?

 

So these are fairly light examples of this type of envy.  But envying another’s life can turn to tragedy quickly if it goes unchecked, because envy becomes so twisted.

Unlike Cain, probably none of us here today will ever murder anyone physically. But just think about what we’re prone to do to them in our hearts and minds because of envy! 

 

  • When others succeed, we may be tempted to attribute it to dumb-luck or brownnosing or underhanded politics rather than their abilities and hard work. 
  • If others are handsome or beautiful, we may have a tendency to take delight in the fantasy that they’re self-absorbed mental zeros.  Have you ever seen a  good-looking, stylish couple walk by and been tempted to say, “Hey, there’s Ken & Barbie”?  Where do you think all the blond jokes come from?
  • If someone is athletic—say she does the Ironman—well . . . she obviously neglects her family.
  • And if someone appears to have a more expressive or heartfelt relationship with God than I do, no doubt he’s either a fanatic or a hypocrite….  
  •  My male friends with hair like to tell me this joke: Men who bald in back think, and men who bald in front are sexy, but men who bald all over just think they’re sexy. That’s all just envy talking. They know deep down that it’s those of us men with high testosterone who lose our hair.

 

Envy.  It makes us murder people in our hearts.  And as we learned last week from Matt, what we do in our heart matters just as much as what we do with our hands. 

So what can we do?  After God confronts David about his sin with Bathsheba, David prays a heartrending prayer of confession and repentance that he gave us permission to view in Psalm 51.  Part of that prayer reveals how we go about keeping ourselves out of the trap of sin in the first place.  David prays:

 

Psalm 51:10-12

    Create in me a pure heart, O God,

and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

 

    Do not cast me from your presence

or take your Holy Spirit from me.

 

    Restore to me the joy of your salvation

and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

 

We need God to re-create us.  As David says, we need God to create in us a pure heart—it’s not something we already possess on our own.   And we need His on-going presence in our lives through the Holy Spirit.  It’s only through this new, pure heart and the power of the Holy Spirit that we have success in engaging our will to counter the traps of sin.

 

God is very clear with us about what comes from a pure heart under the influence of the Holy Spirit.  Check out …

 

Galatians 5:22-23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control.

 

These are some of the primary character qualities of God that the Holy Spirit develops within us when we spend time with Him.  And in regard to the trap of envy, I’d like us to focus on two of them because they’re particularly useful for countering this sin:

 

Galatians 5:22-23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control.

 

Peace (in the sense of true contentment), and kindness (which is a particular form of love).

 

Trans: Let’s begin with . . .

2.  The counter of kindness.

If you look up the Greek word that gives us kindness, (khray·stot·ace), it means

 

Kindness: Chrestotes

Looking for ways to be good, benevolent and useful to each other

 

The medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas says,

 

The object both of charity [or loving kindness] and of envy

is our neighbor’s good, but by contrary movements,

since charity rejoices in our neighbor’s good,

while envy grieves over it.

~Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologica, II, 2, Q.36)

 

I bet Aquinas got this insight from watching Desperate Housewives

I love his contrast of rejoicing and grieving, because it gives us a clear counter to the trap of envy, which is the kindness of rejoicing in another’s well being.  We’re to rejoice in our neighbor’s good. As the apostle Paul says,

 

Roman 12:15

Rejoice with those who rejoice.

 

It’s very hard for me to envy someone when I’m rejoicing with them.  It’s like trying to be sad while singing a joyful song—I just can’t do it!

 

Many times rejoicing with someone is simply the act of acknowledging their accomplishments rather than tearing them down.  How many of you have watched The Right Stuff, the movie about the first astronauts?  In one part, Gus Grissem’s space capsule had a door malfunction after landing in the ocean, and the capsule sunk before it could be picked up by helicopter.  Behind the scenes, there was speculation whether the “malfunction” was mechanical, or if Gus had simply panicked and blown the door himself.  Some of the veteran test pilots who didn’t make it into the space program because they didn’t have the right look or an unnecessary bachelor’s degree used this chance to vent their envy and ridicule Grissem, who had been a junior officer when chosen.  But check out Chuck Yeager’s behavior.  He was probably the best test pilot of all time, but he was kept out of the space program because he didn’t have a formal degree.  Let’s look at his response to Grissem’s flight. Movie clip from The Right Stuff.

 

Rather than responding out of envy, Yeager responds out of kindness. He’s a man who can rejoice with those who rejoice.

 

If you want God to develop this kindness in you, practice the spiritual discipline of service, what John Ortberg calls “appropriate smallness.”  When we serve others with what we say and do, we take on Christ’s heart in recognition that God didn’t put us on this earth to serve ourselves, but to serve others out of love.  We become humble.  Humility doesn’t mean acting like you believe you’re a repulsive, sinful worm.  Winston Churchill said, “We are all worms. But I do believe that I am a glowworm.” I think that’s more the spirit of the thing!  Christ Jesus, God in the flesh, came to this earth to serve all humanity in humility.  In order to live among us, He gave up His omniscience, His omnipotence, His omnipresence, and for a moment even His life.  But despite these reductions of self, boy does He glow in the humility of humanity!  And when we serve others by humbling ourselves and rejoicing in their good fortune, God will develop kindness in our hearts, and our own joy will abound.  So if you want God to develop kindness in you, practice serving others. 

 

This spiritual discipline of service will also lead you to practice another form of kindness: giving to others in need.  Instead of looking at others to see what they have that we don’t, we should be looking at others to see what they don’t have that we can supply.  This focus is one of the reasons we encourage you to be in Life Groups.  It’s hard not to serve someone out of love when you see their real needs.

 

Unfortunately, our culture doesn’t value or promote this kind of focus. Richard Swenson, who is a medical doctor and the author of the book Margin, notes that our society is ruining our physical and spiritual health because we’ve created a culture that’s built on envy, that’s built on keeping up with the Joneses, that’s built on the philosophy of the prosperity ladder. He writes,

 

Most of us look ‘up the ladder’ and notice that the wealthy have more than we do. This, of course, strikes a near fatal blow at one’s contentment. If, instead, we reversed our gaze and looked down the ladder, our gratitude would thrive and opportunities for sharing would abound” (159). 

 

Ill: For thirteen years Leslie and I were DINKs—Dual Income, No Kids.  Now we’re SIKOs—Single Income, Kids Overflowing.  When we started having children six years ago, we chose to simplify our lifestyle and reduce our budget significantly so that she could stay home during these years while our children are not yet in school.  We haven’t regretted that decision a bit.  But every month we certainly feel the bite of looking up that prosperity ladder as we try to keep a handle on our materialism and our budget.  Part of what motivates us to stick with it during these lean years is the simple act of giving.  Leslie and I find that when we think about how little others around the world have, and we give to organizations such as Compassion International, or when we give something to family and friends to help out during a time of need, we suddenly feel very blessed ourselves.

 

The kindness of giving is an outstanding counter to the trap of envy. It changes your focus.  It gives you God’s perspective and God’s heart, and it helps you realize just how much God has blessed you.  And if you want God to develop it in you, the spiritual discipline of service is your game! 

 

If you’re looking for a place to start, contact Pastor Kenna Joner this week.

She oversees all of our church and community service opportunities, and she can explore all sorts of options with you! 

 

Trans: Another major counter to envy is also a fruit of the Spirit: peace.

 

3.  The counter of peace.

How many of you remember the popular bumper sticker back in the 90s that said, “He who dies with the most toys wins”?  Penny Kafflen, who’s the hub of our Executive Team, reminded me of one of the spin offs for women:  “She who dies with the most fabric wins.”  These were amusing, but in the end, we all know no earthly possession or material condition of life will ever truly satisfy us: God designed our souls so that we can only find lasting contentment in Him. 

 

Augustine takes a sharp theological scalpel and cuts right to the heart of our contentment when he confesses to God,

 

“You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you” (Confessions I, i (1)).  

 

Seek God first, and all your other material desires will be met.  Seek material desires first, and you’ll neither satisfy them nor find your soul’s deepest longing . . . which is rest in God.  That’s where true contentment lies.  Look at what Jesus teaches us:

 

Matthew 6:28-33

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

 

So seek a wholehearted relationship with God, and He’ll provide your material needs to your heart’s content. 

 

But as we discussed earlier, sometimes we’re not so much envious of others’ stuff as of who they are.  What can we do when we envy someone their looks or their personality or their giftings or abilities? 

 

Two great spiritual disciplines for countering both the envy of others’ stuff and envy of others’ lives are the practices of simplicity and celebration. They allow the Holy Spirit to develop the peace of contentment in our lives.

Simplicity is easy to explain:  we expect and demand too much stuff, too much entertainment, and too many comforts in our lives.  And our materialistic culture is no help to us at all in these regards!  We’ve come a long way from Paul’s teaching to the early Christians:

 

1Timothy 6:6-9

6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.

 

We’re all well beyond having just food and clothing to sustain us.  We need to recognize just how much God has blessed us and practice simplicity by saying, “Enough—I’m satisfied.” 

 

What allows us to say that and live more simply is the spiritual discipline of celebration, which comes largely from gratitude.  We need to focus on what’s positive and good in our lives.  Look at what Paul teaches and models:

 

Philippians 4:8-9

8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

 

Do you want the kind of peace that melts away envy?  Be content with living simply, and put into practice the attitude of gratitude. Take up the spiritual discipline of focusing on and celebrating what God has given you that is positive and joyous. And this includes your own person: body, soul and spirit.

 

We often forget just how blessed we are simply as members of the human race who are made in the image of God: 

 

Genesis 1:27

So God created man in his own image,

in the image of God he created him;

male and female he created them.

 

You reflect something wonderful about God Himself.  If I get to know you, I get a better and more complete picture of who God is. Don’t you think that’s an amazing thing?  Turn to those you came with or to your neighbor, and say, “I see something of God in you.”  It’s true!  David understood the sense of awe involved here:

 

Psalm 139:14 

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

 

Be at peace with yourself.  Your Creator is.  He thinks you’re wonderful.  He has handcrafted you as His great work of art:

 

Ephesians 2:10 NLT

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

 

So if David says we’re “fearfully and wonderfully made” and Paul says we’re “God’s masterpiece”—right now with all our flaws and our mortal bodies—just think what we’re each going to be like in eternity, when we’re completely transformed into all God has created us to be! Paul says:

 

1 Corinthians 15:42-44 NLT

Our earthly bodies, which die and decay, will be different when they are resurrected, for they will never die. 43 Our bodies now disappoint us, but when they are raised, they will be full of glory. They are weak now, but when they are raised, they will be full of power. 44 They are natural human bodies now, but when they are raised, they will be spiritual bodies.

 

We each have a lot to celebrate about what God has endowed us with now and what He plans for us in the future.  You have no reason to envy anyone else—you yourself are a masterpiece. You are of infinite value and worth to God.  We know, because He came to earth as Christ and gave His perfect, immortal life for our broken, mortal ones so we could be with Him forever.  Be at peace with yourself.

 

Let’s close with a brief story that provides us with a sense of perspective.  John Ortberg, the author of The Life You’ve Always Wanted, shares an experience he had with his best friend since childhood.  He writes,

 

Several years ago Chuck called to tell me he had cancer. The initial prognosis was very good, although he did have to undergo difficult treatment. In typical fashion Chuck shaved his head before the chemotherapy began, covered it with glue, sprinkled it with gold glitter, and walked around the house in his underwear, calling himself “Chemo-Man.”

Chuck and I lived more than two thousand miles apart at this time, but we talked every Saturday morning during the time he was undergoing treatment. The chemotherapy destroyed his appetite; he was unable to keep food down; he because so gaunt and emaciated that he was almost unrecognizable even to his children. At one point an infection set in, and his condition was briefly touch-and-go because the chemotherapy had so weakened his immune system. But Chuck pulled through, and eventually he completed treatment. Chemo-Man had prevailed.

A month later, Chuck had his first posttreatment checkup. He called me that night: The cancer was back, the doctor told him, at levels as high as they had been before treatment. Being a doctor himself, he knew that the return of cancer this strongly, this quickly, meant that he was going to die. It was a death sentence.

I was numb. . . . At 6:30 the next morning, Chuck called again. “You won’t believe this,” he said. Someone in the lab had mistakenly switched his results with those of another patient, who had not yet even been through treatment. It turned out Chuck’s cancer was gone—and has not reappeared, these many years later.

“I’m going to live,” my friend said. “I’m going to see my kids grow up. I’m going to grow old with my wife. I’m going to live.”

For a few moments we just wept on the phone like a couple of characters out of a Hallmark commercial. Chuck told me he was filled with gratitude he had never known. He couldn’t stop touching his kids or hugging his wife. Things that had bothered him before faded into utter insignificance. He was going to live—and suddenly he did not just know intellectually but actually experienced the truth that life is a gift…. Every tick of the clock is a gift from God. Every day is a [celebration].  (64-66)

 

Folks, we have way too much to be grateful for to be envious of others. When we understand what a gift from God just life itself is, we’ll experience the peace and express the kindness that are the natural spiritual counters to the trap of envy.

 

Allow the Holy Spirit to keep developing kindness and peace in you through the spiritual disciplines of service, simplicity and celebration.  When you do, envy will find no place to take root.  You’ll have already found true contentment in living the life God intends of loving Him and loving others, and nothing else comes anywhere close.