The green eyed monster. That nauseating feeling in the pit of your stomach when a friend tells you of a recent blessing, and that sickening voice that whispers ‘that should be me’. Envy is a sneaky sin, because it can’t be detected on the outside. Many times, we miss it within ourselves. We don’t call envy what it is-jealous. A good ole fashioned dose of ‘I want what you have.’ As children, this was so prevalent in our lives that we would measure our juice cup by our brother’s, have our mother split the cookie straight down the middle and often have to receive the exact same toy as our cousin so that we wouldn’t go over and take theirs. The sin became more pronounced when we wanted something that wasn’t meant for us to have, so we would break, destroy or hide it with the selfish thought ‘if I can’t have it, no one can.’ How childish and simple minded were we! But sadly, some of us, if we were honest most of us, haven’t grown out of this. It just manifests in a much different way. We’ve learned to hide it better, to check it before it shows on our faces or slips out of our mouths. Our jealousy has become more civilized. It’s grown up, even though we haven’t.
In Our Lives
Envy and covetousness live in the same house. Envy often times focuses on the person, while covet focuses on the things that the person has. Have you ever listened to a story that a friend was telling and have someone to interject with ‘that’s just like the time I…’ and give a bigger, better story in an effort to relate? Have you ever been this person? Heart check: I have. I have been the person that couldn’t allow someone else to shine too long, so I had to steal the attention and disguise it as relating. That’s not relating, that’s envy and it’s sinful. Get a Band-Aid and read on. It cuts, but it heals. Envy desires to one-up a person to cover a diminished view of self in light of another’s circumstances. That is not love. Love covers a multitude of sin1, it doesn’t create more.
Envy believes that the other person’s life would fit better within the story that you have orchestrated for yourself. To envy someone’s story, blessing, testimony or life- is to indirectly tell God that you are dissatisfied with what He has given you. You are now closing yourself off to not only perceiving your current blessings, but shutting the door on future ones as well. If God can’t trust you with one talent, why waste five on you?
I had a friend that told me she wishes she had my knowledge of scripture. She went on to say that during church services, she couldcount on me to quote the entire scripture and verse that the preacher would reference. In her mind, and innocently so, she believed that she was complimenting me, but what she was really doing was envying my spiritual disciplines, my prayer life, my struggles and everything that God had to take me through to get me to the point that His scripture now flows out of my belly and through my vessel. She was stating that she wanted to have faced eviction more times than she can count, to have had two cars repossessed, to be emotionally and mentally abused by someone who pledged to love her forever, to be abandoned by the man that donated his DNA for her formation, to cry so hard to the point of physical illness, to struggle with doubt and worry even to this day. This is what she wants? No, of course not, she wanted the results. But we have to understand that to get the results (testimony) we have to go through the trenches (tests). Never envy anyone’s spiritual standing, because you will never know the hell that got them to that point. But of course, she didn’t know what she was saying, so I simply covered her with love and cancelled her envy, ‘No, love, you don’t.’ You want your own story, not a hand-me-down version of mine.
Love recognizes that envy comes from the enemy. To covet something else is to be discontent with your lot in life, and puts you in the same room as satan. Scoot your seat over a bit and stay with me. Satan wanted God’s glory, he envied it. He convinced himself that he deserved what God was given, so he set out to take it. Remember, envy will always get you to the lowest place in your life, because it takes your eyes off of appreciating what you have right now. You miss out on the beauty of your own season. Once satan’s plan of stealing God’s glory didn’t work, (read for yourself2) he set out to ruin the relationship that God had with man. Envy says if you can’t beat them, then keep trying until you beat someone. What envy, and satan still can’t see is there is no future for you in someone else’s story.
In Our Relationships
Love doesn’t envy. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. It never wishes for a friend’s or foe’s love story, because it realizes that God is orchestrating its own. Love recognizes that the same God that gives to one, will not withhold from another.
As we grow in love as Singles, we become aware that God richly supplies all of our needs and if we don’t have it, then we must not need it. We rejoice with those that are experiencing relationships, engagements
and marriages, with no residue of covetousness. With pure joy, we rejoice with those that rejoice, and with heavy hearts, we mourn with those that grieve3.
In Luke 15, Jesus tells the story of the Prodigal Son. Many misinterpret prodigal as meaning lost, or missing-but by definition it means ‘spending money or resources freely and recklessly, wastefully extravagant4’. So this lends to the thought that this son was not physically lost as much as he was mentally dislocated with his purpose. That’ll preach. He had forgotten who he was and Whose he was, so he was squandering his inheritance instead of using it to bring honor to his father’s name. When he finally came to his right mind (thanks, Madear), he went home to ask to become a servant in his fathers house. But as he was a far way off, presumably downcast with guilt and shame, his father saw him and welcomed him back
as his lost heir. There was a great celebration. And for most people, this is
where the story ends. But not for us. This is where we begin.
The elder son was in the field working when he heard the commotion. Sensing what was happening, he asked a servant to confirm what he already felt in the pit of his stomach. His younger, ungrateful, selfish ignorant brother was home. And you guessed it, he was envious. He was sickened and refused to partake in the festivities that welcomed his brother back into the fold.
Now put your spiritual imagination on for a moment. This couldn’t have been the first time he saw his father go out to the road looking for his lost son to return. Day in and day out, he had to watch the anguish that his father was going through, when another sun set without the return of his brother. And as the eldest son watched his father, his heart hardened. He started to believe that he was better because he stayed, he stuck around, he didn’t prodigal out his father’s blessings. He had earned his way into his father’s favor and it was nothing but the foolish hopes of an old man to continue to mourn for a son that didn’t know how good he had it. This brother was so wrapped up in his own self-righteousness that he forgot that he should have been praying for his lost brother, probably going out to look for him or at the very least, standing with his father to watch for his return.
With this perspective you can now better understand his reaction to his brother’s return. His father pleaded with him to soften his heart, but he wasn’t hearing it. He even refers to his brother as ‘this son of yours’. Envy and jealousy will make you disassociate your standing and exalt yourself (wait for the next chapter) above those that you should be closest with.
In his jealous haze, the eldest had forgotten that he did not have to compete for his father’s love, that his position was important. His faithfulness was rewarded by his father’s trust in his ability. While his father awaited his wayward son, the oldest son was entrusted with the entire inheritance and favor of his father, but he was distraught by a calf and a party? How far envy and covetousness will take us down a path, until we look up and realize that while the prodigal has returned, we ourselves are lost.
Say it with me: What you don’t have, you don’t need. Let that sink in, and then turn the page.