Mrs. Mason bought a basin,
Mrs. Tyson said, What a nice ‘un;
What did it cost? said Mrs. Frost;
Half a crown, said Mrs. Brown;
Did it indeed? said Mrs. Reed;
It did for certain, said Mrs. Burton.
Then Mrs. Nix, up to her tricks,
Threw the basin on the bricks.
Envy is never a pretty thing. It is driven by comparisons, criticism, complaints, ungratefulness and hatred. There doesn’t seem to be an ounce of virtue in envy. You can’t spin it in a noble light. It just is what it is…ugly.
Nevertheless, it is part of our sinful nature to be envious at times of others and what they possess–especially when paired against who we are not and what we have not. Opposite of scripture’s instruction, envy weeps at those who rejoice and rejoices over those who weep. It dies a little inside every time a friend succeeds.
A heart at peace gives life to the body,
but envy rots the bones.
If left unchecked, envy becomes like Mrs. Nix, above: up to her same ‘ole jealous tricks. If she can’t have the basin–or the attention, for that matter–which she believes she so rightly deserves, she will throw the basin on the bricks so Mrs. Mason can’t have it and everyone will just be quiet about it already! Though none of us likely go that far, do we recognize even a hint of her envious heart in our own?
Exodus 20:17 the tenth commandment says:
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
God’s word is plain: do not covet. Yet seeing the law as it is only points out our guilt. “You shall not” doesn’t have the power to cast off the heart of envy, it only shows us that we do indeed have a heart of envy. Merely being told not to covet your neighbor’s beautiful new home, your cousin’s humor and ease with people, your friend’s fit physique, or your co-worker’s promotion, is not enough. Merely being told not to covet these things doesn’t mean that now we can simply not envy. If you have ever felt envious, you know it is not that easy to forsake. It gets a grip that isn’t easily broken. In order to conquer envy we must 1. understand where we are believing lies, 2. replace those lies with truth and gratitude, and 3. pray in order to keep a careful watch against the return of those familiar lies–all through the power of Christ.
At the heart of envy is the false belief that God is not good (to you). It is wrongly thinking that God takes care of other people but that you are the black sheep of the family who seems to get the short end of the stick. This kind of thinking breeds bitterness and a hard heart. Under those circumstances, we will not readily experience the goodness of God.
But if we can understand our hearts are wayward when we envy, we can begin to repent and soften in order to see how God has already provided for us. The awesome thing about God is that he is awesome! He can simultaneously bless you and his other kids at the same time.
If you are a mother, consider how you feel toward your own children. If you give love and favor to one child, does that mean you had to take it from another because your love is impoverished? No. Your love has grown and multiplied as you added each child. It has not been divided and fractured. How much more so the God of all things who knows how to give good gifts! God is continually pouring out goodness to his children. Gratitude gives us eyes to see this more and more, but envy makes us hard-pressed to see it. Gratitude and envy cannot coexist. Which one will we let rule the day?
Here is a little test from Killjoys* to help examine our own hearts:
- How do we respond to the blessing and success of others?
- Do we murmur and gossip about others’ blessings and successes?
- Do we celebrate with them?
- Are we filled with gratitude or rivalry?
- When it comes to the success and fruitfulness of others, are we their biggest fan or their biggest critic?
“This is a true sign of a new heart: when you look at what God gives to other people (and not to you) and say ‘Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Lord because you have been so kind to them and so kind to me.’
I am not defined by the blessings of others; I am defined by the grace of God. Therefore I will refuse to measure myself by a false standard. I will resist the compulsive and relentless urge to compete with everyone under the sun (especially those who are called to do the same things that I am). I will …[savor] the sure knowledge that God is lavish in grace and that he has promised to graciously, freely, and abundantly give to me and to them all things in his Beloved Son.” *
In Christ’s love,
*Quotes from Killjoys, Chapter 3 written by Joe Rigney
In preparation for Easter, Wendy’s Tuesday posts will be about the Joy set before Christ as He endured the cross. Friday posts will be about 7 deadly sins which kill joy and the antidotes God provides for each. My posts are being written through the great help of a book called Killjoys (by desiring God ministries).