Jealousy and Envy – Slaying the Green-eyed Monsters

“But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.  Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil.  For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” (James 3:14-16)

Jealousy is certainly a monstrous sin.  It rips and rends our relationship with God our Father.  It goes marauding through our Christian communities, trampling love, devotion, and fellowship underfoot.  Finally, it devours our personal happiness, fulfillment and well-being before shambling off to terrorize new victims.

First of all, jealousy and envy are sins against God.  Like greed and every other vice that focuses on the “Self,” jealousy rips our love, trust, and devotion away from God and places the emphasis on our own sinful desires and rebellious tendencies.  Sometimes I don’t believe that God has given me everything I need.  I often doubt that His withholding of certain things from me is for my own good.  My sinful human heart tells me that I deserve much more than what God provides.

Of course, you and I know what we really deserve when we stop to think about it; nothing more or less than temporal suffering and death followed by eternal torment in Hell.  God has given us so much more (and less!) than we deserve.  We live a life filled with beauty and pleasure.  We need so little, yet God pours out His blessings on us abundantly every day.  And in His mercy and grace, God has placed the scourge of His wrath squarely upon the shoulders of His Son, Jesus Christ, while lavishing us with His love and affection.  Reflecting on these facts reveals the truly petty nature of our common jealousies.

Secondly, a jealous heart opens the floodgates for all manner of wicked behavior toward our neighbors.  We find “every evil practice” in the presence of selfish ambition because we are so easily enticed to sin when confronted by someone who is receiving the goods, attention, or lifestyle to which we feel entitled.  Like the early morning workers in the vineyard (see Matthew 20), we readily begrudge others of the blessings and riches that we deem them “unworthy” of receiving – forgetting that God has been much more than fair with dispensing our own wages.  Our selfishness is quickly inflamed to sin against them in thought, word, and deed because we cast an envious eye upon their blessings – when we should be rejoicing with them and helping to preserve and protect our neighbor’s goods, property and life.

Finally, after the monster of jealousy has reduced our relationships with God and man to smoldering ruins, it will turn upon us and devour our very heart and soul.  As Proverbs 14:30 says, “A heart at peace gives life to body, but envy rots the bones.”  When we willfully refuse to recognize the many blessings that God has showered upon us, life has a way of shriveling up and withering away.  We become consumed by our own bitterness, always pining for those things which the Devil convinces us we need in order to be “happy” but which God lovingly withholds from us in order to reveal the true way to happiness: Walking with Him in humble praise and service.

Jealousy and envy are deadly adversaries, threatening our own personal well-being as well as the larger community of Christians and the witness we bear to the world.  Arm yourself with the mighty weapons God has provided to fend off this green-eyed beast: a joyful thankfulness for all that God has done for us; peace that comes from contentment with God’s physical and spiritual blessings rather than the trappings of earthly pelf; goodness that puts the “self” aside and rejoices in the good fortune of others; faithfulness to our true calling of seeking first God’s kingdom and His righteousness rather than vain pleasures or riches; self-control to hold our bitterness and resentment in check, drowning the old sinful nature and calling forth the warrior to selflessly go and serve.  Jesus’ victory on the cross not only frees us from the eternal consequences of sin, but also from the earthly terrorizing of sins like jealousy, guarding our hearts and minds through His love.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I thank and praise You for providing so richly and abundantly for all my physical and spiritual needs, especially for the gift of faith which You have bestowed upon me through the Holy Spirit.  Grant that praising You and serving others would come first in my life and that the doors of faith would be opened for all, that they too might receive the blessings of Christ’s righteousness; in Jesus’ precious name.  Amen.

Goodness – The Weapon of Virtue

“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.” (Philippians 4:8)

What is “goodness”?

That question is becoming harder and harder to answer as time goes on, as it sadly becomes more difficult to point to examples in our world.  “Goodness” encompasses many things; it describes a wholesome quality, a purity of character, a rightness of spirit – all the things we regard as “virtuous” and still more.

Goodness comes from God.  Think Genesis 1; everything that God creates is “very good” – indeed, perfect.  Of course, this inherent goodness is lost when the crowning jewel of God’s creation, man, rebels and falls into sin.  The world is cursed; the land becomes unwholesome, life becomes difficult and painful, and mankind loses his purity, becoming obstinately opposed to God’s good and gracious will.

Any goodness found in this world comes from God: “For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4-5).  Every real and wholesome pleasure, every genuine work of beauty, every noble and decent thing; they all bear the divine fingerprint despite the Devil’s temptation to pervert and misuse these gifts.

In the same way, any goodness in mankind comes from God as well: “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24).  God’s goodness is so great and powerful that it shines through our own sinful exterior.  The Holy Spirit reshapes the believing heart to be more like God in goodness and virtue, serving and glorifying God through word and deed: “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8-10).

Goodness is a battlefield within our own hearts as we struggle against the sinful nature of the “Old Adam.”  Through prayer and the Word of God, the Holy Spirit strengthens us in faith and equips us with godly virtue and character.  Goodness then becomes a powerful weapon as our wholesome words and deeds help us put to death our sinful desires and combat the darkness of the world around us.  It is a weapon of the Spirit – a hammer of light – with which He batters our will to conform more to God’s and shatters the lies and corruption of this wicked world.  As the Good News of Jesus’ forgiving death and resurrection changes us, so too does God use our renewed spirits to bring that Gospel truth to a world cursed by sin, that through Him all may be made new and perfect once more.

“He has showed you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, through the redeeming death and resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ, I have been made righteous and pure in Your sight.  Grant that through Your Spirit I may daily put to death the wicked desires of my rebellious heart and walk more closely with You, that all who see Your goodness in me will be drawn to the cross of Your Son.  Amen.