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Envy to Contentment

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 7/7/2019

This summer we’ve been looking at some ways we’re “not-so-okay.” You know, I have a boat in my driveway that’s “not-so-okay.” A machine that runs on gasoline, electricity, and water—what could possibly go wrong? Someone came up with a clever acronym for boat—“break out another thousand!” They also say, “the best day in a boat owner’s life is the day they buy their boat, and the day they sell it!”

Actually, I’ve never felt that way. When I bought my boat, I intentionally bought an old beater. It had to be pretty enough for Lara to sit in it, but scrappy enough to crash along the riprap. There is no way to put this, however. My boat has “issues.”

It has a mysterious leak. Sometimes the hull fills with water and begins to sink! When I start my engine, it coughs and sputters, and engulfs me in a cloud of smoke. If someone is with me, I’ll always say, “Hey, do you mind if I smoke?” When I push the throttle, sometimes she roars to life, sometimes she says, “I don’t want to”, and sometimes she says, “2000 rpm is all I got today.” Recently I was out fishing, and the key broke off in the ignition. When I went to try a brand new key, the whole ignition crumbled apart! You get one thing fixed, and another thing fails! But here is the thing—I love my boat. She has issues, but I know all her issues!

As we dive into the topic of ENVY this morning, let’s keep a few things in mind. We all have our issues, but God loves us none the lesser. Some people think the best day in their Christian walk is the day they were “born again” and the day they’ll to be with the Lord. The problem with that kind of thinking is that there is a WHOLE LOT of life in between! What about right now? What does it look like to walk with God?

I think of God as a patient boat owner. He doesn’t throw us on the trash heap to go find something newer. He just keeps on sanctifying us. Sometimes we roar to life, sometimes we choke and cough. Sometimes we lose faith and begin to sink. Sometimes we comply with God’s commands, sometimes we resist. We all have our issues, but God still loves us, and keeps walking with us.

This morning, our topic is ENVY. We could spend some time nuancing the differences between words like envy, covetousness, and jealousy. People use these words interchangeably. Envy is a lot closer to covetousness than jealousy.

Covetousness is the emotion you feel when you desperately want “someone’s things”. It’s the tenth commandment, “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.” Jealousy is the emotion you feel when you desperately want “someone’s affection.” Jealousy can be a complex mixture of insecurity, fear, feelings of abandonment, loneliness.

At home, we have three Schnauzers. Our youngest Schnauzer Rudy is obsessed with me. If I’m anywhere in the room, he stares at me like an obsessed, psychopathic, stalker. It’s kind of creepy! Now our oldest Schnauzer, Rock-E, is as blind as a bat. Rock-E is obsessed with Lara—he doesn’t care so much for his dad!

When Lara leaves the room, Rock-E starts bumbling around the room running into things. He’s like, “Where did she go, I know she’s around here somewhere! I’ve got to find her. I need her. I need her right now.” At this point, Rudy starts growling under his beard. He knows that inevitably, Rock-E is going to come bumping into my chair—and that is Rudy’s trigger. The minute Rock-E comes near, Rudy totally flips out. Jealousy can be overly protective, overly-possessive, overly-controlling, overly-demanding, overly-reactive. Jealousy is one the deepest emotions we can feel, and therefore triggers the worst in human nature: fits of rage, attack, cruelty, violence.

The only one who can truly be jealous, but without sin, is God. God’s jealousy is rooted in his faithfulness and covenant love. Sometimes we sing that David Crowder song that has the lyric, “He is Jealous for me. Loves like a Hurricane. I am a tree bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.” There is no one more jealous for our affection than God. Yet God’s jealousy is void of insecurity and sin and fear.

We’re commanded not to stoke God’s Jealousy… The 2nd Commandment is: “Do not make an idol for yourself, whether in the shape of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. Do not bow in worship to them, and do not serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the fathers’ iniquity, to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me, but showing faithful love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commands.”

Envy is less like jealousy and more like covetousness. Envy is not so much about possessing some person, as possessing what some person possesses.

>One level of envy covets. It says, “I need what that person has.” If I’m at a tool show, there are a lot of things “want.” But I’m perfectly fine to leave empty handed. Whenever I tell Lara about a tool she will say, “Do you need it?” And I’ll always say, “I don’t need anything, but I’d sure enjoy using it.” But when we covet it’s not, “I want” or “I’d enjoy,” its “I need.”

>Another level of envy, however, insists, “I don’t just need… I deserve what that person has.” I don’t just need, “I deserve … I’m entitled… I’m owed… their kind of lifestyle, that kind of marriage, that kind of love-life, free-time, success, family, car, home, career, income, savings, livelihood, man-servant, woman-servant, cow, dog, ox, donkey, recognition…” Beware, envy drives a lot of our politics. 

The stain of envy is on just about every story in the Bible.

In Isaiah 14-12-14, we’re told the Devil fell from heaven because he envied God’s throne. He didn’t want God, he wanted to have God’s power. In Genesis 3:5 Adam and Eve fell because they wanted to be like God knowing good and evil. They didn’t want to trust God’s judgments, they wanted to make their own judgments. In Genesis 4:6, Cain is furious and despondent after God looks upon his brother Abel’s sacrifice with favor. Out of envy Cain kills his own brother. He wanted what his brother had more than he wanted his brother! Later in Genesis, Jacob envied the blessing the rightfully belonged to Esau. So, what did Jacob do? He deceived his own father and stole Esau’s birthright.

In 1 Samuel 8, the nation of Israel began to envy the other nations. They pleaded with Samuel, “Give us a King like the other nations, to rule over us.” In 1 Samuel 18, After David killed Goliath, and was so victorious in battle, “the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and tambourines and flutes. As they danced, they sang, ‘Saul has slain his thousands, but David his tens of thousands.’ Saul became very angry and thought, ‘They’ve given him all this credit, what more can he get but the kingdom?’ And from that point on Saul kept a jealous eye on David,” and later sought to kill him.

Envy has a horrific track record. James 3:16 says that “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” Proverbs 14:30 says, “A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.”

The most striking insight I’ve heard about envy came from a book called “Seven” by Jeff Cook. He describes how envy always sends us into a kind of self-imposed exile. It doesn’t send our rivals into exile—it sends us into exile! Because of envy. . . The Devil was exiled from Heaven and fell from grace. Adam and Eve were exiled from the garden, east of Eden. Cain was exiled from Abel and driven from the land. Jacob had to flea Esau’s wrath. Saul was exiled from his throne, and David rose to power. Israel was exiled to Assyria, then to Babylon.

Envy doesn’t just decimate our relationship with God, but every relationship of value. The deeper we envy what a person has, the more disposable they become to us. When the Apostle Paul was thrown into prison, it ignited a mini revival. Men started preaching more boldly, but for all the wrong reasons! Some preached out of good will, but others preached out of envy and strife and a sense of rivalry. They imagined that if they could stir up trouble for Paul in prison, and keep him out of the picture, their own ministries would excel! The more they envied Paul, the less they value him, the more disposable he became! Envy poisons/destroys the relationships we should most value.

There is this APP that comes preinstalled on phones. What’s is called? Facebook. Instagram? It’s all the same. In the beginning, everyone though Facebook would be so awesome. “Oh boy, I get to catch up on all my old friends! I can keep tabs on everyone I love.” Facebook has exiled as many people as its united. Every moment of every day, its like we get a front row seat to other people’s lives. It’s no surprise that so many psychological ills, including depression, are being attributed to Social Media. I can’t think of many things that stoke envy more than social media, can you?

I was on Facebook recently and got blindsided by envy. A few years ago, some college friends invited me to hang out with them in Chicago. It was so awesome! We shared all these stories, and memories, and encouraged each other. We enjoyed the best of Chicago. We went to a Cubs-Cardinals game. Trip of a lifetime, right?

So, a few weeks back I was having lunch with Lara and her parents. I glance down on Facebook and guess what I see? It’s the same group of guys, at a Cubs-Cardinals game, taking a group picture. They were all smiles. The caption said, “The old band is back together!” It was a great picture. Except this time, I wasn’t included! I just sat there a moment feeling stunned, feeling sad for myself. I started thinking of snarky things to post under the picture like, “Looks like fun—signed, a former band member.” When I mentioned it to Lara she was so understanding. She said, “Oh Jon, you don’t like baseball anyway.”

Envy is such a toxic thing, right? It sends us into a self-imposed exile. Instead of rejoicing with those who rejoice, envy makes us sour. We go off alone, throwing a pity party for ourselves, and of course no one comes. We descend into fear. We get all insecure. We feel all abandoned. Isn’t envy the craziest, darkest thing in the world?

The most important insight I came across regarding envy relates to WHAT we most envy. What do you suppose it is, that we most envy? When we’re scanning social media? When we’re looking at friend’s pictures and videos? The greatest thing we envy is love. When all the women from all the towns of Israel came out to Saul crushing on David, he flipped into a rage. Those who loved Saul, now loved David more! We all covet things now and then. But what we most envy are relationships. We most envy the love we believe others are receiving and enjoying. Love is our fixation. Why aren’t I being loved on like that?

I wish I had two hours to preach on envy. I wish I had time to tell you about a book I read recently called Rooting for Your Rivals. It’s a book about envy is destroying God’s Kingdom. Instead of supporting and encouraging each other, we envy one another. We voice all these “concerns” and “criticisms”. Mark Rubin says, “Envy expresses itself through condemnation. The louder the condemnation the greater the envy.” He also said, “The fenced-in dog (envious) barks at the one running free.”

Envy is a mask for mediocrity. Isn’t it true, it’s so much easier to blame others for our lack of success than apply ourselves? Envy is a way we soothe ourselves, and excuse ourselves, from taking greater responsibility in life.

Envy is a magnifier of misery. An awesome French dude, François Duc de La Rochefoucauld, said, “Envy distorts a person’s happiness and magnifies one’s own misery. Our envy always lasts longer than the happiness of those we envy.” 

The cudgel of Envy is comparison. A cudgel is a blunt force weapon that can be used to beat someone up. Comparison is cudgel by which we beat ourselves up. The only thing that comes from comparison is extreme pride or extreme depression. There is no middle. Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

Envy is conditional not circumstantial. Envy is less about circumstances and more about condition of our hearts. Haters going to hate. Pursue excellence. As a moth gnaws a garment, so doth envy consume a [person].” ― John Chrysostom

Envy Hypes People Highlight Reels. Social media. Fine line between sharing and boasting. Don't envy those who seems having everything, they don't really have everything. They have what they want and live the life they want but they don't have what they really need.” ― Ann Marie Aguilar. .

It is one of the great tragedies of our time that the masses have come to believe that they have reached their high standard of material welfare as a result of having pulled down the wealthy, and to fear that the preservation or emergence of such a class would deprive them of something they would otherwise get and which they regard as their due. We have seen why in a progressive society there is little reason to believe that the wealth which the few enjoy would exist at all if they were not allowed to enjoy it. It is neither taken from the rest nor withheld from them. It is the first sign of a new way of living begun by the advance guard. True, those who have this privilege of displaying possibilities which only the children or grandchildren of others will enjoy are not generally the most meritorious individuals but simply those who have been placed by chance in their envied position. But this fact is inseparable from the process of growth, which always goes further than any one man or group of men can foresee. To prevent some from enjoying certain advantages first may well prevent the rest of us from ever enjoying them. If through envy we make certain exceptional kinds of life impossible, we shall all in the end suffer material and spiritual impoverishment. Nor can we eliminate the unpleasant manifestations of individual success without destroying at the same time those forces which make advance possible. One may share to the full the distaste for the ostentation, the bad taste, and the wastefulness of many of the new rich and yet recognize that, if we were to prevent all that we disliked, the unforeseen good things that might be thus prevented would probably outweigh the bad. A world in which the majority could prevent the appearance of all that they did not like would be a stagnant and probably a declining world.” ― Friedrich A. Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty

The root of envy… what is it? It's often love. Gospel resolves deepest needs. I envy people that know love. That have someone who takes them as they are.” ― Jess C Scott, The Devilin Fey

Scripture Verses

James 3:16, Proverbs 14:30

Worship Playlist

  • Only King Forever 
  • My Heart is Yours 
  • Reckless Love
  • Build My Life

Study Questions

Psalm:

"1 Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.2 But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped.3 For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

23 Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory.25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." -Ps. 73: 1-3; 23-26

Proverb:

"A sound heart is life to the body, but envy is rottenness to the bones"- Pr. 14:30


Apply It!

Prayer:

"God, I ask the grace to be free of the poison of envy. Help me to identify my insecurities, my shame, my discontentment. Come to my aid, God. I surrender all my heart to you, trusting that you will pour your comfort of peace into my mind. Come into my heart, mind, and life, freeing me from the tangled roots of envy. Help me to not focus on what isn't, but help me to see you in what is. Give me a pure and simple heart that rejoices with who I am and what I have in you. Open my eyes to the bounty of blessing and victory that rain down on me new every morning. Holy Spirit, grant me contentment and satisfaction in you today. Amen."

"God, free me from the poison of envy- warm my heart with your satisfying love."

Practice:

What does Satan use to take your eyes off Christ? Identify what and who arouses envy in you? Pray that God will help you realize that your sense of lack is rooted in idolatry. Christian contentment is not based in earthly circumstance, but in spiritual connection to Christ. How can you allow Christ begin to erase your envy and provide contentment this week?

Resources

Pick up a "I'm Not Okay" Summer Prayer Booklet for adults and students. It includes a weekly Prayer, Psalm, Proverb, Practice and Breath Prayer to go along with every sermon.

Pick up an Emoji Prayer Guide for children. It includes a weekly Prayer, Scripture, Application and Connect to help parents discuss the week's theme with their children.

Downloads & Resources