Envy’s Everywhere

envy

I can think of a lot of sins of the flesh which seem more prevalent in the body of Christ than the green monster. Perhaps that has something to do with its capacity, more than some, to fly under the radar in our churches. Other faults tend to rear their ugly heads publicly; envy hunts its victims within the private recesses of their concealed hearts. Not to God, of course.

Alexander Strauch continues to challenge me with his book Leading with Love. He treats First Corinthians 13, the so-called love chapter, through the lens of a Christian leader. I keep coming back to this read. It sobers me about how far I have to go in terms of shepherding God’s people from a heart of love. It doesn’t take more than the third characteristic of love, framed negatively, to go after this sneaky thing, “Love does not envy.”

Strauch admonishes:

We need to be aware that envy is a prevalent sin among the Lord’s people and Christian leaders. Pastors can go to bizarre leading with loveextremes to eliminate from the church gifted people who threaten them [not this pastor]. Churches can envy other churches that are larger or are growing rapidly [not OGC]. Missionaries can envy other missionaries who are more fruitful or better supported [not my missionaries]. Bible study leaders can envy more popular Bible study leaders [not my community group leaders]; singers can envy other singers who sing more often or receive louder applause [not my worship team]; elders can envy fellow elders who shine brighter in leadership ability and knowledge [not my elders]; and deacons can envy fellow deacons who serve more effectively or are sought out for help more frequently [not my deacons] (p. 50).

Can anybody spell “Denial’s not just a river in Egypt?” At least about the “not this pastor” protest.

So what’s the antidote? Adopt the spirit of John the Baptist who pleaded this when Jesus’ popularity outstripped his own and envy hunted his soul:

“A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:27-30 ESV)

I’ve got what I’ve got because Jesus gave it to me. If someone has more in my often distorted opinion, so be it. May He increase and I decrease. No better cure for envy than that.

A Truth for Fighting Promise Envy

I must confess. I felt a twinge of envy last Sunday. As Scott worked his way through Genesis 15, verse 15 got my attention. There God promises Abram this: you shall be buried in a good old age. I immediately wondered if, among all the other stupendous promises Moses received from the Lord with that fascinating cutting of the covenant experience, he really appreciated that one very much. Did he sigh with relief that he didn’t have to worry about a premature demise and all the issues related to not living out a full length of days? I wonder.

I envy him for that promise. I do especially on this day, the seventh anniversary of my five-hour long surgery to remove cancer from my tongue, the month-long recuperation that followed, and ultimately the summer-long treatment process I endured. Those memories on top of attending three funerals in the last couple of weeks of men all of whom died in their fifties have me thinking much about the brevity of life and the lack of guarantee anyone has that tomorrow won’t be his last.

The truth I bring to bear on my fight with envy comes from Psalm 116:15. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. The Psalmist wrote this on the heels of some great deliverance that snatched him from the jaws of death. He concluded that for the believer God regards the precise timing of his death, whether in the prime of life or a ripe old age, as precious. The Hebrew word means weighty, valuable, or costly as in the price of a precious stone. In other words, it’s no insignificant thing in God’s eyes. It matters immensely when He takes one of His own out of this world to his home in the next.

So as I ponder God’s goodness today in giving me seven more years of service for Him that I might not otherwise have enjoyed, I choose to fight the envy of Moses who likely dismissed worry about an early demise with confidence in God who regards my/our termination so supremely significant that there will be nothing in the least untimely about it.