Fighting the Green-Eyed Monster - Genesis 37; Genesis 39:1-2; Acts 7:9-10 - Skip Heitzig
Hello, and welcome to this message from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Church. We pray this message encourages you. And if it does, we'd love to hear about it. Email us at email@example.com. And if you'd like to support this ministry financially, you can give online securely at calvaryabq.org/give.
Some attitudes can go undetected. You can't see someone committing envy or having resentful thoughts. As Skip continues our series, White Collar Sins, he explains that envy is detrimental because it discolors everything around you and steals your peace. Now please take out your Bibles. He begins the message, "Fighting the Green-Eyed Monster."
Would you turn in your Bibles-- I assume you brought them-- to Genesis Chapter 37. You turn there to the Old Testament, first book of the Old Testament, first book in your Bible, Genesis, the 37th chapter.
Also, if you don't mind and you're extra industrious, you may want to put a marker in Acts Chapter 7, Acts chapter 7 and Genesis Chapter 37.
So there were two guys that lived in a town. They had grocery stores on the same street just across the street from each other, large windows in the front so they could look out and see the other competitor, what they were up to. They became fierce rivals over time. And it got pretty bad, to where when a customer would go into the other store, the guy in his store would look out kind of with a snarl, jealous that the other guy got the customer and he didn't. The other guy would gloat.
And so it got bad. And an angel appeared to one of these store owners and said, I'm going to grant you anything you want. Any wish you want will be yours under one condition. Whatever you request, your competitor will get twice as much. So you may want to be wealthy, extremely rich. No problem. I can do that for you. Just know that your competitor will get twice as much wealth as you ask for, as you get. And if you want to live a long life and a happy life, no problem but your competitor will live longer and happier.
And so the guy wanted to make a wish but he didn't know what to ask for in lieu of the stipulation. So he thought about it, and he finally said, OK, here's my request. Strike me blind in one eye.
That's how insidious envy is. It's so bad that Paul the Apostle puts it in a list of works of the flesh with some pretty gnarly sins in Galatians Chapter 5. Envy is a toxin, a spiritual toxin. It poisons our soul. It puts us at odds with other people. It clouds our ability to see things clearly. One writer even said envy is the last sin Christians will confess because it's so ugly.
Envy has been called the green-eyed monster. Have you ever heard that? People say, oh, you're green with envy. And I wondered about that. Who came up with this color scheme for things? It's like who's blue, red, green?
So I'm just curious about that. So come to find out the idea of being green with envy comes from Shakespeare, William Shakespeare's famous play Othello, in which Iago warns Othello, "It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on," a reference to envy.
But you know, envy is a difficult sin to wrestle with. It's sort of like pinning jello. Just when you think you've got a grasp of it, it wiggles loose and doesn't stay down, doesn't stay tamed. But like other white collar sins, it's serious. It can ruin, it can destroy. There's an old Greek proverb that says, "As rust corrupts iron, so envy corrupts a man."
What is envy, exactly? Well, you might look at envy as the art of counting other people's blessings instead of your own. You notice what they have, where they are, what they are doing. Now we come to Genesis 37, which is, of course, the story of Joseph, a story you're probably all very familiar with.
But the story of Joseph is the story of envy. In Genesis Chapter 37, down in Verse 11, it says, "And his brothers envied him." So what we're about to consider is the story of the envy of Joseph's brothers against Joseph himself.
Then in Acts Chapter 7 Verse 9, Stephen, later on, when he gives a message, sums up the life of this patriarch, saying the patriarchs-- that is the older brothers-- becoming envious, sold Joseph into Egypt.
So you know that this is a story, kind of a classic rags to riches story, the pit to the pinnacle. You know, he's in the pit of imprisonment by his brothers, gets sold as a slave. But he makes it to the very pinnacle. He becomes second most powerful man on earth. But before he reaches the pinnacle he has to go down to the pit. And what you need to know, it was envy that put Joseph in that pit.
Now as we look at a few verses in Chapter 37 of Genesis, as we consider the green-eyed monster of envy, I'm going to make three simple statements, three truths about envy. Envy has a history, envy has a recipe-- that is, there are certain things that make for it-- and envy has a remedy.
Let's begin with the history. I want you to notice something in the first two verses. It says "Now Jacob dwelt in the land where his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan. This is the history of Jacob. Joseph, being 17 years old, was feeding the flock with his brothers, and the lad was with the sons of Billhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives. And Joseph brought a bad report of them to his father."
The wording here is interesting. It says this is the history of Jacob, and immediately begins telling the story of envy, of how his brothers envied him. Now when he says this is the history, it means this is the account of, or these are the generations of.
But what's interesting is where he begins. He says, here's the history. Now let me begin with son number 11. So if you know the history of this family, you know that this isn't the firstborn son. The firstborn son is Reuben, then there's Siemian, Judah, et cetera, and you come down to Joseph. But he says here is the history, and then he begins with Joseph.
And we discover why that is later on, because Joseph is the guy that saves and preserves the generations of Jacob by where God is going to take him as the prime minister of Egypt. But I found that interesting. Here is the history, this is the history of Jacob. And actually, if you think about it, the whole history of Jacob and his family is a story of envy. Envy is like in every era of Jacob's life.
In fact, you might even say Jacob learned envy from his mother. It was Rebecca, his mother, who was envious of the fact that her other son Esau had the blessing that Jacob she thought should have. So she got him to envy his brother, dressed little Jacob up like he was his brother, and tricked the father out of that blessing.
Then later on, Jacob's brother Esau envied Jacob because Jacob had managed to steal the blessing. Then later on, when Jacob is in Laban land, working for his uncle Laban or his father-in-law Laban, Laban becomes envious of Jacob because Jacob has more flocks and herds than Laban does. So no matter where you slice it, we're dealing with a family history of envy.
But envy goes back further than that, all the way back to Cain and Abel, because one brought a sacrifice that God was pleased with, and Cain became envious of Abel. You see, envy happens to be a part of human nature. There's not a person in this room who hasn't struggled with the vice and the sin of envy. Now that doesn't make it OK. It doesn't make it excusable. But it is what it is. It's deeply rooted in our human constitution.
Even Jesus noted that envy is part of what happened at the fall. It's part of the human heart. Jesus said this. "What comes out of a man is what makes him defiled or unclean. For from within, out of men's hearts comes evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly." So it's a part of all of us. It's part of fallen humanity.
Heck, I even notice my dogs envy each other. If I give one dog something, I can just tell the other dog thinks, why did he have that? Why does she have that?
So there was a documentary even on television about wild dogs in Africa, and the commentator said "The seem to display the human emotion of envy." So I thought, OK, envy is everywhere, even in wild dogs in Africa.
Now where does this show up with us? Where do we, as believers in Christ, struggle with envy? Pretty easy to answer that. Every time someone around us become successful, gets promoted, gets blessed, we are going to deal with envious thoughts. There's a great text of scripture in Romans 12 Verse 15. It's beautifully put. Says, "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep." Isn't that beautiful?
It's beautiful, but try doing that. One part is easy. The other part is hard. You'll discover weeping with people who weep is pretty easy. Rejoicing with people who rejoice is pretty tough. It's easy for us to bend down and put our arms around somebody who has lost something or is struggling or is hurting because they're hurting, we're not. They're struggling, we're not. So I'm just going to come and console you and weep with those who weep.
But when somebody else is blessed and you're not, to rejoice with that person is in a whole different league. Now you might think, well, that's not my issue. I'm above all that. I don't struggle like that. Really? Let's play a little game. Let's play a what if game. What if-- what if you lost your job, you get fired, you get laid off, and you also discover your coworker in the same department gets promoted and gets given a raise?
Do you find it natural inclination to rejoice with that fellow coworker? Probably not. What if a parent or a set of parents-- who, by the way, happen to be critical of your child-- what if those parents discovered that their own child was caught cheating? Is there a sense of smugness and even serves them right kind of a feeling that comes over you? Probably.
What if your own son drops out of school while your friend's son gets given a four-year scholarship to an Ivy League school? Do you struggle with envy? Probably. What if you miscarry and your girlfriend calls and says they're having twins?
There are so many different levels at which we are going to be confronted with this issue. And why do we feel that way? Why do those struggles come when those other things happen? Because those things amplify our own failures or perceived failures. Somehow us not being there or having that or doing those things just makes our failures seem much bigger.
David Paul Tripp wrote "Why do we all struggle with envy? We struggle with it because our greatest allegiance is to ourselves and our own happiness. There is simply no denying it. Life on this side of eternity is one big, unending war of kingdoms." Much of our inner turmoil and inner personal struggles are the direct results of kingdoms in conflict. So when somebody else gets something or is blessed or prospers or is successful, our tendency is to turn inward toward ourselves rather than upward and outward toward others. That's what envy will do. So envy has a history.
There's a second thing I want you to see here, and that is envy has a recipe. What I want to show you is four contributing factors that make for the perfect storm here. There are other factors that would contribute to a person being envious. But I want to show you a few in this text.
Number one is what I'm calling natural dissimilarity. That is, we compare ourselves with others, because though we're similar in some ways, we're different enough that we make comparisons. So look at Verse 2. This is the history of Jacob. "Joseph, being 17 years old, was feeding the flock with his brothers." Now that statement gets qualified in the next sentence. "and the lad was with the sons of Billhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives"-- notice that's plural-- "and Joseph brought a bad report of them to his father."
So you know that Jacob had four wives. There was really only one that he loved. I'll get to that in a minute. But there were four women. There was Leah and then Rachel, and then there was Zilpah and Billhah, who were handmaids of these other gals. And so they produced children for him at first.
So just think of this scenario. Here are 12 brothers from four different moms. Do you think there is going to be problems? I mean, I'm one son of four boys from one mom, and we had problems. We had issues. And what was a problem? Well, we were always comparing ourselves with one another. Why do you have that? How come I'm this? That's what brothers do. There's enough dissimilarities between us.
And envy will grow when we compare ourselves with others, which we do a lot because we're different enough. Some are tall, some are short, some are skinny, some are not. Some are dark, some are light, on and on and on. There's enough to compare ourselves with, good or bad.
I used to have a barber. In fact, he's still my barber. But I remember years ago him saying-- I came in to get my hair cut one day-- and I said, so what do you notice about all your clients? He goes, well, there's a common theme. Nobody's happy with who they are. He said, if they have straight hair they want curly hair. If they have curly hair they want to get it straightened. If they have dark hair they want it blonde. If it's blonde they want to darken it. And so I found that fascinating.
Now I am unsure how the other brothers in the story looked in their physical appearance. Were not told. But interestingly, we are told how Joseph looked. In Chapter 39 Verse 6, it says "Joseph was handsome in form and in appearance." so that's a red flag right there.
So in this text that we're reading, he's how old? He's 17 years old. So now you have a young, handsome, capable upstart. He's got all the things stacked against him, enough for his brothers to make comparisons with.
Now I think that you and I wrestle with this comparison issue in the silliest things, like social media. We get on Facebook or we get on Instagram, and those people are posting pictures of their vacation in Bermuda under the palm trees, on the boat, and we're not there. Or that new house that they got and we don't have it. Or the perfect family that we're not a part of.
And so in that comparison we may decide, I'm not going to push like. In fact, I'm going to push unfollow. It's silly, but it happens.
Envy always compares and asks, why them? Why should they deserve that? Why should they be there? So natural dissimilarity. We all make comparisons.
There is a second factor I want you to make note of, social integrity. Did you notice in Verse 2, it says "Joseph brought a bad report of them to his father"? So I would say, from my high school days, he narced on them. That's what we used to call it. He was a tattletale.
Now there's something that I notice about all people, but young people in particular. All people need to feel accepted. We want to feel loved and accepted. We have a need for that. But younger people in particular have a huge need to be accepted, more than the average person. And the idea of rejection is devastating to, especially, a younger person.
That's the reason young people will sometimes do things that are against their better judgment, because they don't want to risk being ostracized by that group. So groupthink is huge at a certain age.
Now Joseph, it says, is 17. So he too needs to be accepted. He would love to be accepted by his brothers. But he makes a decision to tell on them, which tells me that there's some internal moral compass that is stronger than his need for acceptance, which I find commendable but unusual.
So he reminds me of Daniel in the sense where Daniel was young, but it says he purposed in his heart not to defile himself. He just said, I'm going to live a certain way. I'm going to do what's right. So to make things worse, then, you have a handsome kid with an overdeveloped sense of honesty. Do you remember what you felt like when your brother or sister told mom and dad on you? You're thinking, yeah, just wait.
Well, that's what happens here. It cultivates envy.
Question. And I can't promise that I know the answer to this, but I think I do. Why do you think Joseph was so brutally honest in telling his dad about the brothers? I mean, why didn't he round the numbers? Why didn't he say, well, they're doing OK. But he said, no, they're not doing OK. They're doing bad. And he flat gave them a bad report. There's no embellishment of the story, no exaggeration. He's not overstating it. Just matter of fact. Why?
I don't know for sure. But perhaps he had learned this by just watching his family over the years. Dad, his own dad, had been dishonest with his father in tricking into getting that blessing. Also, when Joseph was 11 years old, his sister Dinah was raped, and these other brothers killed Shechem and Hamor and all the guys in that village, essentially tricking them and tricking dad. So Jacob, the father felt, dissed, felt slighted, felt like he had been deceived and tricked. And he took umbrage to it.
And he remembered that shame. And he probably looked at all of those things and said, not me. I'm going to live above reproach. I'm going to live a different kind of a life. So there doesn't seem to be malice on Josiah's part, just honesty.
But his brothers see it differently. His brothers, in looking at this, just see a pretty boy who's a tattletale. And they're out to get him.
Let me just say something. If you're an honest person, I applaud you, but look out. If you're the kind of person who says, no, wherever I'm at, I'm going to live above reproach. I'm going to live with integrity. If I see evil I'm going to make it known, I'm going to call it out. That's a great, commendable way to live. We ought to live that way. But at the same time, you are putting a target on you where people are going to call you all sorts of names from Miss Goody Two Shoes to Mr. Perfect to much worse.
So a couple of factors that are going on here, natural dissimilarity and social integrity. Let me give you a third. Parental partiality. Notice Verse 3. "Now Israel"-- that's a name for Jacob-- "loved Joseph more than all his children because he was the son of his old age, and also made him a tunic of many colors. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him."
Now Joseph had a dream. Now this is not a smart move on Jacob's part. He is setting his son up for pressure in the future. If we were to counsel Jacob, if we could sit Jacob down, we'd say, Jacob, dude, you're going to hurt Joseph by showing him this special treatment because his brothers don't have that Technicolor poncho that you gave number 11. And there's just going to be a disparity. He's going to get in trouble by them, which is exactly what happened.
Now put it in modern terms. Let's say you have a child that you love and you dote over and you show preferential treatment toward, but you don't treat your other children the same way. So you give them a hard time. But this other child, that one child, hung the moon.
Well, I can almost predict precisely that that kid's going to get beat up by all them at some point. So let's just say it happens. And now it's Grad Night. The child's 17 years of age, the one that you dote over all the time, could do no wrong. It's Grad Night. Everybody piles out of the gym after the graduation ceremony, and there the parking lot is a brand new car with a sign on it that says, congratulations, you deserve it. Brand new car for this one kid.
Do you not think that the other children in your family are going to be so filled with envy-- not just the family, everybody in the gym who comes out and sees that, parents included of the other kids. That kind of preferential treatment will bring envy. Partiality adds the dangerous ingredient to the recipe of envy. And partiality can come from a boss, a girl at school, a friend, a teacher, a coach.
Question is, why did Jacob do this? It was bad for Joseph. Why did he do it? Well, we're told that Joseph was the son of his old age. Now let me just sort of flesh this out a little bit. Not only was he the son of his old age, Joseph was the son of the only woman he ever really loved. Her name was Rachel. He loved Rachel, wanted to marry her.
Rachel's dad had an older daughter named Leah, pulled a trick on Jacob. And Jacob ends up marrying Leah first, then Rachel, whom he loved. They couldn't have children, so he gets Billhah and Zilpah thrown in on this crazy deal.
But the only woman he really loved was Rachel. He loved with all her heart. She has already died, the text of Genesis tells us, so that now this 17-year-old boy, every time he shows up and Jacob looks at him, he is a reminder of his precious dead wife. So he pulls out all the stops, gives him this fancy coat. We don't know if it was a multicolored coat. Some texts just say a long-sleeved coat. Point is it was different from all their clothes. It wasn't a shepherd's robe. It was a ruler's coat.
In fact, the coat that Jacob gave Joseph was to send a message to them. And the message was, none of you, even the firstborn Reuben, none of you get the right of being firstborn. I'm giving the right and the privileges and all that goes with that to Joseph.
How do we know this? First Chronicles Chapter 5 we are told the birthright was given to Joseph and his children. So giving the robe was to show them none of you, not Reuben, not Siemian, not Judah, but number 11 is going to get all the rights and privileges of the firstborn. Let me just say ouch right there. So whatever is there to be envied, it's just gotten worse.
So we have three factors that we can see, natural dissimilarity, social integrity, and parental partiality. Let me throw in a fourth. I'll put it nicely and it rhymes. Personal simplicity. The kid is just a little naive, I'm thinking, because follow me here. Look at Verse 5.
"Now Joseph had a dream and he told it to his brothers, and they hated him even more. And so he said"-- listen to his dream-- "please hear this dream which I have dreamed. There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright. And indeed, your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf."
Now do you think they're going to go, awesome, that was a great dream. Got any more? His brothers said to him, "Shall you indeed reign over us, or shall you indeed have dominion over us?" So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.
But we're not done yet. Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers. Really? You're going to tell them this one, too, after that? Oh, yeah. And he said, look, I've dreamed another dream. And this time the sun and the moon and the 11 stars bowed down to me. So he told it to his father and his brothers, and his father rebuked him, and said to him, what is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you? And his brothers envied him, but his father kept the matter in mind.
This kid just seems painfully naive. He may not be, but he sure seems that way to me. And I got to say, in reading this, I understand the feeling of these other brothers and their reaction. Here's the handsome, 17-year-old Joseph standing in his little Technicolor poncho. They already hate his guts. And then he says, here is a dream. And if he thinks he's going to score points with them by telling them the dream, he's wrong. He'll be disappointed.
So do you guys any of you remember this show that I grew up with watching, Leave It to Beaver? So a lot of you don't. I don't know why. This service especially, but first service, there was a lot of people who knew Leave It to Beaver. So Leave It to Beaver, The Beav, sort of like the main character, this young kid, is just this naive little guy. And his older brother Wally and Eddie Haskell and Lumpy-- these are all his older brother's friends-- they kind of all conspire and they use him. And he just sort of plays around and plays along with it and is very gullible and very naive and very sweet. And so I look at Joseph as The Beav of the Old Testament.
So he has two dreams. The first dream is filled with agricultural motif. It's about sheaves and the harvest. The second dream has celestial motif, sun, moon, and the stars if there is any question about the meaning of the first dream, which there wasn't, there would be no doubt as to the meaning of the second dream.
And so these brothers looked at him and they thought, that pompous little arrogant upstart, little squirt, self-focused brat. I mean, they're just filled with envy and hate. And they said, do you think you're going to reign over us? What's the answer to that? Uh huh, I am, actually. I don't know it now. You don't know it now. But God knows it, and he's going to arrange things where I become the second most powerful man on earth. And one day you are going to stand before me and you're actually-- this isn't just bragging, this is God speaking. This happens to be prophetic truth.
So I find it interesting in Verse 11, his brothers envied him, but his father kept the matter in mind. Do you suppose that Jacob may have had second thoughts, going, hmm. Now why would he have these dreams? And why would he tell us these dreams? And just perhaps, just maybe, these dreams aren't the result of a late night pizza with onions. Maybe this is the Lord that is speaking to him and foretelling this. And it turned out to be that way.
So these, then, are four elements that created an environment for envy to grow. That does not make it OK. It is not an excuse for his brothers. In fact, the big error is that his brothers were so blinded by their envy for that one brother that they couldn't see or weren't even open to God moving through all this.
Now you see, this is why envy is such a sin, because envy puts us at the center of the universe. When we envy someone, we hop in the driver's seat and we play God, and we decide who should have what or who should be where, and you don't deserve that, and you shouldn't have this. And we're playing God. That's why envy is even more deadly than greed, because greed says, I want more, whereas envy says, I want you to have less.
With envy, I'm not just obsessed with my own happiness. I actually resent your happiness. And somehow your blessing becomes my curse. That's how insidious it is. That's how bad it is. And that's why Proverbs 27 Verse 4 says wrath is cruel and anger is outrageous. But who is able to stand before envy?
But there's a third statement I want to make in closing, and that is envy has a remedy. It has a remedy. And what is the remedy for little Joe? 17-year-old, very honest, very handsome, very hated. What is the answer for this kid? Because though he is very honest and very upright and maybe even very naive, he's the guy that gets treated so horribly. So what would you tell him?
Well, we tell him what the text tells us. In Acts Chapter 7 Verse 9-- if you have that open you may want to look at that. There are two verses we want to look at. Stephen, giving this speech, summing up the life of Joseph, said in Verse 9, "And the patriarchs"-- those are his older brothers-- "becoming envious, sold Joseph into Egypt."
What's the next sentence say? "But God was with him" now if he wouldn't have put that in there, you have nothing to say to Joseph. You just say, yeah, dude, I'm sorry, it's bad. That's how life is. Some people just get sold as slaves to Egypt. But no. That happened, but God was with him, so everything changes.
And then he describes it in the very next verse, Verse 10. "And he delivered him out of all of his troubles and gave him favor and wisdom in the presence of Pharaoh, the King of Egypt, and made him governor over Egypt and all of his house." In other words, envy doesn't have to have the last word. God can. God has the last word. Yes, this happened to him, but God was with him, meaning his brothers' jealousy didn't hinder the work of God. It only furthered the work of God.
There's a great truth in Psalm 76 that says, even the wrath of man will praise you, oh Lord. That is, all of the anger and animosity and opposition that mankind can muster can actually serve, with God's sovereignty in view, to glorify God ultimately. So all of their plotting, all of their scheming, all of their deal making, all of their lying didn't ruin it for Joseph. They will watch him promoted further.
Now that's a hard truth to swallow, but I'm want to say this. If you're a person prone to envy any one of God's people, God might just get you first row seats to their promotion. It will drive you crazy. But that's part of the fun, is that your envy doesn't stop what God wants to do in that person's life.
And moreover, what this shows me is, no matter what your background is, no matter what your environment, no matter what choices other people have made for you, you can live honorably regardless of your environment or what your ex-husband did or what your kids have done or what your parents-- you can never use those as an excuse.
You can't blame where you are today on other people's treatments of you. I know we're fond of doing that. Well, I am the way I am and I am where I am because this person did this and that to me. OK. But God was with him. And so if God is with you, none of those really things ultimately matter. They can only serve to further God's purpose. You just need to discover why you went through that pain so it can bring healing to others.
Now a word to those who are not targeted, but you are the ones who liked to inflict envy. You like to unfollow people or write bad things on their social feed, whatever. What you need to realize is just how destructive envy is. You say, that's why I'm doing it, because I'm going to destroy them. No, no, no. It's destroying you. The envy doesn't destroy them. Didn't destroy Joseph. Maybe temporarily it set him back, but it pushed him up pretty high because of where it allowed God to take him. But it will destroy you.
Proverbs 14:30, "A sound heart is life to the body. But envy is rottenness to the bones." There's a great story in Greek history of a wrestler who was envious at another wrestler. The wrestler that was the envy of everyone was Theogenes, the pro wrestler in the Olympics. He was the prince of wrestlers for all of Greece.
But there was another wrestler who was so envious of Theogenes that he couldn't be consoled, until one day at Theogenes died and made the guy feel really good. That's how bad he was.
So when Theogenes died, they put a statue of Theogenes in the center square. And it was said that this wrestler who was envious would go out to the statue and grab a hold of it and wrestle it, like, you know, I'm the big bad wrestler now, until one day he pushed too hard, knocked the statue over, and was crushed underneath it. He was killed by his own envy.
You need to realize how destructive an emotion it is to entertain it. And then let me give you a word of advice if you are prone to envy. And that is, live your life better than the one you envy. Well, how do I get back at that person? Just live above reproach. Live high. If in envy you put yourself at the center of the universe, then put the person you envy at the center of the universe.
Now I know that is contrary to everything you feel. It is so unnatural. It is more natural to snub them, to walk off, to not say anything, to unfollow them, whatever it might be. So I'm not asking you to live naturally. I'm asking you to make a choice that is a supernatural choice, God's choice. You honor that person. In fact, you encourage that person. In fact, you send them a text or a note or a phone call, and say, I'm praying for you. And you actually pray for them, and just say, I think you're doing a good job. That's going to do something that is transforming.
In first Peter, Chapter 2 Verse 1, Peter says, laying aside all malice, all deceit, all hypocrisy, all envy, all evil speaking, desire, the sincere or pure milk of the word that you may grow thereby. In other words, he's saying, get rid of junk food. Feast on real food. The junk food are the poison toxins including envy.
So think of it in terms of a diet. Imagine a person who eats all the right things, counts the calories, looks at saturated fats and cholesterol. And he's just so into diet and exercises all the time, but abuses drugs and alcohol. Where's the consistency in that? That person may think he or she is healthy, but they're introducing a lasting, lingering toxin in their body that could destroy them.
So likewise, if a Christian has a good spiritual diet-- they're reading the Bible, going to a Bible-teaching church, writing notes in their little journal, and serving in the body of Christ-- but at the same time, holding on to things that are toxins like envy, same result. It poisons the unit. It destroys that person.
So what does Paul say? He says love suffers long and is kind. Love does not envy. So if you run around saying, I love God and I love people, but you envy people, then you don't, because love does not envy.
So your long-term strategy needs to be gratitude. That is, when you have the first thought of envy at that post or that promotion or that success, and you start envying, you immediately catch yourself and you replace the envious thought with the thought of gratitude.
Thank you, Lord, that I have breath in my lungs. Thank you, Lord, for where I am. Thank you where you have placed me. Thank you for all these blessings that I have forgotten to count, but I'm remembering them now.
So your long-term strategy is to replace envious thoughts with thanksgiving. And you will watch, you will see your heart being transformed, and the feelings that you once had melt away for the reality of God is with you and with them. And you leave it where it needs to be, in God's hands.
Father, thank you that we can learn from such a very simple but powerful illustration. And we realize we're learning from a man who, for us to have this lesson written out, had to go through some pretty gnarly things. And he was betrayed, he was left for dead, he was gloated over by brothers, he was compared to, he was marginalized, he was hated, envied. But God was with him. You were with him.
And what you can do to a life that is mistreated is glorious to watch. I just pray that we won't have to be the ones to dish out envy and then watch the person we envy get more and more and more promoted, that we ourselves would encourage, that we ourselves would love and forgive and promote, not only for the sake of the Body of Christ and the Kingdom of God, but for the sake of our own well-being and mental health, because envy is rottenness to the bones.
Help us, Lord, in Jesus' name. Amen.
Envy makes it impossible for you to think clearly. Remember that God is with you, and everything you need can be found in Him. Did this message give you insight on dealing with envy? We'd love to hear about it. Emails at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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