Last week I wrote on 4 of the 7 deadly sins. We covered wrath, greed, sloth and lust. This week we pick back up with the remaining 3 – envy, gluttony and pride.
“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” (Proverbs 14:30)
We mommas have all been at a play date, a park or a party with a slew of young kids, favorite toys in tow. All it takes is one kid to see a fancier, more fun, more fantastic toy than what’s in his own hand and all bets are off. The sweetest, mildest child can go ballistic and turn into what’s commonly known as the green-eyed monster. He has feelings of envy – he wants the toy that his friend has for himself, and he’s either gonna go take it from the other kid or pitch such a huge fit you start counting down the minutes until this little shindig is over and you can escape to the nearest Wal-Mart buy whatever toy he’s freaking out about just to shut his temper tantrum down.
Grown-ups can certainly be envious of others’ grown-up toys. (I wish we had John’s lake house. Why can’t I drive an Audi like Susie Q?) But grown-ups can also be envious of other people’s jobs, status in the community, physical appearance or even God’s favor.
So it was with Cain and Abel. Cain and Abel were the twin sons born to Adam and Eve. They had two very different jobs – Abel kept flocks and Cain worked in the fields. Both jobs were equally important. But when it came time to bring an offering to God, the brothers made two very different choices.
Cain didn’t put much thought into something that really mattered to God. He “brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering” (Genesis 4:3) which to me sounds kind of like that first Sunday of the month when you forget your tithing check and you scrounge past the half-eaten Snicker’s bar, 45 gum wrappers and a Hot Wheels car to find whatever change is jingling in the bottom of your purse. It doesn’t exactly scream of forethought or intentionality – or respect for the God of the universe.
Abel on the other hand really thought about what he was going to bring. “But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.” (Genesis 4:4) Abel gave from the firstborn (or the first fruits) of his flock. Abel’s offering was intentional and sacrificial, and “The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor.” (Genesis 4:5)
So Cain was pretty ticked off and envious of the attention God gave his brother Abel. Envy of God’s favor towards his brother drove Cain to do the unimaginable – he murdered his own brother with malicious forethought. (Gensis 4:8)
James wrote about envy in the 3rd chapter of his book of the Bible: “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 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 3:13-16)
Sooooo….. Envy is unspiritual and of the devil and will bring about disorder and evil practices AND it rots your bones. Wow. That description alone should be enough to make us all run from envy, but in today’s world of “look at my kid’s accomplishments” on FaceBook and “my vacation is better than your vacation” pictures on Instagram it’s really, really hard, isn’t it? (I’m of the opinion satan LOVES him some social media – it’s so easy to use to get other people all fired up and lure them into sin by what they see other people doing, buying, enjoying…)
I’ve tried just not thinking about the thing that I’m envious about (Yes, it’s a certain beach house on 30-A. There. I admitted it.) but that doesn’t work. Two actions have helped me to deal with envious thoughts. First, combat those thoughts with Scripture. My personal favorite is this one: “And my God will meet all my needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19) and then I follow it with “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, His love endures forever.” (Psalm 107:1) Reciting Scripture leads me into the second action – actually taking some time to thank God for all of my blessings, from my comfy bed to air conditioning in the summer to a jar full of M&M’s to being able to make my mortgage payment another month to bringing my child home safely from college.
Thank Him for the biggies and the small blessings alike. When your heart is one of thankfulness and gratitude, satan will flee taking envy away with him.
Scripture, gratitude and thankfulness do work together to defeat envy. Try it and see.
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