Let’s look at one of the most overlooked, and underrated, issues we face, envy

Monday, November 19, 2012

IDEA: Envy can drive us to vicious acts.

PURPOSE: To help listeners understand that envy doesn’t always stop with gossip or meanness. It can drive us to destructive deeds.

Let’s suppose we were selected as a group to come up with what we think are the seven worst sins people can commit. What would you put on that list?

It’s interesting that the church fathers included envy as one of them. Would you select that for a list? (The seven deadly sins: anger, covetousness, envy, gluttony, lust, pride, and sloth.)

When we think about different sins, we sometimes find it hard to take envy seriously. Yet envy has driven people to try to destroy others.

I. We see in Scripture that envy can cause us to want to get rid of other people.

Joseph’s  brothers wanted to get him out of their lives (Genesis 37).

The story: Joseph, the 11th of 12 brothers, had dreams in which his brothers and parents bowed down to him. He unwisely told these dreams to his brothers who, for envy, plotted to get rid of him.

“Now Israel [Jacob] loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age. 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 dreamed a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more. So he said to them, ‘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 around and bowed down to my sheaf.’ And 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. Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers and said, ‘Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven 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” (Genesis 37:3-11).

In 37:18 we learn that the brothers decided to kill Joseph, but Reuben convinced them to put Joseph in a pit instead, from which he would later rescue Joseph and return him to his father. Then Judah spotted a Midianite caravan headed for Egypt, and the brothers decided to sell Joseph as a slave instead. Thus they thought they had gotten rid of the one they envied.

II. We see how envy works in our lives to get rid of a rival.

Before the 1994 Winter Olympics Nancy Kerrigan was a threatening rival to Tonya Harding who agreed to a plot in which Nancy’s leg would be “accidentally” sliced with a skate blade, eliminating her from the competition.

In both cases—Joseph and Nancy Kerrigan—the plot backfired and the victims of the plots were vindicated.

Joseph’s brothers did indeed bow down to him when he was later Pharaoh’s vizier in Egypt.

Tonya Harding was censured and barred from competitive skating for a time.

That is why the church fathers singled out envy as a motive for terrible deeds.