Discover insight into recognizing and avoiding envy

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

IDEA: Even people who have much to commend them can be driven to mean deeds through envy.

PURPOSE: To help listeners understand the power of envy to drive any and all of us to hurt others.

Most people underrate envy as a major sin because it’s so easy to hide or mask:

A drunk can stagger into a church and everyone knows about it.

An usher can explode at a parishioner in the narthex and people hear it.

But we can sit through a church service envying everyone around us, and no one is the wiser.

Envy is a sin that can touch us all in spite of our level of “spirituality.”

I. Great saints can be affected by envy.

Sarah, Abraham’s wife, is held up by New Testament writers as an example of faith and submissive obedience.

Hebrews 11:11 holds Sarah up as an example of faith, who believed God’s promise and, as a result, conceived and bore a son “when she was past the age.” She counted God faithful who had promised her a child.

First Peter 3:6 holds Sarah up as an example of submissiveness to her own husband, “calling him lord.” Other women are “daughters of Sarah” if they do good and are not afraid with any terror.

Yet Sarah’s story in Genesis 16 and 21 shows the power of her envy of Hagar.

II. Sarah mistreated and later banished her maid out of envy (Genesis 16, 21).

The story:

Barren Sarah gave her maid Hagar to Abraham in order that Abraham might have posterity. But when Hagar conceived, Sarah treated her so harshly that she fled from Sarah’s presence (Genesis 16:6) into the wilderness. God’s angel sent Hagar back to Sarah and in time Hagar gave birth to her son, Ishmael. Sixteen years later Sarah conceived in her old age, giving birth to Isaac. At Isaac’s weaning feast, Sarah saw Ishmael scoffing at Isaac. She demanded that Abraham send Hagar and her son away so that “the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son” (Genesis 21:10). Abraham didn’t want to send off his oldest son into the wilderness, but God told him that He would protect him and make a great nation of him (Genesis 21:11-13).

Sarah and Hagar illustrate how envy can drive us to get people out of our lives. Sarah didn’t care whether Hagar lived or died.

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

If it is in our power (as it was for Sarah) to dismiss someone from our lives, envy can push us to destroy someone else to ensure our own peaceful existence.

If it is not in our power to get rid of someone physically, we may resort to discrediting the person’s character, destroying that person’s opportunities or effectiveness.

Envy poisons our souls and drives us to mean-spirited deeds or words, despite our “spiritual advantages.”