Get a clear understanding of envy, so we can recognize it, and choose a better path

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, not his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s” (Exodus 20:17).

IDEA: Covetousness and envy are similar but not the same: covetousness is wanting what someone else has; envy is simply begrudging what someone else has.

PURPOSE: To help listeners understand the difference between covetousness and envy.

The last of the Ten Commandments is “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, not his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s” (Exodus 20:17).

We’ve been talking about envy. Is it the same thing as covetousness?

I. Covetousness is a strong craving to have something that belongs to another person.

Achan coveted what was devoted to God and it led him to steal and hide what he so desperately wanted, Joshua 7:20-26.

As the Israelites entered the Promised Land under Joshua’s leadership, they were told that “all the silver and gold, and vessels of bronze and iron are consecrated to the Lord; they shall come into the treasury of the Lord” (Joshua 6:19).

After the conquest of Jericho, Achan saw, wanted, stole and hid those things that belonged to God. As a consequence, the Israelites were routed in battle at Ai. God told Joshua to find the person who has stolen the devoted things and Achan was found out. The sin was considered so serious that he was stoned to death.

Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, coveted gifts offered by Naaman, commander of the Syrian army (2 Kings 5:20-27).

When Naaman was cleansed of his leprosy by following Elisha’s orders, he offered gifts to the prophet who refused them. Gehazi heard the offer, later ran after Naaman and asked for clothing and silver on Elisha’s “behalf.” Taking all that Naaman offered him, he hid the treasures in the house. When Elisha later asked him where he had gone, he denied having gone out. Elisha told him that Naaman’s leprosy would cling to him forever as punishment for his dishonesty.

Gehazi’s covetousness led him to lie both to Naaman and to Elisha. For this he was severely punished.

A very large part of the Jewish Law was given to counteract the spirit of covetousness. We see this in the regulations about duties to the poor, to servants, about gleaning, usury, pledges, gold and silver taken in war, etc.

Jesus taught that God is primarily concerned with the attitude of the heart—the place where one can “safely” commit crimes of murder, adultery, etc. (Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28).

He taught that covetousness, envy, pride, slander, and foolishness with fornications, thefts, murders, and adulteries all come from the heart (Mark 7:21-23).

We are to be on our guard against every form of covetousness because life does not consist in the abundance of things we possess (Luke 12:15).

Summary: covetousness is a craving for someone else’s possession.

II. Envy is not the same thing as covetousness.

Covetousness longs to possess what another person has. Envy is resentful begrudging. It is defined as chagrin or discontent at the excellent fortune of another person.

In general, covetousness relates to material benefits (like money or a house or car or clothes) whereas envy has to do with gifts or position or power.

Covetousness does not despise the other person; envy does. Envy “looks against” the other person for having something desirable.

Whereas covetousness is an inordinate longing to have as one’s own what belongs to another, envy is being discontented at someone who possesses something excellent.

Does envy differ from jealousy?

Jealousy fears to lose what it has.

Envy is pained at seeing another have.

Summary: Envy and covetousness are both considered “deadly” sins. But they are not the same.