The impact of envy on our relationships with others, and with God

Thursday, November 29, 2012

“But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing will be there” (James 3:14-16).

IDEA: Envy is a poison that destroys relationships that ought to matter to us.

PURPOSE: To help listeners understand the power of envy to destroy relationships.

Do you have any bottles on the medicine shelf marked with a skull-and-crossbones? What does that symbol mean?

When we come to the deadly sin of envy, we need to stamp it with a skull-and-crossbones. Envy is a powerful poison.

I. The essence of righteousness is right-relatedness to God and to those around us.

This is the idea behind the use of the Hebrew word often translated “righteousness” or “justice” in the Old Testament.

This Old Testament Hebrew sense of the term righteousness was the cultural soil on which Jesus Christ walked in His earthly ministry.

When Jesus declared in the Sermon on the Mount, “Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20), He hit the heart of the matter for the religious legalists of His day.

The scribes and Pharisees cared only for a scrupulous external adherence to the letter of the law. They cared nothing about heart attitudes and relationships.

They failed to see the function of the Law as God’s means for righting wrong relationships to God and to others.

We must care about right relationships (to God and to others) if we want to enter the kingdom of heaven.

God cares deeply about how we relate to one another.

The New Testament images of the church as “family” or as “body” emphasize the inter-relatedness of its members.

The consistent teaching of the entire New Testament is that it matters to God that we guard our human relationships well.

II. Envy poisons relationships.

In life some people have more spectacular gifts than others in a given area, and envy relishes the idea of toppling a superior.

Envy is a back-handed compliment: it tacitly admits my own supposed inferiority in some area. Envy stems from a sense of shortcoming.

Pliny wrote, “Envy always implies conscious inferiority wherever it resides.”

C. S. Lewis said, “We dislike the Big Noise at the party because we want to be the Big Noise.”

Thus envy is gratified by the misfortunes of others.

We get a twinge of delight or a sense of satisfaction when someone else fails.

Paul tells us to “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15), but envy reverses this: we rejoice when others weep and we weep when others have cause to rejoice.

Envy makes us feel ill-will toward others because of their reputation or advantage.