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The Sin of Envy
By: Rachelle Hamlin
Fort Fairfield Journal, July 9, 2014
Oh, envy is a slippery little devil! He can crawl into the tiniest places in your mind and live there so quietly that you donít even notice he ever moved in. But donít be fooled. Like most evil imps their power in your life is not to be underestimated. Envy is truly the darkest of the dark and loves to keep you in the dark about your own motives so it can work its dark ways secretly and with a sense of security. It is truly a thief that comes in the night.
And envy is not to be mistaken for jealousy although some of its traits marry well with jealousy. Basically, jealousy needs a third party to operate, and this brings its movements more out in the open, and therefore more easily understood. One clear way to distinguish between envy is by considering the ninth and tenth commandments of God to Moses. Thou shalt not covet thy neighborís wife (Jealousy). and Thou shalt not covet thy neighborís goods. (Envy). These are the promises of God to the people who will obey Him; they wonít suffer the consequences of these evils.
Jealousy deals with a person you want for yourself although he or she is bound to another. It is accompanied by a sense of injustice. Envy has a multitude of objects to fix its lusty attention on and it can operate in the hidden recesses of your mind accompanied by a feeling of enticement. When envy finally does emerge it takes many hidden forms, so it is very hard to see it in action. Mostly everyone envies, fewer are jealous. So envy is more of a danger to aspiring Christians than jealousy.
There is a climate of envy inside every person that grows as we grow up and begin to make comparisons between ourselves and others in the world around us. Fortunate are those who grow up immune to the feeling of want, emptiness or lack that can grow out of these comparisons. Even those who guard themselves can secretly harbor envy that just sits there waiting for its chance to grab. That is because the nature of envy has some specific attributes that everyone shares.
Envy is a form of distress. Like it or not, once we see that something good is happening in another personís life and it is not even attainable in our own, that fact brings awareness and a lingering bad feeling. The more it happens, the more distress collects inside us. It is painful to be reminded always that someone, for no understandable reason, has a good life when you do not. It can build up over time just growing in your brain, still invisible to others, maybe even to you. Guess who is behind this conditioning effect in your mind? Yup, the imp.
Eventually our pain can only be alleviated by outward actions that ease the pressure. This could show itself as stealing, where you feel a rush of pleasure to be able to successfully grab something belonging to another and feel yourself their better, or their equal by your theft. Sometimes a person just makes a plan to ďget one of thoseĒ and finds a way to create those conditions in their own life. Now I am not young anymore but most of my life the pinnacle of feminine attractiveness has remained the same. I saw such a woman this week. She is blond, she looked wealthy, she was driving a new red sports convertible with the top down and she wore sunglasses plus an air of unapproachableness. She could have been there fifty years ago, looking exactly the same way. Envy created a ceaseless flow of identical women who are easing their distress by going after someone elseís perceived glory and making it their own.
I know a woman whose husband did not love her. One day her neighbor handmade a loom and surprised his wife with it. Distress proved too much for my friend and she found a pretext to borrow that loom for herself. Of course, when the loom failed to alleviate her distress, her interest in it disappeared. I know a teenager whose father owned a mill, but when she heard a classmate had a solid gold pen her father had given her she could not resist the impulse to take it. I knew a child whose family treated boys with latitude but confined the girls. She envied their freedom and status. It took a while but she pushed until she had what she thought they had. All these things are part of the operation of envy.
The exact same stories exist in the male universe. Even the Bible has examples; a king with endless land holdings is distressed when he finds a beautiful arbor owned by a small landowner, Cain is distressed when Able is shown favor by God, the Pharisees are distressed by the anointing on Jesus, Anais and Saphira are distressed to watch fellow disciples in the early community of believers giving all their goods to the apostles, so they pretend to do the same, but are lying about it. All these are the works of envy. Somebody has something you donít have but you cannot live without it. Donít think for a second that most of our commerce is free from poisonous envy; it thrives on it.
Here are some Christian antidotes to envy:
- Praise God for everything you do have.
- Be content with little.
- Covet not.
- Be humble.
- Cast your cares on the Lord.
- Cultivate a spirit of gratitude.
- Make amends for trespasses.
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