Envy: You Will Never be Satisfied Until You are Satisfied in God

by Myron Heckman on July 20, 2014
Envy: You Will Never Be Satisfied Until You Are Satisfied in God
From Psalm 73      Myron Heckman, Pastor in Brewster
There is a subtle sin that can sneak up on us and take residence in us and we can live in it unaware. We envy one of our co-workers who got the promotion we should have gotten. Or envy "the look" of someone else, or his athletic ability, or her musical talent, or decorating touch. Or that new car. F. Scott Fitzgerald said “Nothing is as obnoxious as other people's luck.”   
      Envy can be as fundamentally materialistic as a song by a band called (of all things) The Dead Milkmen. Hear it in your mind as a kind of aggrieved chant:
"Everybody's got nice stuff but me
People in nice cars how'd they get em?
I close my eyes try to forget em
Went out swimming got hit by a jet-ski
Everybody's got nice stuff but me
I wanna car, I wanna jet-ski
Everybody's got nice stuff but me"
Indeed.  And envy can delve into much deeper and personal levels -
"I wish my husband/wife was like that person's husband/wife."
"Why does she have a baby and I can't get pregnant?"
It can happen in the church environment. Pastors can envy other pastors' success, and congregations can envy another congregation's building or financial solvency or ministries. Bible teachers can envy another teacher's large classes. Musicians can be dismayed at another musician's prominence. It can sneak into our hearts at any time with no warning. As we seek to express our spiritual unity in Jesus Christ on Cape Cod we don't want a hidden dismay at another believer's "success" to bring a subtle division.
Envy has three elements to it:
1) Desire - we want something, and it may be a very legitimate desire
2) Resentment - we resent that someone else has what we want. Resentment is
      the major tip-off that we have crossed a line. It's a painful awareness of  
     another's possessions or advantages and a desire to have them too. We then
     live in self-pity which  means we are self-focused and unhappy.
(A note: there is a benign use of the word envy, which means simply that we admire and would like to emulate what someone else has and are not pained over it. An example: Theodore Roosevelt said, "I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” )
3) A third element of envy, and the virtue that envy distorts, is a cry for justice. We want the scales to be equalized for us. We see an injustice, at least from our perspective, and we are angered or saddened. Take two siblings near in age and their rivalry is often rooted in an immature cry for justice. They are indignant that their sibling may get one more minute of privilege or one extra ounce of chocolate, and they can't bear the thought. Oh, the injustice of it all!  When a more mature and less self-centered cry for justice exists, about a wrong where the perpetrator mystifyingly goes merrily on his way, our heart demands justice and wants it now. The thought can enter our mind that the evil way is more rewarding than the good way.
Asaph, author of several psalms, dealt with envy that was rooted in a cry for justice. He affirmed that "God is good" to his people (Ps. 73:1) and then revealed his problem:
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled;
My steps had nearly slipped.
   He might have lost his faith, or at least a desire to act in faith, and here's why -
For I was envious of the boastful,
When I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
The evil person is prospering, and I'm not. What kind of unjust  world is this? What good does it do to serve God? Seeing other's success, he had inward pain.
13 Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain,
And washed my hands in innocence.
  Living for the Lord inwardly and outwardly brought not reward but hardship.
14 For all day long I have been plagued,
And chastened every morning.
Not only are other people rewarded for doing wrong, I'm suffering for doing good! What saved Asaph? He remembered to worship God. His heart pivots in vs 17. He was in despair…
17 Until I went into the sanctuary of God;
Then I understood their end
This is why it is so important to praise God - you then see He is bigger than your problems. You see He still rules. Justice will come, in this life or the next. It is a good practice to begin your prayers by magnifying the Lord. This is part of our hope in the Glory of God on Cape Cod - that we will treasure God's glory and give voice to it..
Asaph then put His focus on the unmatched value of the Lord.
25 Whom have I in heaven but You?
And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.
26 My flesh and my heart fail;
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
When you make a visit to the Town of Envy, get out of town quick. Let envy be a prompt to you - to remind you that you need to make much of God and get your focus on Him alone for your satisfaction.
Jesus made a point about envy with Peter. The background is that Peter had denied Christ three times and after the resurrection Jesus asked Peter three times if Peter loved Him. Peter was able to match his threefold bitter failure by sincerely professing three times: "Lord, you know that I love You." Then in John 21:18 Jesus says, "Truly, truly I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go." Then we learn what this is about. "This he said to show by what death he was to glorify God." In other words, his arms would be stretched out in crucifixion. After this, Jesus said to him, "Follow me."
Peter turned and saw John following them and said to Jesus, "Lord what about this man?" Why does he ask that? Peter had just heard about his own future martyrdom by a terrible death, and quickly the question in Peter's heart is about justice. "What about John? Is it going to be only me?" It's a question of envy. "And Jesus said to him, 'If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me.'" Jesus answer for envy is "Follow me." Keep your focus on me. Not on other people, not on your circumstances compared to someone else's circumstances. "Follow me". It’s a call to be very Christ-focused. Even if the call is to be crucified, keep your eyes on Jesus.
 Are your eyes on someone else today and you're pained at that person's success? It has you down and it's hurting you. It has you in pain it's hurting your walk with God as it detracts from God's glory. It's stealing your joy. Lord, cause us to be satisfied in You.   But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.