It is easy to get caught up in envy - that ugly, green-eyed monster often known as jealousy or better known as discontent. Discontent breeds all manner of other issues, so it is best nipped in the bud than allowed to fester and multiply! Really, in the simplest terms, envy enters in anytime we think someone else has any advantage we don't have in life. Yep, ANY advantage! We often don't know how frequently we evaluate ourselves in the light of what we see another "have" - whether it is knowledge, privilege, or possession. Some allow a little discontent to breed when they consider how easily someone can get into the scriptures, or launch in to a prayer for another in need. Others allow it to fester when they see someone get cut slack where no slack would be rendered if it were them. Regardless of how we sense this "discontent" with the what the other person seems to have or get, it can lead to a lot of ugliness in our lives we'd probably not like to deal with later on!
Don’t for a minute envy careless rebels; soak yourself in the Fear-of-God—
That’s where your future lies. Then you won’t be left with an armload of nothing. (Proverbs 23:17-18 MSG)
Discontent multiplies whenever one senses an inequity. Let me be the first to tell you this if you haven't already figured it out - all things are NOT equal in this life! We are all created different sizes, shapes, hair colors, skin tones, with different IQs, and into different families. Yet, there is one place we come into which makes the "playing field" level for all - the family of God. Regardless of station in life, aptitude, or attitude - all are equal in his eyes. All are sinners. All stand in need of a Savior. All have fallen short of the glory he intended for their lives. All need the sanctifying work of the cross. In short, all are equal. No one can make another grow any faster - even when well fed and in an environment which fosters growth. Growth is individualized and a response of one's inner man to the forces surrounding him/her. Growth, or maturity, may not be equal because we each embrace things we are taught in different times, perhaps even in different interpretations of what is taught, but exactly from the same lesson. This makes us unique - equally human and in need, but not equal in the application of truth.
The various things which lead to discontent in our lives is what God is after here - because he knows it makes for a lot of messy stuff later on if allowed to take root. Discontent damages relationships, causes us to struggle with issues of pride, and then leaves us just wanting more, but believing we will never have what it is we desire. Guard yourselves well against discontent because it will leave you destitute! Now, is it possible for discontent to drive us closer to God and his purposes in our lives? Yes, when it is recognized early and does not become a thing which drives us into the realms of envy and jealousy. Envy or jealousy carries the attitude of wishing "ill will" on another. It goes beyond motivating us to search for things which will drive us deeper into our relationship with Jesus - causing us to turn inward, feel deprived, and then bemoan our deprived state.
Discontent in the hands of God can be turned into an opportunity to open your arms and heart to receive something new from God - something you may not even have known you really needed in your life, but which he knows will bring you tremendous blessing. Discontent has a way of motivating us - but we need to make sure our motivations are God-driven and not self-driven. For example, when I see someone take a portion of scripture and easily describe how this scripture applies to everyday living, making it sound so simple and easy to apply, I could be envious of the individual's ability to do so. Or...if I hear what our passage says today, it could drive me to turn to God and ask him to show me the ways to study so that I become aware of what the Word of God says, how it can apply to my life, and what he would want me to "get" from the Word each day. In time, I will see that he takes this discontent with my inability to study the Word myself as a means to begin to drive me deeper into his Word, allowing his Holy Spirit to open it afresh to me. In this sense, discontent has an advantage in my life - it created a hunger.
We need to be aware of our hunger, though - for not all hunger is to be fed. When discontent enters, the very best thing we can do is ask God if this is him creating the desire, or our "self" getting us into the region of envy. With this in mind, we will be sure to avoid the pitfalls of envy, but allow godly discontent to be built into a driving force which propels us forward into the good things God desires for our lives. Just sayin!