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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Getting beyond envy

We can miss what is right in front of our face - almost without even noticing. Why?  We have explored this very thought many times - it is because we see what we focus upon - a lack of focus on something makes it easy to miss the subtleties of it.  You have probably heard something like, "More is read than said", meaning more is observed in our non-verbal communication than with just our words.  When there is a disconnect between the two - such as saying one thing, but our actions showing another - we can be "read" by others as not really meaning what we say.  My pastor has a saying, "More is caught than taught", meaning almost the same thing - actions have a greater impact than our words.  When we get our eyes on the stuff which really doesn't matter, we have the capability of missing the stuff which really does.

No doubt about it! God is good—good to good people, good to the good-hearted.  But I nearly missed it, missed seeing his goodness.  I was looking the other way, looking up to the people at the top, envying the wicked who have it made, who have nothing to worry about, not a care in the whole wide world.  When I was beleaguered and bitter, totally consumed by envy, I was totally ignorant, a dumb ox in your very presence.  I’m still in your presence,  but you’ve taken my hand.  You wisely and tenderly lead me, and then you bless me.  (Psalm 73:1-5; 21-24 MSG)

The tendency to look at others and compare ourselves with others is risky business.  We get our eyes off the place where our true provision comes and the one from whom it is assured.  We turn inward, beginning to regret our choices, question our blessings, and challenge our beliefs - all because we are looking upon what is displayed outwardly rather than seeing what is lived out inwardly.  When all we see is the blessing or the good stuff the wicked seem to enjoy, we forget to look deeper into the heart to see what really "drives" or "energizes" them.  The tendency to look only upon the outward severely impacts our ability to accurately interpret the source of their blessing.  You see, their blessing is not from the hand of the Lord, but because they have worked their fingers to the bone to obtain them.  They are obtained by their own effort - and often their own "line of credit" with the local credit card companies!

We do this comparison "thing" more than we might like to admit.  We see a co-worker get noticed for a project they have been working on, but when ours isn't highlighted in the spotlight of the same praise, we feel slighted.  We hear someone thank another for their efforts to make a day special, all the while thinking we are chopped liver for the contributions we have made to the day!  This is where the rubber meets the road, my friends.  When we begin to get our "undies in a bundle" over the blessings, fortunes, honor, or fame another has, we are slipping in some pretty "slimy" business.  There should be no doubt in your mind - envy is compared with the color green - making envy the "slime" of the brain and emotions which we can slip upon and fall if we are not careful!

Envy gets our eyes off the one who brings all blessing.  It takes our attention away from the gifts we already possess - focusing us instead on "more" or "better" or "improved".  Truth is - God cannot improve upon his blessings - they are all good and all beyond our counting.  Envy has a "breeding ground" in our minds and emotions.  Let it get out of control, and it can overwhelm you.  Envy doesn't necessarily kill us, but it does some pretty damaging things:

- It divides relationships.  Envy has a way of putting up walls between one person and another.  Things and people get "played" against each other, and in turn, the relationship begins to be affected by the bitterness and jealousy which forms.  

- It shifts attention from what matters.  When envy is allowed to take root, it takes our eyes off the things which really matter, like keeping God first in our lives, loving our neighbors as ourselves, and turning the other cheek.

- It hardens our heart.  A hard heart is prone to living with much guilt and regret for past decisions made.  The time which passes while living with the bitterness of envy only brings further regret and a larger gap between us and right standing with God.

Therefore, it is pretty important that we don't stand before God as "dumb oxen", filled with all kinds of envy, pride and bitterness.  How do we keep ourselves away from the dangerous snare of envy?  First and foremost, I think we have to remember God is in control of our lives.  Today's blessings may not seem as significant as what we can see in the lives of those around us, but trust me, too many "blessings" can actually become "curses" in the lives of those who pursue the blessing, but not the one who blesses.  The basis of God's blessings in our lives is the greatness of his love toward us.  We need never forget this one point - he loved us FIRST.  So much so that he GAVE us his best.  We may not always remember this - but if we begin to focus on this again and again as envy tries to gain ground in our lives, we will surely be humbled by the greatness of the blessings we have and the magnificence of the one who blesses us.  Just sayin!