How to Overcome Envy
What if we did this?
There are cultural caricatures about what Christians are. One looks something like the Simpson’s Ned Flanders. Another is the closed-minded, anti-science right wing pastor that CNN brought in to make an ignorant comment. Or the televangelist that gets interviewed every new year to find out what group of sinners God is wipe out with a natural disaster this year. So, you have these caricatures of Christians being painted all over our culture. Can you imagine if we began to shatter those images by prioritizing the transformations of our hearts to actually become more like Jesus? Am I a person of forgiveness. Am I a person at peace with God and with the people around me? What would life look like if it were free from envy.
Part of what passages like James 3:13-18 do for us, is remind us all that we still need grace. They are a reminder that the perfect life you were created for has been marred by sin, and the only shot you have at earning God’s favor is not to muster up enough brownie points through random acts of kindness, or memorizing bible verses are giving to charity. No, the only way this is possible and the only way we can find favor with God is through the cross. And the only way that we find the strength to root out envy in our hearts is through the strength that comes through him.
Listen to this perfect description of the sinister nature of envy from a woman named Maria.
“If I could say I had a number one enemy, it would be envy. In fact, I am generally so overwhelmed by the vice that I could say I am almost creative in it; in that I can find, in any situation, a reason to indulge it. I could say I worry about being thin. But if I meet a girl who may have a bigger waist than me but a nicer outfit, I will envy her and her curves. If I meet someone with a smaller waist and pretty hair, I will envy her style. I will envy my mother for being wise, my neighbor for being a beautiful vacation bronze and my boss for shining like lovely porcelain. All in the same day. I’ll envy my roommate for being adventurous and my Grandma for her simple dreams accomplished. And I feel deeply, passionately and sharply the pain envy always brings me. I feel inadequate and embarrassed, imagining that each person I envy in turn looks at me wondering why my skin isn’t so porcelain, or why my curves aren’t as lovely or why my attitude isn’t so joyful. “She must not know how to take care of herself,” I imagine them thinking. And it makes me cry, and want to crawl away. I have trudged through this for years with God. Sometimes I feel peace growing but then sometimes I just beg for mercy. Because I know it’s a sin to compare myself to my brothers and sisters, who are, by creation, other views of God’s face. And I know I should value the view of God that I give, and that only I give. But my envy doesn’t always allow me.“
The only true answer to envy is the power of Christ. Peace with God and others. That’s what we’ve been called to. That’s the gift that’s been extended to us.