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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Antidote for Envy

   In my last post I reflected on the destructiveness of envy, but I did not want to just leave it there. What can we do when we are tempted to envy?  How can we extricate ourselves from this "green eyed monster"? [1]
   Since envy is self-focused, one important way to avoid it is to be God-focused.  A wonderful example of this comes in the biblical story of John the Baptizer.  At first he had been very popular, with crowds gathering at the riverbanks where John cried out for the people to change their ways. He encouraged people to be baptized to show they were ready to live a new life devoted to God. However, Jesus comes along and John's following shrinks dramatically.  Others tell John, "Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan...well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him."
   John is not offended by the popularity of Jesus because he recognizes that "A man can receive only what is given him from heaven." [2] In other words, God is the one who determines what any person has, whether talents, intellect, wealth, possessions, status or anything else.  When we hold a grudge against someone for something he or she has simply because we ourselves do not have it, we show a subtle resentment towards God.  John is content with his role as the one who prepared people's hearts for the Messiah, and he now steps into the background.
   We befuddle ourselves by begrudging what God has given to someone else.  We have to trust God to hold these individuals accountable for how they use what has been given to them.  Those who have more of anything will be judged by God, not us, as to how they used or abused those things.  It is not our business.
   Jesus makes this truth clear in one of his last conversations with his disciple Peter, in John chapter 21. Peter has just been given a glimpse of his future and how he will suffer for the name of Jesus.  He then points to another disciple and asks, "Lord, what about him?"  Jesus redirects Peter's attention with, "[W]hat is that to you?  You must follow me."  It is not our job to see what everyone else is doing or what they have.  It is our job to follow the Master.  He will give us the strength to do it!

[1] In Shakespeare's play Othello, envy is described in this way.
[2] John 3:27, NIV

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