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Saturday, 18 October 2014

The Poison of Envy

   The word envy has an interesting back story in English.  It comes from the Latin "in" + "videre", meaning literally "to see into."  In the seeing, hostility rises within a person because what he sees is not within his grasp.  Envy comes to us not through the sense of smell, hearing, taste or touch.  It comes by a twisting of the sense of sight.
   So much beauty comes to us through the windows of our eyes, but the envious person is not inclined to give thanks for it when it belongs to someone else.  Envy can also make it impossible to look into the eyes of that rival with anything other than hatred and anger.
   An illustration of the self-destructiveness of envy comes by way of pastor and writer Thomas Lindberg:

Two shopkeepers were bitter rivals. Their stores were directly across the street from each other, and they would spend each day keeping track of each other's business. If one got a customer, he would smile in triumph at his rival.
One night an angel appeared to one of the shopkeepers in a dream and said, "I will give you anything you ask, but whatever you receive, your competitor will receive twice as much. Would you be rich? You can be very rich, but he will be twice as wealthy. Do you wish to live a long and healthy life? You can, but his life will be longer and healthier. What is your desire?"
The man frowned, thought for a moment, and then said, "Here is my request: Strike me blind in one eye!"

   Envy can be fed and nursed so that it dominates one's entire life.  The same is true of many sins that separate us from the goodness of God and those around us.  I am reminded of a passage in C.S. Lewis' children's book Magician's Nephew.  The magician in this story is Uncle Andrew, who has immersed himself in magic for evil purposes, using children to test his theories about other worlds. His ingrained selfishness makes him unable to receive and recognize the greatest goodness that Aslan, the lion, would offer him.  Aslan remarks, "But I cannot tell that to this old sinner, and I cannot comfort him either; he has made himself unable to hear my voice. If I spoke to him, he would hear only growlings and roarings. Oh, Adam's son, how cleverly you defend yourself against all that might do you good!"
   When we pervert the gift of sight into an opportunity to begrudge others the things that God has allowed them to have, we drink the poison of envy.  It hurts us more than anyone else.

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