Posted on August 28, 2013
#17: Envy—Four Ways it Destroys (Part 1)
Glad you’re here, joining in as we begin studying Mark 3 in Knowing Jesus!
Envy—nicknamed “the green-eyed monster”—has been gnawing on humans since Eden, when satan’s siren song enticed Eve to eat forbidden fruit out of desire to have what belonged to God. Envy bites us all at times, and will devour us if unchecked.
How did Jesus react to envy? What would He want our reaction to be? Let’s find out.
Read Mark 3:1-6. Then look at the same account in Matthew 12:9-14 and Luke 6:6-11.
Jealous over Jesus’ popularity, the Jewish leaders had taken to following Him, looking for reasons to accuse Him. On this Sabbath, they were positively salivating, knowing that in the synagogue’s assembly was just the sort of victim Jesus loved to heal. If they could successfully lure Jesus to “work” on the Sabbath by healing a shriveled hand in front of many witnesses—hah!—they would have Him dead to rights.
Jesus asked the man to stand up in front of everyone. All could see his disability. All knew the stigma attached. (Jews viewed disabilities as a consequence of sin; anyone with physical defect was barred from the inner courts of the temple by rabbinical rule.)
Jesus asked, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” Silence. Silent responses can be very telling. A man who knows he’s wrong but is unwilling to change, says nothing.
There was no law—rabbinical or otherwise—against talking on the Sabbath. Jesus did no “work,” made no effort, didn’t even touch the man. He just spoke a phrase. “Reach out your hand.” The man obeyed, expecting to see his withered hand—but it was whole!
In 1987, a stroke left my grandmother with a withered hand. She lived with that impediment for eighteen years. I know how it altered her life, even with modern conveniences. I understand something of what healing meant to this man on a practical level, plus the added relief from cultural shame. This was life-changing, and everyone in the crowd knew it. Beyond that, it was a miracle unfolding right before their eyes!
But envy had bred hatred in the hearts of the leaders. Their hopes for accusation had slipped away again, and they were angry. Murderously angry. From this point on, they began to plot Jesus’ destruction in earnest.
Jesus was angry too, and deeply distressed at hearts so bitter they could feel no compassion for the man’s plight, no wonder at his healing.
What is envy? It’s defined as “displeasure felt at witnessing or hearing of the advantage or prosperity enjoyed by others.” In other words, when someone else’s good news is our bad news, envy is on the move.
How does envy strangle us?
• It makes us unloving. In 1 Corinthians 13, “the love chapter,” verse four tells us love “does not envy.” When we love someone we celebrate his happiness. If, instead, we resent his happiness, we’re not reacting out of love.
• It makes us greedy, a form of idolatry. (Col. 3:5) We begin to say to ourselves, “To be really happy, I need what he/she has.” When desire for that object overshadows our desire for God, it becomes our god.
• It makes us mistrustful, causing us to question the will and ways of God—”Why did God give _________ to her instead of to me?” We eventually dismiss God’s will in favor of our own.
• It brings out the worst in us. Look up “envy” in a thesaurus and read its opposites; you’ll find “contentedness, kindness, pleasure, confidence, good will, comfort”—characteristics of godliness. Envy suppresses godly traits in us, to satan’s advantage.
The Enemy, whose business is “to steal and kill and destroy,” uses envy to choke out the life Jesus came to give us (Jn. 10:10).
What do you think?
Has envy squeezed your heart lately? Would Jesus have reason to be “deeply distressed” over your resentment at another’s successes? What can you do about it?
Tomorrow morning, we’ll look at Four Ways to Beat Envy in part two of this post. Meet you then!
© Diane McLoud 2013