Envy – A Prescription for Unhappiness

Sermon Titled “Choosing to Separate” (Genesis 13) – June 9th, 2013

In Genesis 13, Abraham and his nephew Lot reach a crossroads in their journey together, where it becomes obvious that the area that they have arrived and settled at is not large enough to sustain both families and all of their herdsmen, cattle, and possessions. Abraham foresees much quarreling if the two families attempt to live together, and so he suggests to Lot that there is plenty of land before them that can be divided up and shared between them. In verse 9, Abraham says, “Is not the whole land before you?” Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.”

It’s hard to blame Lot for what happens next, as we are all guilty to some degree of wanting “more,” wanting “the latest,” and wanting the “best.” Lot was no different; he saw that the whole plain of the Jordan, to the east, was well watered, and he greedily claimed it for himself.

The problem however, was that the plain of the Jordan also encompassed the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah, and in these towns lived men and women who were living in so much sin that they were detestable to God. In pursuing a more abundant land, Lot was willing to also plant himself and his family in a place which was essentially a “hell on earth,” and if you read on from Genesis 13, you will see that Lot’s choices result in dire consequences.

On a less dramatic scale, we might not end up homeless like Lot and his family did (or turn into a pillar of salt, like his wife), but there are definite undesirable consequences for those of us who insist on letting envy take a hold of our thoughts, emotions, and actions. Here are some examples of the type of envy I’m referring to:

  • Comparing ourselves with others and wishing we had their: beauty, body, home, car, job, talent, etc.
  • Resenting a coworker for getting promoted ahead of, or in place of you.
  • Feeling jealous of a friend who experiences some type of good fortune.
  • Criticizing (or gossiping about) a friend or colleague for earning a reward that you don’t feel they deserved.
  • Always focusing on the successes of others, and feeling cheated.

How do any of these scenarios benefit the person doing the envying? I can’t think of one good reason to harbor these kinds of jealous thoughts; they serve absolutely no purpose and result only in further feelings of low self-esteem, low self-worth, anger, depression, and even isolation (since no one enjoys being around negative-minded people).

But more importantly, and from a Christian perspective, such feelings only lend towards a diminished faith in God, since we are instructed to trust God in all things. If we are so self-centered and consumed by bitter thoughts provoked by jealousy, then we are choosing to believe that God is not capable of blessing us. And even if we never receive the kinds of blessings that we desire, it is not God’s will for us to “covet” the blessings of others (Exodus 10:20).

Regardless of what paths our lives take, whether they are filled with multiple or minimal blessings, a greater assurance of happiness will not result from a daily dose of envy.


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