From envy to contentment
“I wish … I had their car.”
“I wish … I had their house.”
“I wish … I had their fitness.”
“I wish … I had their ministry, popularity, kids, teeth, status, pension, hair …!”
Why are we not content?
In spiritual terms, we have something wrong with us. Even as Christians, saved by God’s power, with the Holy Spirit within us and new life in Christ, we still live in mortal bodies. The old me is still here! Our mind and our body are influenced by our old nature which was ruled by sin. But wonderfully as Christians we are no longer to be slaves to sin, ruled by it, but slaves to righteousness and ruled by Christ.
… count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.Romans 6:11-12
Part of God’s rule in us is to call us and equip us to grow into the new life, ever more like Jesus, ever more pleasing to God, and enjoying a life shaped by holiness. He calls us to put to death the old life and put on a new life, wear the character of Christ, with God’s help to grow this in us. Like the apostle Paul, we can ‘labour’ for this, relying on God’s ‘energy, whichso powerfully works’ in us(Col. 1:29).
We need this power if we’re going to deal with the deadly sin of envy. Envy is fundamentallya sin which focuses on ourselves in competition with others. It is not about them, but what they have or who we perceive them as.
- Envy implies a lack of humility, which resents the popularity and acclaim of others, and is discontent with what we have.
- Envy implies a lack of securityin who we are, who God has made us – for example, our wealth, status, talents, spirituality, or appearance.
- Envy clearly shows a lack of gratitude, a discontentmentwith the present state of affairs. A lack of gratitude before God for what we do have and enjoy, focusing instead on other people’s blessings, perhaps not seeing their burdens or failings.
We are more likely to be envious of someone of whom we can realistically measure their wealth, status or popularity in our own terms. We are unlikely to be envious of a Saudi prince for his über-wealth of 100’s of billions, or of a global popstar for having millions of Twitter followers, or of a President’s power. We are more likely to envy our neighbour, work colleague or friend, i.e. someone in our ‘orbit’. And more likely for their car or house than their superyacht.
God has generously provided us with a full toolkit to dispose of these deadly sins. His Spirit is with us, his word has power, prayer connects us to him, and strength comes from godly friends standing with us. Open the toolkit, put it to work.
Envy can be replaced with contentment.
Contentment. That sublime quality from God. A shield of peace against flaming arrows that would rattle and undermine us. Growing in contentment frees us to enjoy life, to bless others, to rest from worry and striving for more.
…when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work – this is a gift of God.Ecclesiastes 5:19
Perhaps we just need to count our blessings, not those of other people.
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