This is the seventh message in my series on sin in the church. Last week, I talked about how our spirit is perfectly holy in Christ. When our soul (mind, will, and emotions) and spirit are in agreement, our body (flesh) will follow.
I’ve already talked about bringing our mind into agreement with our spirit. Now we are focusing on our emotions.
James 3:14-16 warns us:
But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
We may not realize that envy is linked to selfishness. To be envious is to be discontent with who we are and what we have (focusing on ourselves), and to be jealous of and covet what someone else has.
Selfishness always leads to discontentment, which leads to envy. When we focus on ourselves we break our fellowship with the Lord. Jesus fills us with everything we need. When we try to fill ourselves, we will be left in lack. Our lack will then cause us to envy and seek what others have.
In the Old Testament, the Lord’s people were left unfulfilled and in lack as they pursued their own will instead of God’s will. The Lord spoke to them through the prophet Haggai:
Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”
This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the Lord. “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house. Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the olive oil and everything else the ground produces, on people and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands.
The King James and Amplified Versions define envy as “an evil eye” because it is not of God; it is of the devil (see James 3 above). Envy distorts our vision so we can’t see the truth. The devil takes what we can’t have (what is harmful to us) and makes it appealing in order to trap us. He did that in the Garden of Eden with Eve. The serpent (devil) pointed out the only fruit that was forbidden. “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it” (Genesis 3:6).
Proverbs 7:21-23 shows how deceptively appealing adultery is, and the trap it leads us into:
With persuasive words she led him astray; she seduced him with her smooth talk. All at once he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter, like a deer stepping into a noose till an arrow pierces his liver, like a bird darting into a snare, little knowing it will cost him his life.
The devil will also tempt us to envy what others have in order to prevent us from living out our calling. When my older brother and I were kids, my parents would hide eggs for us to find on Easter morning. My brother would follow behind me and then complain that I would get all the eggs. Every year, my parents would tell him to stop following me and find his own eggs. He would never listen and I’d always end up with more eggs than him.
I think we do the same thing in life. We see someone living out their calling, so we try to follow what they’re doing instead of seeking our own divine purpose. We are then left in lack while they are fulfilled. We complain at God and wonder why He’s blessing them more than us. But God is like my parents and telling us to stop following others and start following Him.
In my book “The LOVE Walk,” I shared how envy distorted the truth in my life for many years and kept me from my calling. When I started seeking God’s will, I found that most of the things I thought I had to have in the past, and was envious of in others, I didn’t even want. Envy blinds us of our true heart’s desires. It makes us think we need something that we don’t even want. Proverbs 14:30 says, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” Envy robs us of our life because it keeps us chasing after something we can never take hold of.
And I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man’s envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
I remember the freedom I felt when I finally laid down everything I was chasing after and gave my will over to God’s will. When I stopped wanting what others had, and started seeking His will, I became free to be me. By being content with what God has given me, He has been able to bring out His heart’s desires in me. I couldn’t see those desires when they were buried under a heart filled with selfish ambition and envy.
Let not your heart envy sinners: but BE YOU in the fear of the LORD all the day long.
Proverbs 23:17 (AKJV)
We praise You that You have no favorites. You will never bless anyone more or less than You would bless us. Your promises are the same for all who will receive them. We praise You that You have gifted and called each of us to a divine purpose. Help us to seek Your will so that we can live out the calling You have marked out for us. We praise You that Your gifts and calling are irrevocable (Romans 11:29). We turn from our selfish pursuits and seek Your will and receive our calling.
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen!
*The “Sin Series” will continue next Monday (Eastern Time).