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3:58 p.m. Mom’s Spring Mantle
Why do we sinfully compare? Because we have “become conceited.” But there is another reason: we envy because we doubt God’s goodness.
We decide that (fill in the blank) is good for us. We don’t have it. Someone else does. Therefore (we conclude) God is good to them and not good to us.
We doubt His love. Oh, maybe not His love in general—we would never say “God is not loving”—but we doubt that He loves us, really.
This is unequivocally NOT TRUE! God HAS BEEN and ALWAYS WILL BE good to us.
“For the Lord is good.” Ps. 100:5
“Yes, the Lord will give what is good.” Ps. 85:12
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Rom. 8:28
“No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Ps. 84:11
The proof of His goodness is at the cross. The guarantee of his goodness is in the resurrection.
“He will do us good, real good, lasting good, only good, every good. He will make us good, and this is to do us good to the highest degree” insists Charles Spurgeon (HT: Julie Kauflin).
God’s priority is to make us good—which is our best good.
So think about it: this “good” that we lack and that someone else has is not a sign God has forgotten us or doesn’t care about us—just the opposite! It is an evidence of his goodness! It is an opportunity for us to learn to trust His ways, to understand His love more deeply, to grow in Christ-likeness.
It is, because He is, good!
“The thing that the envious person…dislikes, is, the comparative superiority of the state of honor, or prosperity or happiness, that another may enjoy, over that which he possesses.” Jonathan Edwards
I’ve envied all these things: the honor, the possessions, the happiness of others. But what I didn’t always see was the pride—the desire for superiority—that fueled my envy.
Why do I envy? Quite simply: I want to be superior. I want to be the best, to have the best, to look the best. I don’t like it when other people have it better than me.
It’s not wrong to desire certain blessings. It can even be very good. But the moment I turn and compare my blessings (or lack thereof) with others, it reveals the pride in my heart.
Pride is the fountain from which envy flows. “Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another” (Gal. 5:26, see also 1 Tim. 6:4, Phil 2:1ff).
We envy one another because we have become conceited. We do not consider others better than ourselves, but instead, we want to be better than others. We think we deserve as much, if not more, than they have (Phil. 2:1).
But the pride of envy isn’t only against others—it “contends for supremacy” with God Himself (Charles Bridges, qtd. in Humility, p. 31).
In our envy, we grasp at God’s sovereignty, object to His wisdom, and seek to obscure His glory. We fail to imitate our Savior, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped” (Phil. 2:6).
I knew it was wrong to compare, but it’s worse than I thought! Thanks be to God that “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom. 5:20).
I remember a sad episode of envy in my life. Someone (close to me) got something I wanted. To be honest, I was content to live without it—until she got it. But when she did, I was consumed with self-pity and discontent.
It was not a pretty sight.
The real ugliness, though, lay below the surface. These words expose envy for the evil that it is:
“What an envier wants is not, first of all, what another has; what an envier wants is for another not to have it…The envier has empty hands and therefore wants to empty the hands of the envied. Envy, moreover, carries overtones of personal resentment; an envier resents not only somebody else’s blessing but also the one who has been blessed” (Cornelius Plantinga).
Remember the story of the two women who came to Solomon in a dispute over a baby? The one who stole the baby was content to let the true mother be bereaved, just as she was. What appalling behavior!
But in my envy, I was no better. I wanted to snatch someone’s blessing away, simply because I couldn’t have it. And even though I loved this person dearly, I resented her for being blessed.
It was hard to face, but seeing envy, in all its ugliness, was the first and necessary step toward killing it.
Last week I found the nastiest (and I mean really nasty) bug on my window. My husband, dad, and brother were all gone. Definitely an emergency! I simply could not bring myself to get this guy on my own. Did I mention that he was seriously nasty? So, as illustrated in the picture below, I “saved” the little critter for Mike to take care of when he got home. I sent him an e-mail with the picture simply letting him know that “a bug was waiting for him.” Thanks to my Caly-girl for holding the cup while I taped! Don’t you think the pink duck tape was a nice touch?
Janelle for Mom, Nicole, and Kristin
Once we realize we may have a problem with envy, we need to figure out where the problem is, exactly.
Chances are, we won’t need to look very far. As Aristotle observed: “We envy those who are near us in time, place, age or reputation.”
Envy isn’t a world traveler. It busies itself with the locals.
So the Hollywood star with her perfect figure, gorgeous face, and fabulous wardrobe is probably not a threat. But when a new girl shows up at church and turns all the guys’ heads, we may suddenly feel unattractive and discontent.
Women around the globe get married, have babies, and move into bigger houses every day, and we barely notice. But when our best friend gets married, has babies, and moves into a bigger house, we may find it hard to rejoice.
We may admire talented people, from afar. But if the girl in our class gets a better grade, or our coworker earns a promotion, or a mom we know does a better job with her kids, or if a friend gets more attention for her gifts and talents than we do, we may find a resentful feeling rising up in our hearts.
The closer a person is, the more we should beware of envy.
Recently, I came across this magazine article that CJ first showed me a couple of years ago. It’s a refreshing reminder of the grace of God that comes to us each and every day (yes, even today!) I’d encourage you to read it and then put it in a safe place—you’re going to want to read it again. I’ll leave you with a snippet:
So here it is, another day. I did nothing to deserve it. I just woke up this morning, and there it was. I may have expected it to be there, but I had no right to. Just like Christmas morning, I got up to find a present waiting for me, a brand new day.
Yes, today is a gift. And it has my name on the tag. This present from God has been custom-made for me. God has filled it with blessings, some obvious and some in disguise. Its difficulties and challenges are tailored to fit my size. It may not be exactly what I asked for, but it is exactly what I need.
World Magazine, November 18, 2006
When we ask, “What about her?”, when we “turn” and compare our life unfavorably to another, we tend to cast ourselves in the role of “victim.”
Poor me! I have to deal with this person who dares to have it better than me, right in front of me! How can I help but compare? The disparity is impossible to ignore!
We like to talk about “our temptation to compare” because we’re likely to rake in some sympathy and understanding. And oh how we love sympathy and understanding!
But Scripture calls comparison out for what it is: the sin of envy.
Jonathan Edwards offers this definition:
“Envy [is] a spirit of dissatisfaction with, and opposition to, the prosperity and happiness of others as compared with our own. The thing that the envious person is opposed to, and dislikes is the comparative superiority of the state of honour; or prosperity or happiness, that another may enjoy, over that which he possesses” (emphasis mine).
I’m generally happy for the happiness of others—just so long as it doesn’t exceed my own!
But if they get a bigger house (compared to me) or more attention (compared to me); if they have better health (compared to me) or more obedient children (compared to me); if they are prettier than me, more gifted than me, more fun than me—then a twinge of dislike, a feeling of opposition, a spirit of dissatisfaction begins to rise in my heart.
And that dislike and dissatisfaction are sure signs of envy.