Feel Free: Envy
This month’s series Feel Free is all about emotions. The goal is not to make negative emotions stop, but to get to the root motivation of what is causing that emotion. This week we tackled the emotion of envy. Like any other emotion, envy is a signal that something deeper is going on in our heart.
Envy is wanting what you don’t have—feeling like what you have is not enough that you deserve more—indeed that you are owed more by God. Envy thrives off of comparison, whether it is material comparison, relational comparison, or circumstantial comparison.
We see the emotion of envy in full force through the story of the Israelites in Numbers 11:1-6. God was providing for the Israelites in the wilderness through manna. The Israelites were comparing that food to what they had in Egypt. Their discontent turned into envy and their complaint raised to the Lord, and the “anger of the Lord blazed hotly.” In this passage, we can follow the signal emotion of envy to find the root cause of it.
1. Envy forgets God’s goodness poured out in the past
In Numbers 11:1-6 we see how the Israelites forgot God’s goodness to free them of slavery, by comparing the manna in the present to the food they had in the past in Egypt. Because of comparison, we forget to remember God’s goodness to free us of the things that used to hold us captive.
2. Envy overlooks God’s goodness provided in the present
The Israelites were wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, not because of lack on God’s part to bring them into the promised land, but because of the Israelites consistent complaint, distrust, and disobedience, yet God was still faithful even in their faithlessness to provide for them in the present.
3. Envy ignores God’s goodness promised for the future
Just like the Israelites, we can ignore God’s promises for the future if we feed envy with comparison. Our desires for marriage, a fulfilling job, or even a restored family are all only temporary. Our deepest God-given desires for relationship will be fulfilled when we enter into eternal relationship with the Father. Anything we feel God is holding out on us is only temporary in the light of eternity.
4. Envy doubts God’s goodness expressed through his guidance
The root of envy is idolatry; living a life that you worship God plus something else. To those of us who feel the emotion of envy driving our comparison and complaint, God asks us, “When will I be enough for you?” The Apostle Paul model modeled contentment for us who desire what we don’t have, in Philippians 4:11-19. Even in prison, being changed to a soldier for the sake of the Gospel, Paul was able to worship. From Paul, we learn that the secret to contentment is NOT thankful for the little you have, but seeing how MUCH you have really been given.
As we are on social media, interact with family, and continue at our jobs, would we keep an eternal perspective that all we need for this life is provided for us in what Jesus won for us on the cross. When our desires for things overwhelm us as we see others enjoying the promises we have not been given yet, would we be able to be thankful for all that Jesus has already given us. Anything we do not get in this life will be fully realized in eternity with our Father.