Let’s talk about envy a little more.
It doesn’t play nice. You’re grinding along and suddenly someone appears on the phone or television with a bigger house, relishing a career they were born for, holding someone’s hand or pushing a stroller. Boom. Envy sweeps over you like a tidal wave. Whoosh. The tabloids and self-help mags shout from the supermarket rack about everything that you’re not. Pow. You hear a story in church about how someone else has finally reached the end of a debilitating trial. Crunch.
You sigh even as you celebrate, wondering why God hasn’t delivered you. The life you have seems to darken and pale.
If envy isn’t a deluge, it’s a leak that gradually covers the floor and wreaks havoc with your soul’s drywall. Let your guard down and your day is shot. It’s a menace within the chest, forceful and unsympathetic.
How do we typically answer?
We sigh, turn to cutesy memes, count our blessings and remind ourselves of the God’s goodness. We try half-heartedly to distract ourselves.
Am I alone in saying it hasn’t been enough?
Perhaps the problem is that we’re resisting a tidal wave with a small pink umbrella. Scripture commands us to do more – much more. If you don’t like the wave, get off the beach.
It’s not a sin to long for something. It’s when we lack joy in Jesus rising up alongside and surpassing our other desires that you’ve reached idolatry.
King Josiah didn’t pull his punches in dealing with Judah’s idolatry.
The king ordered Hilkiah the high priest, the priests next in rank and the doorkeepers to remove from the temple of the Lord all the articles made for Baal and Asherah and all the starry hosts. He burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron Valley…he did away with the idolatrous priests appointed by the kings of Judah to burn incense…he took the Asherah pole from the temple of the Lord to the Kidron Valley…he ground it to powder and scattered the dust over the graves of the common people. He also tore down the quarters of the male shrine prostitutes that were in the temple of the Lord…
He desecrated Topheth, which was in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, so no one could use it to sacrifice their son or daughter in the fire to Molek. …
He pulled down the altars the kings of Judah had erected on the roof near the upper room of Ahaz, and the altars Manasseh had built in the two courts of the temple of the Lord. He removed them from there, smashed them to pieces and threw the rubble into the Kidron Valley.
Even the altar at Bethel, the high place made by Jeroboam son of Nebat, who had caused Israel to sin—even that altar and high place he demolished. (2 Kings 23)
The action verbing goes on for twenty verses. By the end of Josiah’s whirlwind, the Kidron Valley chokes on the remnants of Judah’s sin.
What refreshing gumption. Josiah took no prisoners. He set himself even against the legacy of his own ancestors. And Scripture honors him – “never before had there been a king like Josiah” (v. 25) – for the totality and vigor of his actions.
The kingdom needs more of this. Envy is not steam to be idly waved away with passive measures. It’s a system, buoyed and harnessed by the world (to make money) and the devil (to make disheartened Christians). If you want to be free, you’ll have to do what Josiah did – fight.
This means a game plan. Rearranging your life, eliminating envy’s breeding grounds.
It might mean turning off
the television Netflix. I don’t know what happened to old shows like Roseanne, which celebrated the struggling family in the modest house, but my generation got the ritz of The O.C. and Gossip Girl. It cuts off contentment at the knees. Same with the tabloids; how much more contentment awaits you in the supermarket’s “family-friendly” aisle?
Perhaps social media needs to go, as some of my friends have found. “Here’s everything you didn’t get invited to!” Contentment was so much easier before Envybook. Product placements, strategies-for-success humanism…if these things make it harder to appreciate what God has given you, why set them before your eyes? Fight for your contentment; break envy’s supply lines; allow no place for ambushes.
Single guys, guard your eyes. Lust isn’t just sin, it’s the first step to dissatisfaction with your future wife. Single ladies – may I intrude? – put down the dimestore novels and chick flicks. Why shoot your contentment in the foot?
I’ve known a few singles who stopped going to weddings. A radical step, but they know they owe God more than they owe their friends, and what they owe God is their contentment. They mail the happy couple a certificate to Bed, Bath, and Beyond and turn their eyes upon Jesus.
Engage in prayer. Out loud, concentrated, for more than twenty seconds. It’s given to you for this reason.
This is all quite disruptive. I’m often the first to go (best whiny voice) Aww, do I have to?
No, you don’t. You don’t have to escape the “quiet desperation”, as Thoreau put it. You can stay there if you like.
My testimony? If I want joy, I have to get off the couch and ensure it.
The necessary steps will differ for everyone, but my point is, Christian discipline has looked passive for far too long. God didn’t give us Ephesians 6 to be poetic. There are things to be fought for, and one of them is the happiness that comes from enjoying what God has already given us.
Does it not feel refreshing? Like driving along with your car seat sliding back and forth until you finally growl and pull over, get out, and latch the thing down properly. I should have done that ten gas stations ago.
Pray. Turn your eyes. Rearrange what you must.
What do you need to fight, change, or eliminate to offer God your contentment?
I’m glad you tuned in today. If you found this post to be of value, feel free to share it on social media. Thanks a bunch!