Kermit says, “Green is what I want to be.” That’s cool…if you are a frog. It is not as cool when you are a Christian. Paul references, in our text, a lot of baby Christians that were green in Corinth, green with envy. Green is not what a Christian needs to be. I want to help us deal with the Green-eyed Giant of envy.
The literal meaning (of the word envy in the Greek) is to boil within.
We boil within because we see God blessing someone from without. We see others who have something that we don’t have, and we are affected by the Green-eyed Giant of envy.
Envy is the basest (contemptible) emotion that we have. Dr. John Townsend
The Bible says that as Christians we are to, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15) But when we envy, the reverse is true. When we envy, we rejoice when they weep, and we weep when they rejoice. For example, this past week was hard for my daughter Angie to rejoice with Rick Pitino and his Louisville Cardinals. Why? She was jealous for the Big Blue Nation. The Cards were experiencing something that the Cats were not, and Angie was envious for Kentucky.
A tranquil heart is life to the body, but jealousy is rottenness to the bones. Proverbs 14:30
Now, there are certain conditions that can be linked to envy or jealousy.
Notice what the Bible says about Isaac, “The Lord blessed him,” (v. 12).
- He became rich
- The Lord blessed him more
- He became richer
- He had possessions
- He had servants
Then notice what the Bible says about the Philistines, “and the Philistines were envious of him.” (v. 14) Notice the word envious is used as a verb, and it is used expressing strong emotions. In other words, they were boiling over with green—eyed envy. Please listen to me very carefully, I am not attempting to condemn wealth. Some of the finest Christians that I know are people of means. What I condemn is this “Green-eyed Giant of envy.” Envy is when you have a bigger house than I, and I am envious. Envy is when you drive a more luxurious car than I, and I am envious. We never condemn the car or the house, we condemn the jealousy.
The only person worth envying is the person who does not envy.
They came together against Moses and Aaron. Why? The Bible is clear. Psalm 106:16 says, “In the camp they were envious of Moses and of Aaron,” In Scripture, we find people are often envious of one another;
- Kings envious of kings
- Religious leaders envious of Christians
- Christians envious of other Christians
In business, we find businessmen and women envious of one another. In education, we find teachers and administrators envious of one another.
In sports we find schools and athletes that are envious of one another. In churches we find preachers who are envious of other preachers. G. Campbell Morgan was holding meetings in Northfield, MA, and large crowds were coming. The British preacher F. B. Meyer was envious. Meyer said, “The only way I could conquer my feelings of envy was to pray for Morgan daily.” He went on to say, “Which I do (pray for Morgan daily).”
Think about the saga that existed between David and Saul. It began when David was just a young shepherd boy. David was able to defeat the Philistine Giant Goliath. But Saul was not able to defeat the Green-eyed Giant of Envy. Later in life the women of Israel would sing, “Saul has slain his thousands, but David his ten thousands.” Envy in the life of Saul became so pervasive that he dedicated the rest of his life to hunting down David for the purpose of murder.
Now here we are thousands of years later, and we still struggle with this same Green-eyed Giant.
- We battle him in our choirs
- We battle him in our Sunday Schools
- We battle him among church staff
- We battle him among sister churches
Did you know that the enemy attends church? Did you know that the devil knows which buttons to push? Did you know that the enemy knows how to plant thoughts in the mind (the mind is the citadel of the soul)? The enemy knows how to manipulate things in order that we might become jealous of one another.
“Envy slithers through the halls and pews of the godliest of congregations. Envy tears at the body of Christ, and the only antidotes are heaping helpings of love and grace.” David Jeremiah
Envy provides the mud that failure throws at success.
“To be sure, some preach Christ out of envy and strife, but others out of good will. These do so out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the others proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely, seeking to cause me anxiety in my imprisonment.” Philippians 1:15-17
While Paul was in prison there were those preaching, not to spread the gospel, but to damage the ministry of the apostle Paul. Why? They had been infected by the Green-eyed Giant of Envy. These men claimed to be ministers of the gospel, but in reality they were merely jealous of Paul. The NLT says, “They preach out of jealousy and rivalry.” (Philippians 1:16) They were trying to practice “one-upmanship.” I have heard ministers say some amazingly jealous things about one another. Oh, how petty we can become.
Think about brothers Cain and Abel. Bible says, “Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Let’s go out to the field.’ And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.” (Genesis 4:8) Why did Cain kill his brother? Cain killed his brother because he was jealous of him!
Think about Jacob and Esau. If you really want to know how to destroy a family study the life of Jacob and Esau. Here is what I have learned to be true, “when a family member turns green with envy, that family is ripe for trouble.”
Think about the elder son as described in Luke 15,
his older son was in the field; as he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he summoned one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 ‘Your brother is here,’ he told him, ‘and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ 28 “Then he became angry and didn’t want to go in. So his father came out and pleaded with him. 29 But he replied to his father, ‘Look, I have been slaving many years for you, and I have never disobeyed your orders, yet you never gave me a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your assets with prostitutes, you slaughtered the fattened calf for him.’ Luke 15:25-30
NO FATTED CALF FOR ME! NO PARTY FOR ME!
More people today, in our narcissistic society, could identify with the elder son (jealous son), than with the younger son (rebellious son).
Then there was Jacob. Jacob was a man who played favorites. Jacob lavished gifts on Joseph more than his 11 older brothers. Parents, you do a great deal of harm when you show favoritism. Now the older brothers did not throw Joseph a party, they threw Joseph in a pit.
Here is what I have learned families. When jealousy comes through the front door of your home—love goes out the back door.
When envy is in the house, there’s not room for any other emotion.
The demons were working the destruction of the man of God. They tried tempting him, but could not tempt him above what he was able to bear. God was always faithful in providing him a way of escape. They tried to seduce him, but he had learned to flee youthful lust. They tried to cause him to doubt, but he had exercised his faith. They had tried all to no avail. Finally, Satan himself said, “out of the way boys, let the master show you how to work.” Satan went over to the man of God and whispered in his ear, “the preacher down the street has been called to a bigger church.” At that moment, the break the demons had been waiting for, his heart quickly filled with the Green-eyed Giant of Envy. Satan said to his army of demon, “See boys, works every time.”
Some closing thoughts on envy:
- Envy destroys others. Cain was jealous, yet his jealousy destroyed Abel.
- Envy destroys us. Cain’s jealousy not only destroyed Abel, his jealousy also destroyed Cain.
- Perhaps you remember the story of the cheerleader mom in Texas that murdered her cheerleader daughter’s rival. The envy that was displayed by this jealous mom, not only destroyed her daughter’s rival, but it ended up destroying her as well.
- The envy of Saul destroyed Saul.
- The crowd that was jealous of Daniel were destroyed by their own jealousy. They were cast into the lion’s den they had reserved for Daniel.
So, how do we respond to envy?
- We need to renounce it as sin
- We need to pray for our rivals (it’s tough to be jealous when all of heaven is looking down on you as you pray)
- We need to reaffirm God’s goodness to us (God has not given us everything…but God has given us enough)
- We need to rekindle the love of God in our hearts. The Bible says, “Love does not envy,” (1 Corinthians 13:4)
I have learned there is absolutely no need to be envious. Here’s why, if we will get our lives right with the Lord; saved, sanctified, serving, submissive, and willing to suffer for Him (if necessary)…then,
He will give you your heart’s desires. Psalm 37:4
So, we need to get our hearts right. Then God will give us the desires of our hearts. Let’s not allow our hearts to be filled with envy. But let’s allow our hearts to be filled with thankfulness. Apply Philippians 4:11-12 to your life,
I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. Philippians 4:11-12