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The Sin of Envy

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A long time ago, in an Italian city, a beautiful tower was built which was admired by everyone passing through. A little further down the road, in a neighbouring city, another tower was built of similar beauty. The two towers were equally well known.
The people of the second city, envious and filled with pride, planned to destroy the neighbouring tower so it wouldn't take attention away from their own. One dark night, they came to the tower, with picks and shovels, and began to quietly undermine its foundations.
The next morning, the tower was leaning slightly, but nobody seemed to notice. The same happened for the following few days, until a little girl who was passing by pointed up at the tower and said: "I think that the tower is going to fall down." And everyone around looked closely, and could see that she was right.
The fact that it was leaning now made it even more famous, and this taught a fine lesson to the envious people of the neighbouring city. Being jealous types as they were, they now tried to copy the lean of the tower, but they couldn't do it, and their own tower ended up collapsing, leaving the city not only without a tower, but also without a city hall.
Envy is something that we all deal with…no doubt.
Something we probably deal with more than we think....
And today - Solomon is going to tackle this thing called - ENVY...
Let’s see what he says
Ecclesiastes 4:4–6 ESV
4 Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind. 5 The fool folds his hands and eats his own flesh. 6 Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.
If you remember last week - we finished the sermon by talking about - The Joy of the Lord
And what we saw was that The Joy of the Lord is not only...
the fuel of God-Honoring Obedience...
It’s also the result of God-Honoring obedience....!**
*And so we saw that The Joy of the Lord PRODUCES the Joy of the Lord...
the Joy of the Lord LEADS to the Joy of the Lord
And that of course is a good thing!
But there’s a FLIP SIDE to this...
There’s also a RECIPROCATING bad side to this...
ENVY operates in the same way...
ENVY - produces - or leads to - ENVY
NOW - you might be thinking - OK, what’s wrong with envy?
ENVY is the same as coveteousness - in the sense that COVETEOUSNESS is to desire something in a way that you shouldn’t...
A part of ENVY is a - discontented resentment....
And God said this...
Exodus 20:17 ESV
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
The call from God here is that His people NOT COVET (desire, crave) things that do not belong to them...
And when we DIG deep enough into this thing called “ENVY” or COVETEOUSNESS”, we see that ENVY is this - -
SLIDE: ENVY: Love of Self


v4 speaks to this
Ecclesiastes 4:4 ESV
4 Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.
Solomon here is saying -
All of man’s work....all of his skill...
When we watch athletes…we see how hard they work to get where they are...
We hear of how crazy..
Lebron James’ workouts are...
Jerry Rice
Jarvis Landry
These guys are famous for working harder than everyone else...
And AS they work…the MORE they work…the more SKILL they attain...
And Solomon says - THAT skill comes from ENVY of neighbor!
And so - in THEIR cases - Lebron James LOOKED to - who? Michael Jordan...
*I can speak for myself
When i was in college…We had scouts around (i played with quite a few guys who ended up playing professionally)
during the summers…I would be sitting on a bench....working out...
And I remember saying to myself (as I was getting ready from another set)...
“Someone else is working harder than me”....repeat
My mind - in a sense - was on my - NEIGHBOR
We always had guys coming to Cleveland State from big High Schools
these guys hit like .600 in high School
And they’re coming to play Shortstop at Cleveland State...
What was MY mindset!????
When it came time to get on the field - NO - You gotta run me off the field!
And THAT ain’t happening!
When you boil is all down - our work....our skill - it all flows from ENVY...
EACH of us - striving after WHAT WE DON’T HAVE!!
And ENVY itself - LISTEN - respects - no one!
Has this ALWAYS been so?
1 Kings 21:1–16 ESV
1 Now Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard in Jezreel, beside the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. 2 And after this Ahab said to Naboth, “Give me your vineyard, that I may have it for a vegetable garden, because it is near my house, and I will give you a better vineyard for it; or, if it seems good to you, I will give you its value in money.” 3 But Naboth said to Ahab, “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.” 4 And Ahab went into his house vexed and sullen because of what Naboth the Jezreelite had said to him, for he had said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.” And he lay down on his bed and turned away his face and would eat no food. 5 But Jezebel his wife came to him and said to him, “Why is your spirit so vexed that you eat no food?” 6 And he said to her, “Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite and said to him, ‘Give me your vineyard for money, or else, if it please you, I will give you another vineyard for it.’ And he answered, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.’ ” 7 And Jezebel his wife said to him, “Do you now govern Israel? Arise and eat bread and let your heart be cheerful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.” 8 So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal, and she sent the letters to the elders and the leaders who lived with Naboth in his city. 9 And she wrote in the letters, “Proclaim a fast, and set Naboth at the head of the people. 10 And set two worthless men opposite him, and let them bring a charge against him, saying, ‘You have cursed God and the king.’ Then take him out and stone him to death.” 11 And the men of his city, the elders and the leaders who lived in his city, did as Jezebel had sent word to them. As it was written in the letters that she had sent to them, 12 they proclaimed a fast and set Naboth at the head of the people. 13 And the two worthless men came in and sat opposite him. And the worthless men brought a charge against Naboth in the presence of the people, saying, “Naboth cursed God and the king.” So they took him outside the city and stoned him to death with stones. 14 Then they sent to Jezebel, saying, “Naboth has been stoned; he is dead.” 15 As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned and was dead, Jezebel said to Ahab, “Arise, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, which he refused to give you for money, for Naboth is not alive, but dead.” 16 And as soon as Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, Ahab arose to go down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it.
Ahab - King of Samaria - had a palace…BUT WANTED this man’s vineyard...
A Palace wasn’t enough…And what did it lead to? DEATH!
This is ENVY...
Does this sound familiar?
Remember DAVID...
David had many wives…many concubines…YET - what?
He stole another man’s wife!
And had that man - killed!
In each of these cases, and in all the others - we see that ENVY is the LOVE of SELF...
When we ELEVATE our own interests ABOVE the interest of others...
we then STEP outside of God’s will...
Philippians 2:3 ESV
3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
And if ENVY is the LOVE of self - we can see in Scripture how it must then WAR against Christianity...
Galatians 2:20 ESV
20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Paul had died to himself...
It was NO LONGER he who lived…but Christ who lived in him...
Matthew 16:25 ESV
25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
This flies in the face of - it OPPOSES ENVY!
And since it DOES - Since ENVY wars against Christianity…because it’s the LOVE OF SELF...
We can actually see that...
SLIDE: ENVY: Feeds on Christian Character


When we think about what ENVY is - in that it’s a LOVE OF SELF...
we realize that...
SLIDE: ENVY: Denies God’s True Character


If I look to my neighbor…and I see his house, his boat, his car, his job, his wife, his LIFE....
And i think - MAN - I Wish i had that!!!
When we DO that - we’re SAYING something about God!
We’re QUESTIONING His control over our lives…and His goodness!
Romans 8:32 ESV
32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
Do you see - When doubts start to flood our minds..
When our eyes begin to GLANCE around at what everyone else has...
And we begin to CRAVE those things...
Do you see what God wants us to MEDITATE on?
When you’re HEART begins to DESIRE other people’s POSSESSIONS...
God says - I’ve GIVEN YOU the most precious gift EVER - in my SON...
So TRUST that I will give you what’s BEST FOR you!
Envy DENIES God’s True Character...
ENVY also...
SLIDE: ENVY: Chokes Out Love


If someone I know HAS something I WANT…it’s going to be hard for me to LOVE them the way I should...
I’m going to be TOO concerned for MY LACK and not thinking about LOVING them!
A lot of times, ENVY will cause us to look at someone and in an EVIL kind of way, wish them ILL WILL...
BUT - What does Romans 12:15 say
Romans 12:15 ESV
15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
It will be extremely difficult to do either of these things with people that I’m ENVIOUS of...
We begin to believe that WE should be the ones to HAVE that thing…and we WON’T REJOICE with them!
We begin to believe that WE should be the ones to HAVE that thing…and so when they FAIL, we don’t WEEP with them....we actually often - Rejoice...
we rejoice at their weeping!
And we weep at their rejoicing!
What else?
SLIDE: ENVY: Causes Blindness


*We’ve all been to amazing Buffets I’m sure…and so we all know what it’s like to walk through the Buffet Line...
…and pick and choose what we want to eat!
When we LOOK at a Buffet…we know BEING SELECTIVE is part of the deal!
We take the things we DESIRE and we leave behind the rest!
We often do that with people too?
When we’re ENVIOUS of someone, we’ll WANT the GOOD parts of their life…but not their problems!
We’ll desire the financial freedom they have, but we won’t want their WORKAHOLIC lifestyle!
We’ll desire the RELATIONSHIP that that couple has…but maybe we won’t want their HUMBLE attitudes...
We’ll desire the athletic ability of that person, but we won’t want their WORK ETHIC!
And what happens is this - WE end up LOSING the JOY of our own lives…as we try to live another’s life!
We become all that God has GIVEN us!
ENVY feeds on Christian character...
and it FEEDS on Christian Character...
Left unchecked…and you find yourself...
SLIDE: ENVY: The Playground of Evil

ENVY: The Playground of Evil

I hope we remember these verses here...
Jeremiah 2:13 ESV
13 for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.
Do you see what’s going on in this verse?
People here are TURNING AWAY from God...
…NOT trusting in God to provide
…TURNING away and seeking to SUPPLY their OWN NEED!!
They’re looking at their neighbor…those AROUND them...
…and they WANT what THEY have...
They don’t BELIEVE that GOD knows what He’s doing...
You can see the LACK of trust in this verse…right?
And so - AS Christians…we NEED to see where we’re ENVIOUS in our lives...
If we DON’T - we’ll never fight against it!
But how do we fight?
SLIDE: To Fight Envy: See Clearly

To Fight Envy

In his book, The Godly Man’s Picture, the Puritan Thomas Watson wrote,
“A humble man is willing to have his name and gifts eclipsed, so that God’s glory may be increased. He is content to be outshone by others in gifts and esteem, so that the crown of Christ may shine the brighter. . . A humble Christian is content to be laid aside if God has any other tools to work with which may bring him more glory.”
This humble attitude is the opposite of envy, which yearns to possess what others have. Envy is an expression of selfishness and pride. It’s good to see it clearly for what it is.
SLIDE: To Fight Envy: Pray Instead
When we pray for the success of someone we envy, our hearts start to change.
Envy pits me against them but prayer puts me on their team.
I am now calling God’s blessing down upon them.
I’m now invested emotionally in their well-being.
I begin to envy them less.
Not ONLY that…but now their further successes - become answers to my prayers!
I asked God for that very thing they’ve now accomplished. How can I resent it?
SLIDE: To Fight Envy: Pursue Friendship
Envy both isolates and then feeds on isolation. It’s difficult to grow a genuine friendship with those who trigger our sinful feelings of inadequacy and unhappiness and discontentment. So, we may begin to avoid the people or situations who make us feel that way.
Envy, in turn, thrives in isolation. When we’re not in genuine relationships with those we envy, we won’t actually love and rejoice with them in their successes. Neither will we see their very real struggles and insecurities. Instead, we will spin our own distorted narrative, and the complex realities and hardships of that person’s life won’t be a part of it.
SLIDE: To Fight Envy: Confess Openly
Pastor Stephen Whitmer says...
Several years ago, I looked a dear friend in the eye and confessed my envy of his abilities and successes. I asked for his forgiveness. It was humbling and very helpful. I’m not suggesting we confess to every single person we ever envy, but particularly when we begin to envy a close friend, we’re not serving them well as a faithful friend. Our confession will allow them to pray for us, and the act of naming the sin will often help to minimize its power over us.
SLIDE: To Fight Envy: Identify Idols
Pastor Stephen Whitmer continues...
Over the years, God has helped me glimpse some of the root causes of my envy and this has helped enormously. In spite of the unconditional love of godly parents, I forged (from an early age) a deep identification between identity and performance which endured into my adult years. It’s not difficult to see how envy thrived: if I’m valuable because of what I achieve, and someone else can do it better, they are better than me. Comprehending the roots of my own envy has helped me better understand its deep and enduring power.
SLIDE: To Fight Envy: Run to the Gospel
To combat the idols of our hearts, we can now more consciously fight envy by setting our hearts and minds on gospel promises...
and by regularly reminding ourselves (especially at the beginning of the day) of our identity in Jesus.
AND Because this temptation will likely not disappear any time soon, we know we must keep on preaching the gospel to ourselves
ENVY is a great evil...
And each of us today can pursue change in this...
We’ve seen that
Envy is...
And all of this to say - it’s ALL VANITY!
Why - it’s never enough!
Even so, we have ways to fight...
See Clearly
Pray Instead
Pursue Friendship
Confess Openly
Identify Idols
Run to the Gospel
Let’s Pray
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