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Catching Envy

Updated: Mar 5, 2020

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19–21 (ESV)

The other day during an evening walk, my husband mentioned that he had a great day because he won over a client after a difficult meeting. He made a point to his coworker that God gave them favor. I got irritated over that comment. Why puzzled me. I believe that God does give favor – undeserved mercy and grace – at times in our lives. We recognize his love which becomes so personal for us in those instances. But today I was angry when I heard that.

Why I asked, does God show favor to some, but to others suffering just continues? It makes God seem like an unfair parent who has favorite children that get extra and special attention while the others who are more needy are ignored.

So, as is our custom, Tom and I started digging into scripture for answers. In John’s gospel, Jesus tells Peter that he will be captured and die. Peter looked around and noticed John and asked, “what about him?” Peter implies the question, ”will he suffer like me? Is John going to get special treatment?” Jesus responds that if he allows John to live until he returns, “what is that to you? Follow me.”

Nothing new for Peter. Isn’t that what Peter announced so bravely in Caesarea? At the Last Supper? Isn’t that what we proclaim when we ask Jesus to be Lord of our lives? Yet, at that moment on the beach, Peter wanted to know if what was required of him would be required of John. Suddenly, it was no longer about just following Jesus, but wanting it fair.

Like Peter and John, we who love the Lord were asked to “follow me,” but when following him, how do we respond when it seems that we are paying a higher price than others? Do we start to hedge on our commitment? Oh, Lord, I will follow you only if…?

Can it be that it really isn’t about fairness but about the grief of not having the good one so desires yet seeing it placed into the hands of another?

I had to face myself. I was angry because I felt the wound of unanswered prayer. But envy? Would I wish someone else to suffer because I was suffering? No. I would not. God’s favor and mercy are unlimited. I will have my portion of it if not today then soon. I would trust and follow. But, I was warned.

The seeds of sin are in all of us. We can choose to nurture them to bloom, or we can starve them with confession and pray for grace. Temptation is all around us. Lord, help us to open our hearts to trust in your ever-flowing fountain of grace.

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