Don’t Envy or Covet

In 1 Corinthians 12:26 we read: “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”   The word “honour” can mean “to render (or esteem) glorious, to honour, magnify.”

Church members are regularly asked to pray for those going through difficult trials which may be in the area of health, injury, financial, spiritual or other significant problems.   Many times we may be able to empathise, having gone through similar trials ourselves.   If not, we try and sympathise and pray for those involved, trusting God to work out the situation in their best interests.   In such circumstances, it may be relatively easy to implement a prayer request and relate to those going through their difficult times.

However, how easy is it to be pleased and uplifted when a member is honoured in some way like getting a new, highly paid job or being promoted at work?   What about those who are able to move to a bigger home, buy a new car, enjoy nice holidays or send their children to a private school?    Whilst the majority in the Church may not fit into these categories, what about those who are called into the Church who are wealthy or who have position or prestige in the community?    Does any such situation make us happy to rejoice with them?   This may not be quite so easy for some, as envy or coveting can rear their ugly heads.

Envy is “a resentment” which “occurs when someone lacks another’s quality, achievement or possession and wishes that the other lacked it” (compare Wikipedia).

I recall a situation where many years ago, a senior minister was visiting our local congregation.   The Church had provided the senior minister with a nice car for his use during the time of his employment, which he thought might cause a problem with a member or members of the congregation. How well did he know the approach and mentality of a few!   After all, they reasoned, this was their tithe money being spent in a way of which they may not approve.   Some members seem to feel that they have to “supervise” the use of the tithes they have sent in to the Church. They obviously had not considered two very important points.   Firstly, we are all instructed in 1 Timothy 5:17: “Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine”.   Secondly, once we have paid our tithes, our responsibility in that area has finished.   Those who have the responsibility in the Church to use those tithes will be judged according to how well they will have executed that part of their Church related responsibilities.  

Empathising with someone who is less fortunate than we may be seems to be very much easier than with those who may seem to be in a more advantageous state than that which we may be enjoying.

“A sound heart is life to the body, But envy is rottenness to the bones” (Proverbs 14:30) and in the first chapter of Romans Paul is writing about those who are “being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers” (verse 29).

Coveting is also a no-go area (Exodus 20:17).   Yearn is to possess or have (something); crave, desire, hanker or lust (compare Wikipedia).   One writer put it this way: “Coveting is a devious desire that is complex and complicated, which is often well concealed. The heart, we are told, is deceitful and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9).  We must expect that covetousness, which is a matter of the heart, is deceitful and deceptive, and that it may be well disguised. The bottom line is simply this: sin is more often a problem with our heart (coveting) than it is a problem with our mind (knowledge).”

In an English newspaper very recently, a journalist wrote a small piece headed, “Don’t Be Jealous of Success”.   She said: “Feeling envious of someone?   Does someone you know have something you have?   Instead of letting the green eyed monster devour your happiness see it as a call to arms.  What is it that you want and need that they have?   How can you get that for yourself?   How will it help you?   When our own cups overflow with good fortune we can give to others from our excess of goodwill, easily, effortlessly and generously.   If you are feeling resentful of the good fortune of others you need to be grateful for what you actually have, count your own blessings, wish that person well and commit to filling your perceived deficit with positive action rather than negative begrudgement – and if that isn’t a word, it should be!”

Another paragraph from an entirely different secular source said: “It’s high time we stopped wasting moral or mental energy in being jealous of the very rich.   They are no happier than anyone else; they just have more money.   We shouldn’t bother ourselves about why they want all this money, or why it is nicer to have a bath with gold taps.   How does it hurt me, with my 20 year old Toyota, if someone else has a swish car?   We both get stuck in the same traffic”.

Envy and coveting must never be our approach.

Let us suffer with the members when appropriate and rejoice also with them when the occasion arises.

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