For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.
- James 3:16
Why is this? What is envy? and what does it do?
Matthew 28:18 informs us of one of Pilate’s thoughts, "For he knew that for envy they had delivered him.”
We readers know that the Pharisees envied Jesus, but what did the Synagogue attendees think?
Imagine being brought up with that particular belief, getting instructed by the Rabbi’s and Priests about religion, offerings, and worship, and then along comes Jesus with quite a different take on some of it.
Think about it; the daily service has just finished and you are walking out. You decide to ask the Rabbi about Jesus and the healings and miracles you have heard so much about. You saw also saw him on the day he got up and spoke and he appears to be a nice man. What do you think the Rabbi will say?
Will he say, “yes, he’s wonderful. We’ve been waiting for him for years?” Or will he say, "he has a devil, don't go anywhere near him, don’t listen to him, and don't associate with his disciples?”
Imagine being a faithful synagogue attending Jew in the times of Jesus, and hearing all about how evil Jesus is week after week, but seeing the results of miracles, and hearing what your neighbours say after attending the sermon on the mount, for instance? How confusing would that be?
Envy produces that type of confusion. It also produces the strife of the Pharisees, causing them to indulge in all sorts of lying and deceit, such as, paying Judas to betray, lying to the public, lying to Pilate, lying in their false court, and persecuting and oppressing people all the way to the Cross. Then they persecuted and oppressed Jesus’ followers. In our day, we see many people in the news undertaking similar oppressive measures and lying to gain advantage; so it is not just the Pharisees.
There are various reasons why the Lord asks us to rid ourselves of envy, but here is one.
Proverbs 27:4 says, "Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?”
Envy drives us to do things we normally would not consider. It's an addiction steering us to actions well outside our normal sphere of desire. Add envy to our heart, and we become unstable and capable of doing anything to anyone. Like powerful drugs before we take them, we think we are in control. Then, after indulging, we realise the drug is in control, and we are simply the silly puppet who has taken it. Envy takes us over.
The trouble is, we don't know when envy grows in us. It is not like the common cold, where we start sneezing or coughing and the next day we know we have a cold. Envy is more subtle. It comes in silently, like cancer, and has been quietly eating away until for some reason it becomes recognisable.
The opposite of envy is contentment. When we are content with what we have, who we are, and who we are becoming, our hearts remain stable and cannot imagine the evil envy brings. Allow envy in, and we become the pawn in its depraved game.
Today’s prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for the important scripture on envy, and the warnings you send me through them. Please help me to be aware if envy is creeping into my own life, and help me to be content at every stage with everything you give me.