The One-Eyed Monster Inside Me

There is a monster at loose in the depths of my soul. Some days it hibernates ... and some days it is on the prowl and growling loudly. I'm speaking of envy. Pastors are not supposed to be the envious type, so bear with my confession and contemplation.

William Barclay, the Scottish New Testament scholar, describes envy as begrudging the good others are experiencing. Envy is a devious devotion. I suspect that is why Francis Bacon commented: "There be none of the affections, which have been noted to fascinate or bewitch, but love and envy."

One does not have to look far in the Scriptures to find the "bewitched." Cain and Saul come to mind, but let's focus on Saul. He's the king. He is the man with all the power, but you wouldn't know it. Envy has reduced him to a cantankerous critic.

As they were coming home, when David returned from striking down the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments. And the women sang to one another as they celebrated,

"Saul has struck down his thousands,

and David his ten thousands."

And Saul was very angry, and this saying displeased him. He said, "They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands, and what more can he have but the kingdom?" And Saul eyed David from that day on.  1 Samuel 18:6-9 ESV

I shudder when I sense Envy rearing its ugly head. I don't want to become a Saul! Deep down I want to rejoice at the blessings and successes of others. So what's the secret? How does one drive out the this evil monster? Henri Nouwen helps me with this:

"At issue here is the question: 'To whom do I belong? To God or to the world?' Many of my daily preoccupations suggest that I belong more to the world than to God. A little criticism makes me angry, and a little rejection makes me depressed. A little praise raises my spirits, and a little success excites me . . . . Often I am like a small boat on the ocean, completely at the mercy of its waves."

Nouwen drives me to the heart of the gospel. Envy quiets as I rest in God. It is what Jesus has done for me on the cross and not what I do in life that ultimately makes me OKAY.

Jesus is my identity, not what the world thinks of me, or how it measures me, or how much I have done compared to someone else. When I get that, then I am free to rejoice with others and stop comparing myself to others. When I forget that, then I am on the path to self-destruction. You'll see what I mean when you read the story below, but don't read it quickly. It takes a moment for the truth to sink in.

"Envy and Greed, two of the seven deadly sins, were walking down a path one day when they were confronted by an angel. The angel offered one of them everything he could wish for. The other one would receive twice as much. Greed quickly asked Envy to choose first. After a little thought, Envy wished for one blind eye."

Lord God, I want to rest in You. I want to wish the best. I want to keep both eyes.

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[1] William Barclay describes .... in William Barclay, The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians, p. 58.

[2] "There be none of the affections ..." in Francis Bacon, The Essays, page 34.

[3] "At issue here is the question ..." in Henri Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son, page 42.

[4] "Envy and Greed" in Max De Pree, Leadership Jazz, page 29.