When You're Feeling A Little Envious

A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.
— John 3:27

John's disciples were in a tizzy. Jesus, the upstart prophet from Nazareth, was baptizing more people than John--the man who had been dubbed, "The Baptist!" In fact, people were flocking to Jesus. John was unperturbed.

Now a discussion arose between some of John's disciples and a Jew over purification. And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.  He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:25-30 ESV

John's fan base was decreasing, his Klout score was dropping, and his crowds were drying up. John was not going to lose any sleep over that. Why? John understood the difference between ownership and stewardship.

Owners are fluent in the language of My: That’s my car, my team, my church, my staff, my reputation, my gifts. When we view ourselves as owners, "My" becomes the vocal monogram we stitch into our conversations.

Stewards, on the other hand, recognize that God is the Owner. He is sovereign over everything including my place and my position in life. Like John, stewards say, "A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven." John 3:27

Let me get personal. When I find I am getting envious over "the success" of another church or another pastor I must remember I am not the owner.

  • God gives the gifts.
  • God gives the ministry.
  • God gives the power for ministry.

God is the owner. I am the steward, the person who manages God’s stuff. Consequently, when the Owner says it’s time for a change, I don’t get bent out of shape. Like John, I realize that's not my call!

Commenting on this passage, Don Carson writes:

Deep discontent over God's wise, sovereign disposition of people and things would in that instance betray not only unbelief and faithfulness, but the worst form of the perennial human sin, the arrogance that wants to be God and stand where God stands.

If we find a little envy festering in our hearts and one too many “my’s” popping up in our conversations, it’s probably time to remind ourselves Who is really in charge:

God is the Owner. I am the steward.



"Deep content over ..." from D.A. Carson, The Gospel According To John. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company. 1991. Page 211.