James 4:1-10 (NIV)
1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. 4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
Envy… I’d like begin today by reading to you a couple of interesting stories I picked up while surfing the Internet a few weeks ago.
Story #1: “The Ann Arbor News crime column reported that a man walked into a Burger King in Ypisalanti, Michigan at 7:50am, flashed a gun and demanded cash. The clerk turned him down because he said he couldn’t open the cash register without a food order. When the man ordered onion rings, the clerk said they weren’t available for breakfast. The man, frustrated, walked away.”
Story #2: “Karen Lee Joachimmi, 20, was arrested in Lake City, Florida for robbery of a Howard Johnson’s motel. She was armed with only an electric chain saw, which was not plugged in.”
Story #3: “Three guys decided, late one night, to rob a petrol station. Taking in baseball bats and knives they entered and demanded money from the station clerk. But they weren’t aware of a couple of rather important things:
(1) The clerk was an ex-Israeli.
(2) The clerk was an ex-Israeli Army officer.
(3) The clerk was an ex-Israeli unarmed-combat instructor.
Needless to say they ended up in hospital. For a long time. (No charges were pressed by the petrol station owner, and the police decided that there wasn’t much point following through.)”
Story #4: “When a man attempted to siphon gasoline from a motor home parked on a Seattle street, he got much more than he bargained for. Police arrived at the scene to find an ill man curled up next to a motor home near spilled sewage. A police spokesman said that the man admitted to trying to steal gasoline and plugged his hose into the motor home’s sewage tank by mistake. The owner of the vehicle declined to press charges, saying that it was the best laugh he’d ever had.”
Story #5: “Burglars in Larch Barrens, Md., tried to cut through a safe using a Laser Tag gun.”
Story #6: “Germany: Oil of Olay no longer turning the trick for her, a woman decided that she would bathe in the milk of a camel (a modern-day Cleopatra). So she stole a camel from the local zoo (where *else* can you find a camel when you need one?) and transported it back to her house – where she realized that the camel’s name was “Otto.”
Story #7: “(Location Unknown): A man successfully broke into a bank’s basement through a street-level window, cutting himself up pretty badly in the process. He then realized that (1) he could not get to the money from where he was, (2) he could not climb back out the window through which he had entered, and (3) he was bleeding pretty badly. So he located a phone and dialed “911” for help.”
Needless to say the name of the site where I got these stories shouldn’t be much of a surprise to you. The Internet site was called “Stupid People”. The reason I shared these stories is because I thought it would give you a slightly humorous look at stupid things people will do when they envy something. For most of these criminals, they went after money – they probably envied the “easy” life that people with lots of money live. The woman with the camel – she envied the smooth skin and good looks that the “aging” women in Oil of Olay commercials portrayed.
What’s not funny, are some of the following excerpts from various articles that I found…
e.g. “Leo Wilson, Jr., 16, was shot to death for his Nike sneakers and satin sports jacket, police say.” Or how about this one, “Wheatley High School junior Adam Joseph Martin, 18, gave haircuts to neighborhood kids to earn enough to buy his new $125 Nike athletic shoes last week. Saturday night, staring down the barrel of a 9mm pistol on a Houston street, he handed over his prized possessions to two robbers, who fatally shot him anyway.”
The people that committed these murders were after a pair of shoes made by Nike. Hmmm….Envy…what will it drive people to do…?
What is envy?
James 3:16 (NIV)
16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
Galatians 5:21 and Romans 1:29-32 list envy as one of the acts of a sinful nature.
Romans 1:29-32 (NIV)
29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
I would venture to say folks that one of the principal causes of evil and sin is the dangerous feeling called envy. Envy left unchecked, becomes a primary instigator and propagator of every other evil thought and action imaginable. Envy is a characteristic of the wicked, it is selfish ambition, greed, malice, murder. It is no wonder that James attributes the cause of fights and quarrels among his readers as being “…your desires that battle within you?” (4:1) And he goes on to describe this disturbing characteristic to be when “…you want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight…” (4:2)
Webster’s Dictionary: Envy: “a feeling of antagonism towards someone because of some good which he is enjoying but which one does not have oneself || a coveting for oneself of the good which someone else is enjoying…”
Vine’s: “envy, is the feeling of displeasure produced by witnessing or hearing of the advantage or prosperity of others; this evil sense always attaches to this word…envy desires to deprive another of what he has,
Dr. Gary Collins (Homemade, July, 1985): To envy is to want something which belongs to another person.
In other words…ENVY is saying… “I like what you’ve got, I don’t like the fact that you have it, and I want it”!!!
How many of you have ever had this feeling? It is the emotion of a child who throws a temper tantrum when his/her sibling has something they want. It is the emotion of a woman when she sees someone in the clothing store trying on clothes three sizes smaller than her size – clothes that don’t even come in her size. It is the emotion of a man when after a fruitless daylong attempt at catching “the big one” a boat pulls in to shore with a 7 yr old kid holding a 10lb Rainbow. It’s the emotion of us all when we hear on the news the latest winner of the 500 million dollar jackpot. For some us this feeling is fleeting – it is an emotion that we feel for only an instant – but for others it is a feeling that sticks in our heart – that irritates us and grinds away at us.
Proverbs 14:30 “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.”
Folks, if envy rots the bones then it’s going to cripple you! A person with envy is a person with a troubled heart, a troubled mind and a troubled life. How does envy cripple us?
1. Envy cripples our ability to examine ourselves.
The Story of Cain and Abel
When God accepted the offering given to him by Abel and rejected the offering given by Cain it made Cain very angry. Envy began to stew and broil in Cain’s heart
The Lord warned Cain of this brooding emotion –
Genesis 4:6-7 (NIV)
6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”
Instead of heeding God’s warning and examining himself Cain let his envy consume him until he killed Abel, “I like what you’ve got, I don’t like the fact that you have it, and I want it”
Envy cripples our ability to examine ourselves.
How many of you have ever said, “Gee, how come God answers their prayers but not mine?” Zoom, envy has planted its seed in your heart. If you are not careful it will blossom and consume you. You’ll fail to realize and examine the motives of your prayers –
James 4:3 (NIV)
3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
There are those that envy the perfect family in the midst of the breakdown of their own family. “Get off your behind, stop envying what others got and examine yourself — take a close look at what you are doing in your own family!!!”
There are those that envy the fortunes of the rich – when you should be asking yourself, “If I had that much money what would I spend it on, how would it change me,” I’ve heard story after story of what happens after the “big winner” cashes the check and the destruction their wealth brought to their lives.
The reason why envy is so dangerous is because it leads the person in an ever downward spiral and because it cripples our ability to examine ourselves – everything wrong, or hurtful thing we do seems justified by, “I like what you’ve got, I don’t like the fact that you have it, and I want it”
2. Envy cripples our security. ENVY CRIPPLES OUR TRUST IN GOD.
Joseph and his brothers
Genesis 37:11 (NIV)
11 His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.
One of the saddest thing that happens to a person is when their envy leads them to feel insecure. With envy you start taking things into your own hands instead of letting God take control of things.
“I like what you’ve got, I don’t like the fact that you have it, and I want it”
3. Envy cripples our relationships.
Not only did envy cripple the security of Joseph’s brothers but it also crippled their relationship. Not only was there strain placed on the relationship between Joseph and his brothers but also among the brothers themselves as they would have to live with their actions for the rest of their lives. And not only among the brothers themselves but on their relationship with their father, Jacob. This burden was only broken by Joseph’s willingness to forgive many years later.
Envying others leads to a bitterness in our talk, an abruptness in our actions, back-biting, gossiping, slander. Envy can take you from being a close friend with someone to being a bitter enemy. It can break up families, tear apart churches and ruin communities.
Greek proverb: As rust corrupts iron, so envy corrupts man.
The saddest thing however is that not only does envy cripple the relationship you have with others but envy also cripples the relationship you have with God. I’ll be speaking more on this a little bit further on.
4. Envy cripples our ability to enjoy what we have.
Esther 5:11-13 (NIV)
11 Haman boasted to them about his vast wealth, his many sons, and all the ways the king had honored him and how he had elevated him above the other nobles and officials. 12 “And that’s not all,” Haman added. “I’m the only person Queen Esther invited to accompany the king to the banquet she gave. And she has invited me along with the king tomorrow. 13 But all this gives me no satisfaction as long as I see that Jew Mordecai sitting at the king’s gate.”
Princes of Babylon envy Daniel
Daniel 6:3-4 (NIV)
3 Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. 4 At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.
ILLUSTRATION: Dwight L. Moody once told the fable of an eagle who was envious of another that could fly better than he could. One day the bird saw a sportsman with a bow and arrow and said to him, “I wish you would bring down that eagle up there.” The man said he would if he had some feathers for his arrow. So the jealous eagle pulled one out of his wing. The arrow was shot, but it didn’t quite reach the rival bird because he was flying too high. The first eagle pulled out another feather, then another – until he had lost so many that he himself couldn’t fly. The archer took advantage of the situation, turned around, and killed the helpless bird.
Envy not only cripples our ability to enjoy what we have but also to be thankful for what we have. How many of us have ever said, “If only I had…” and you can fill in the blank. Yet, in saying this we forget that the living standards we are privileged to enjoy in this country are considered luxurious to someone living in countries like Zimbabwe, the Sudan, or Maramar.
5. Envy cripples our spiritual growth.
1 Peter 2:1-2 (NIV)
1 Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, The implication made in this passage is that if you don’t rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind, you will not grow up in your salvation – that is you will not grow spiritually.
For some who have not even experienced the rebirth that comes from Christ’s salvation this growth will not even get started because of envy.
Envy is a worldly and sinful emotion. It is one of the most prevalent characteristics of today’s society and hence it is no wonder that James writes to the envious,
James 4:4 (NIV)
4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.
An envious spirit sets you against God, “ouch”!
One of the outward reactions and results of envy in our heart is a proud spirit. I hope you are noticing that in this summer series on Fatal Flaws there is an obvious connection weaving it’s way throughout all the flaws. Notice how Moses is described…
Numbers 12:3 (Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)
James 4:6 (NIV)
6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
We are to crave spiritual milk – that is crave God’s will, God’s plan, God’s desires not OUR desires. When we see others who are being blessed, PRAISE GOD! Don’t let envy set its footmarks all over your soul.
In James 4:7 we are told to “Submit to God” and to “resist the Devil” By now you probably get the picture that envy is not a Godly trait!! It isn’t – it is one of the biggest tools the enemy has in his arsenal to drag a person further from God. But James affirms that if you resist the devil he will flee form you!!
When you feel , “I like what you’ve got, I don’t like the fact that you have it, and I want it” resist it, say instead “I like what you’ve got, I want it, but I LOVE GOD MORE” Positively confess where your heart is. Don’t allow envy to take root!
James goes on further to write that if you come near to God he will come near to you. FOLKS IF YOU HAVE ENVY IN YOUR HEART TODAY I WANT YOU TO LISTEN TO WHAT JAMES SAYS IN THE NEXT TWO VERSES!!! In vs 8-9 James tells us that in order to Come near to God we must…
1) Wash our hands
that is we must come to God with repentance, faith , and reformation. We are all sinners and in order to come near to God we must be cleansed. Remember that it was God who provided the wash basin! It is with Jesus sacrificial blood that we have the opportunity to wash our hands. We must lay our envious thoughts bare before God and say Lord forgive me.
2) You must purify your heart (you double-minded)
Double-minded refers to those who are wavering between God and the world. Purifying ones heart involves a resolving in mind and purpose to follow the ways of God – to crave spiritual milk – not an envious craving for things of the world. It involves having a sincerity in coming before God. Our single aim must be to place God before anything else in the world – to place God as our only aim. The next time envy begins to sink its creeping tendrils into our spirit we must say “I like what you’ve got, I want it, but I LOVE GOD MORE!”
3) Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.
This is not a command stating that you can’t be happy or laugh! It is merely a caution that this subject matter that has been talked about is one of utmost sincerity. The cleansing of hands and purifying of your heart is not frivolous in nature but is one of utmost sincerity and importance. Likewise the spirit of envy is one that cannot be ignored. Yes we can rejoice at God’s forgiveness but we must first grieve at our sinfulness, we must mourn our broken relationship with God because of that sin, and we must wail at our demise due to our broken relationship with God. It is in this trio of grief, mourning, and gloom that you’ll find the proper submission to God. When we realize our need for God and our lostness apart from Him then we begin to understand that in order to be a friend to God we must also be an enemy of worldliness. We must pull envy’s roots from our souls and cast it aside.
James wrapped up his treatise in verse ten when he states that if you “Humble yourselves before the Lord…” “…he will lift you up.”
Matthew Henry wrote, “Before honour is humility. The highest honour in heaven will be the reward of the greatest humility on earth.”
Are you envious of someone today? Is your heart steeped in pride? Let’s pray.