Joe Rigney recently preached two insightful sermons on envy to my church:
(Video, audio, and manuscripts are available at those links.)
I’ve often witnessed well-intentioned people warn others against pride, but I don’t recall similar warnings against envy. This excerpt from the first sermon was an aha-moment for me:
And one of the ways that we can know whether we’re in danger of envy is the kind of questions we ask when success shows up. When a David shows up and goes off like a rocket, moving from shepherd boy to general in no time flat, what is our greatest spiritual concern (and perhaps our only concern)? David’s pride. We find ourselves at Jesse’s house, saying pious-sounding things like, “I’m praying that David’s success doesn’t go to his head, that he stays humble and remembers the Lord in the midst of these great opportunities and blessings.” But how would we react if Jesse responded, “Thank you for praying for David. I’ll be praying for you that you don’t get envious, that you don’t grow jealous of these wonderful things God is doing.”
How would you react? Would you bow-up and get blustery? “Well, yes, but what kind of person do you think I am? And who do you think you are to pray for me like that?” Would we respond with gratitude for the concern, or would we display by our internal murmuring that our own concern for David’s pride was rooted in envy, rivalry, and malice?
Don’t misunderstand me. When success comes, pride is a real danger and a deadly danger. But so is envy. And like pride, envy is a master of disguise, hiding as a concern for justice and fairness, as a desire to see a little more humility in other people, as a lack of enthusiasm when your neighbor or your friend or your brother or your sister receives yet another good thing from the hand of God.
Joe is an extremely gifted thinker and communicator. I’m so grateful that he’s part of the faculty at Bethlehem College & Seminary.