I first off want to say that I love my church and the team that I get to serve with on a weekly basis. I cannot believe that God would allow me to be a part of something so special and am blessed to be surrounded by such talented brothers and sisters.
But if I’m truly honest there are days I don’t love my team. In fact, there are days I am envious and jealous of them. There are days I wish I had a certain worship leader’s voice or songwriting ability or biblical wisdom or even hair. I mean there is literally something about every single person on my team I wish I had.
And if you’re honest, you have those kind of days too. Maybe even today. As sinners on this side of Heaven envy is something that we all struggle with, but I think even more so as artists and creatives. We live in a culture that is constantly comparing and seeking recognition for our work, but we’re always left wanting more. Envy isn’t simply wanting what others have. It is desire coupled with a resentful attitude toward that person. And it always leads to destruction.
But this is nothing new for the church. Scripture is riddled with story after story of envy and jealousy. We see it with Adam and Eve wanting to be like God and believing Satan’s lies. We see it with Cain’s envy of Abel’s offering which ends up leading to murder. We see it when Joseph’s brothers envy his father’s blessing, not to mention his colorful coat. I could go on and on with stories like these, so it’s no wonder the Tenth Commandment is “Thou shall not covet!” God isn’t just telling us what not to do, He’s warning us of the destruction that the sin of envy brings to our lives and our relationships.
Proverbs 14:30 says,
“A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh,
but envy makes the bones rot.”
Envy, the author is saying, is a hidden sin that slowly destroys you from the inside out. It makes you rot. You may not smell the stench of envy now, but eventually it will surface.
We also read in Ecclesiastes 4:4
“Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.” –Envy at best leads to vanity and at worst to destruction.
In his blog, Tim Challies describes envy as it truly is:
“Envy is unique among the sins in that you never, ever enjoy it. Envy never brings any satisfaction. If you commit the sin of adultery, you enjoy the fleeting pleasures of the flesh; if you commit the sin of gluttony you get to enjoy the taste of food while it slides down your throat. These are very fleeting and fleshly pleasures, but they are pleasures still. Envy only, ever makes you more miserable than you were before.”
Envy eats us up inside. It makes us miserable and bitter toward one another and brings no pleasure or satisfaction. It is a sin that is rooted deep in each of our hearts and it must be addressed on a daily basis. We must seek to fight it before it destroys us and brings division to the body of Christ. While there are many ways to battle this sin I want to specifically look at three that have helped me overcome envy’s grip.
Remember Your Identity In Christ
Who we are in Christ is what ultimately defines us. Our identity in Christ is what gives us security and confidence in who we are.
When we remember who we are in Christ there is no need to envy our brothers and sisters because we rest in Christ’s work.
It’s hard to be envious when we remember that all we are and all we have is from Christ.
It’s hard to be envious when we remember our sin cost Christ everything.
It’s hard to be envious when we remember we were darkness but we are now light.
It’s hard to be envious when we remember that we were dead but now we are alive in Christ.
It’s hard to be envious when we remember that we were a slave to the world but now we are adopted by the King.
We must remember that our worth isn’t wrapped up in our giftings but in Christ’s gift.
I think this is why Paul reminds the church so often of who they were and what Christ has done for them. In Galatians 5:19-26 Paul reminds the church that the works of the flesh are immorality, idolatry, envy, etc. But then he contrasts them with the new identity of the believers and the fruit the Holy Spirit produces in them. He’s reminding them who they were before Christ and who they are now because of Christ.
We, likewise, are no longer a people who live by the flesh, but by the Spirit. This is our new identity, so let us remember it and live in it. Let us fight envy with thanksgiving for what Christ has done for us.
Rest In Your Role In The Body
The early church struggled often with envy. We see it in Paul’s letters to the churches in Rome and Corinth. Not only does Paul remind them of their identity in Christ, but he reassures them to rest in the roles they have each been given.
In 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 Paul writes,
“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”
Paul says there are a variety of gifts, a variety of services, and a variety of activities that are given us by the Spirit for the common good. He’s making a point: we are all different and it’s a good thing. It’s by God’s design!
Paul gives us such a great image. He compares our God-given gifts to the different parts of the body. We are one body, but many parts, unified and working together. But what if I don’t like my role or giftings? What if I want what others have? Paul addresses that in verses 17-18 by saying,
“If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.”
Without each other’s gifts we are incomplete and incapable of being the body of Christ. If the feet stop being feet and decide they want to be hands, we stop walking and fall over. If the eyes are tired of seeing and want to hear, then we become blind. But when each of us functions in the role God designed us for, we all work together harmoniously.
We must rest in our roles and giftings, knowing that they are given to us by God’s design and for the good of the church. When we do so, we fight the desire to compare ourselves to others and, instead, rest in who we are.
Repent To One Another
The final way in which we fight against envy in our hearts towards each other is repentance.
One of our values as a worship team at the Austin Stone is togetherness. We are a band of brothers and sisters fighting for the advancement of the kingdom of God in Austin and beyond. We all belong to this team and each have different, unique roles.
But the enemy is crafty. We are in a battle against a strong enemy and one of his main tools is disunity. If he can drive division between each of us then he can make our ministries less effective. So we must fight against our desire to compare or be envious and fight for unity.
James 3:16 warns us:
“For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.”
Envy breeds bitterness. So we need to repent to one another when envy arrises in us. We must not let sin take root in our hearts and bring about division. If you’re harboring any jealousy or envy in your heart toward someone, whether they be a family member, coworker, or peer, confess it to them. Ask them for forgiveness.
But don’t just leave it at that. Encourage them! Praise the Lord for their giftings! Thank the Lord for who He has made them and who He has made you. Instead of letting bitterness rise, let your praises rise to God. Turn your envy into encouragement. This is how we will fight envy in our hearts.
This is exactly what the author of Hebrews 10:23-25 wrote to the church:
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
May we be a people who fight against envy by remembering our identity in Christ, resting in our unique role, and repenting to one another when envy arises.