It’s been said that comparison of ourselves with others breeds discontentment – and often times, this is true. When we look at those around us, it doesn’t take long to find someone more educated, accomplished, successful, or financially secure with a perfect spouse and model children. If discontentment is allowed to linger, it can morph into something vile and ugly – we call it envy.
Envy is not merely a 21st century problem, but can be traced back to the events recorded early on Scripture. A perfect example of envy is found in Genesis 26. During a time of famine, God directed Abraham’s son, Isaac, to take up residence in the land of the Philistines. God promised to bless Isaac, and while he was there, his crops yielded a hundred fold and he grew in wealth and possessions.
As you might imagine, this did not set well with the locals. “He [Isaac] had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him,” (Genesis 26:14, NIV). Jealous of Isaac’s increasing wealth and possessions, the people of Gerar retaliated against him, filling his wells with dirt. Eventually, the king even forced him to move away from their territory.
Have you ever been in Isaac’s shoes? Have you dealt with other people, who through a process of comparison, determined that you were a barrier to their success? If their discontentment turned to envy, it may have led to some form of retaliation. Perhaps they took action to undermine or harm you, your reputation, your career, or your family. If so, the offense was significant. The hurt was substantial. The pain was real.
Now, let’s look at this from another vantage point. Have you ever been in the shoes of the Philistines? Have you seen someone else prosper, and felt that their success might stand in the way of your own? Whether this only led to envious thoughts, or resulted in harmful words or actions, there’s no doubt that the other person was negatively impacted by your jealousy – and so were you.
Each of our stories are different, but I wonder how many of us have found ourselves on either side of this equation at one time or another. Whether we’ve experienced envy-induced retaliation, or we ourselves have felt diminished by the success of another, these are the kinds of things that can cause us to lose our way on the Path of Peace.
When envy rears its ugly head, it’s best to take our eyes off people, and focus on our Father – to stop fixating on what’s taking place in their hearts and lives, and carefully examine our own. As we do, we are more likely to find a way to live in peace with our fellow man. Dealing with envy? Walk the path.
Dale Pyne – CEO, Peacemaker Ministries
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