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The Color of Envy

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You are a valued member of a ministry team that renders important service to the Lord. One day, a new member joins the team. He (or she) happens to be blessed with many talents and the spotlight shifts from you onto him/her. What do you do?

  1. You welcome the new person with real joy in your heart, thinking of how much stronger the team will be now.
  2. You decide you will leave the group and join a new one where you can be the focus of attention once again.
  3. You are determined to have the focus put back on you and begin a smear campaign against the new person.
  4. You feel envious, but wanting to do the right thing by God, you remain in the group and do the best you can to work together in harmony.

Shortly after Jesus predicted His death, two of His apostles — James and John — came to Him with the request that when He reached heaven, one be seated at His right and one at His left. When the other ten heard about this they became indignant, no doubt eager to be seated by Jesus's side themselves. You will find the story in Mark 10.

The desire for glory and eminence is as old as mankind, and in this world, where we are exhorted from birth to be the first in everything, people have committed murder to attain it. Christians, however, don't play by the rules of the "world" as we have been given another set of rules we need to follow. Jesus himself tells us what they are as he deals with his apostles desire for importance.

Calling the twelve to Him, He said: “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45) 

There are other things that we can consider when we deal with scenarios like the one described above, and we all face such situtations in one way or another.

  1. It helps to remember that we are all parts of one body, the body of Christ, and each one of us is chosen to perform a particular function, be it is teaching, healing, helping, administering or something else. (1 Cor. 12:28) We all have a role to play.
  2. It is stupid for one part of the body to feel jealous of the other and consequently want out. "If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," or if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If they were all one part, where would the body be? (cf 1 Cor. 12:15-18)
  3. And in the same way, we cannot say that we don't need those whose functions don't seem very glamorous. "The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. (1 Cor. 12:21-23)
  4. If our goal, as most of us publicly state, is to grow the Kingdom of God and not our own little fiefdoms, then it makes sense that we will be happy if we have people working with us who are blessed with talents that we don't have, or even with greater talents that we ourselves possess. And that we will honor them. "If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it." (1 Cor. 12:26)
  5. And finally, it might help to also remember Elizabeth's behavior when Mary went to meet her after she was told by an angel that she would bear the Son of God. There was no trace of jealousy in her that her cousin was more blessed than she was; only joy that God had chosen Mary for such an honor. (Luke 1:39-45)

In our scenario (with their numerous variations) responses (b) and (c) are the most common, with people either engaging in subtle, but systematic slander, and/or walking out of one group and into another. This is a pity in any walk of life, but especially so with people who serve God. I have, however, seen a great number of people exhibit option (a) as well, truly joyful when they find somebody who appears blessed. The latter could very well be exercising option (d), which is experiencing slight feelings of envy/jealousy, but determined to do the right thing nonetheless. That is fine enough with God, because eventually it WILL translate into joy.

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