The evil of envy: Meditation for the ninth Sunday after trinity
Envy goes beyond jealousy. Both jealousy and envy have the possessions or positions of other people as their objects. But while jealousy is an inward or self-centred disposition, envy is outward or the other-directed.
A jealous man is hurt, angry, and upset because he wants more for himself. An envious man is also hurt, angry and upset because he wants more for himself, but he goes further to want the other person to pay for it. He hates the individual that has what he wants.
He doesn’t just want to gain but also wants the other person to suffer loss. Envy is wanting to destroy what someone else has — not just wanting it for yourself, but also wanting the owner not to have it. It is a deep-rooted issue, where one is very resentful of another person’s wellbeing –his looks, position or property. It is pure malice, pure hatred and goes against the law of love and solidarity.
Envy is included among the works of the flesh or acts of the sinful nature (Gal. 5:21 cf. 2Cor.12: 20). It is part of the deeds of darkness that we are enjoined to put off (Rom. 13:12-13). It is a mark of worldliness/carnality and spiritual immaturity (1Cor. 3:3).
Reflections on the Bible Readings for Day (Mattins)
The OT passage (1Sam. 18:1-16) traced the problem of Saul with David to envy. When David killed Goliath, every person in the land was impressed and happy with him, including Saul who brought him to the palace and gave him a high rank in the army to the delight of all the people and the officers. But when the women, in their naive expression of their own happiness with David, sang that David had slain his ten thousand and Saul his thousands, Saul’s envy was aroused, such that elimination of David became his primary target.
That is the extent that envy can take one.
Jonathan’s attitude was the opposite of Saul, his father. He was even the one that should actually have felt threatened by David’s excellence. Yet, he was not. It is God that makes one excel. So, envy, or quarreling or seeking to pull the other person down, suppress or eliminate him cannot really work. When God says “yes” no one can say “no”. When He opens a door, no one can close it.
The NT passage (Mark 9:30-end) presents, at least, two most common contexts and causes for envy:
• The question of rank/status – Who is greater or the greatest? Who occupies which office/position? Why should you be the one there and not me?
• The question of performance of others or monopoly of ministry – Why should it be another person performing and not me? How can another person be doing what I am unable to do, yet I am the one who, by virtue of my office or rank or status or position, has the “authority” or “right” to do it?
Jesus teaches that His disciples should be humble, broadminded and accommodating. We do not become great by self-imposition, usurpation or scrambling for position by suppression of others. It is God that exalts and bestows the grace to shine and stand out, particularly when others are doing the same thing you are doing. Yours is to play your part well.
The Venerable Dr Princewill Onyinyechukwu Ireoba, FIMC, CMC. is the Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Centre, Agbarha-Otor, Delta State.
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