I had the opportunity to wrap up our Top 10 series at Grace Community yesterday by speaking on the last of the Ten Commandments ... "You shall not covet." Coveting is a word that's not used too much today, but we do use the word envy. Coveting and envy can be used interchangeably. The last commandment is actually expressed this way in Exodus 20:17 "You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey ..." If the commandment stopped there I think I'd be OK. I'm very content in our modest home. I'm incurably in love with my wife. None of my friends have maids or butlers, so I'm good there. And, I certainly have no desire to ever own an ox or a donkey. So, as I look at the first part of that verse I think to myself "I'm good!" But, then I read the last part of the verse "... or ANYTHING that belongs to your neighbor." That would mean any possession, any personality trait, any physical characteristic, any ability ... anything. The word "anything" brings me back to reality very quickly.
In my own life, I don't so much covet other people's stuff, but I have struggled with coveting other people's abilities, gifts, passions, etc, and I have wrestled with envy as far back as I can remember. We all have certain temptations we struggle with more than others. This is one of mine. But, in my life I fight hard to battle against it because envy does nothing but breed division. It distracts us, divides us, burdens us, causes us to obsess over things that ultimately do not matter, and when we allow all of that to happen in our lives, it takes our eyes off of the mission we, as followers of Jesus are to have ... and the enemy loves it!
James 3:16 says "Where you find envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice." I've seen the damage envy can do. I've experienced it in my own life and have seen it played out in the lives of others. That's why it's so important for all of us to not allow it access to our lives.
A few ways we can fight against envy ...
1) Be for each other and not in competition with each other. Envy will turn everyone in to a competitor. When you sense that happening in your life, do a heart check and ask God to reveal the areas of your life that are being darkened by envy. Envy is a heart issue, but we try to make it a people issue. The issue is not the person you envy. The issue is you.
2) Be grateful. You can't be envious and grateful at the same time. It's impossible. Take time to reflect on what God has given you in your life and practice gratitude. Jon Gordon said it this way: "Gratitude is like a muscle. The more we do with it the stronger it gets."
3) Realize God made you to be you. God is not looking for you to be someone else. He has gifted you to do exactly what He has called you to do. If we spend out lives wishing we had the gifts and abilities other people have, we'll spend our lives wishing we were doing what God has called them to do. When that happens, we missed what God has called US to do. I illustrated that point below by trying to dress like some of the people on our staff. I put on a Phillies t-shirt that was way to small. Glasses that totally were not me. A tatoo sleeve and skinny jeans. As you can tell ... none of it fit. That's exactly what happens when we envy other people's gifts and abilities. We look silly and ultimately cannot be used the way God wants to use us.
The hard truth is that God has not distributed everything evenly. He has given out different spiritual gifts, different abilities, different passions, different measures of wealth, different skill sets ... we are ultimately responsible for doing the best with what He has given to us. Proverbs 14:30 says "A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones." We have a choice. We can strive to be our best and do our best with what God has given to us and be at peace or constantly wish and long for more and desire the possessions or abilities others have and feel our bones rotting away. The enemy's way leads to death. God's way leads to peace.