Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Devotion: The Right Response to Envy

The Right Response to Envy

(Now the Philistines had stopped and filled with earth all the wells that his father's servants had dug in the days of Abraham his father.) And Abimelech said to Isaac, "Go away from us, for you are much mightier than we." -- Genesis 26:15-16; English Standard Version

I could easily respond to the title of this devotion with one word: REPENT! But, I really believe there is something helpful for us to learn here.

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines envy this way: painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage (http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/envy).

I mean this to be funny, but I'm serious. I want a new truck. Notice that I did not say "need"; I said "want". There is something in my neo-australopithecine, flat-land-hillbilly blood that equates trucks with success. I never get more riled than when I see WOMAN (of all things!) driving a bigger / nicer truck than mine. (Now, wait a minute, you women-libbers, before you get your nerves in a rattle...the former statement is what we literary types call a joke.) Seriously though, I do often get a tinge of envy. Okay, it's all-out jealousy.

And, here's where the lesson ministers to me...

Today's verses are a clear example of fear born of envy. The people had watched Isaac's fortune grow. They watched his servants multiply. They watched his crops prosper. They watched his flocks increase. They saw Isaac living well among them.

They wanted Isaac's stuff and feared Isaac's strength. I don't know what I would have done had I lived around Gerar at that time, but being the logical man that I am I would like to think I would have asked Isaac what was the secret of his success.

Now, being the modern man that Isaac was, he probably would have handed me the ten scroll set of his "Twenty Steps to Success in the Ancient World." Oh, hogwash!

Here is the cure to envy: WANT THE RIGHT STUFF! While people were envying Isaac's material goods and worldly success and fearing Isaac's potential they were missing the key thing. It wasn't about Isaac. GOD had promised; GOD had fulfilled; GOD had sustained.

One of my favorite verses in the entire Bible is Hebrews 11:6; it says And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him (ESV). For those that believe God IS and seek HIM accordingly HE will reward them with the best thing of all...HIMSELF!

Now, we're no different today than were the people of Gerar in Isaac's time. We look at people's stuff. Stuff, stuff, stuff! BAH! Stuff, in and of itself, is not bad. When stuff is the thing that lights our fire we are in desperate trouble.

I think the question that should have been asked of Isaac is "How can I draw nearer to this God who has been so good to you?" If one would do that, one MIGHT or MIGHT NOT get the stuff, but one will get more of Him.

Envy is a sneaky beast. Envy will try to convince us that we need stuff. The right response to envy IS to repent. After that we would do well to seek Him who holds all in His hands. We may or may not get the stuff in His hands, but His hands alone will be enough.

Grace and peace to you from God the Father and Jesus the Son,
Tim Bowes
Romans 12:1-2

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