Envy: Why Not Me?
By Georges Boujakly
Envy made it to the big league of seven sins along with pride, gluttony, anger, sloth, lust, and greed. Its opposite is contentment, the subject of next month’s article. The three words that give envy its impetus are “why not me”.
Is there anyone who doesn’t envy something or someone? I agree with many who croon that envy is the only sin that brings no pleasure at all. As a matter of fact envy is a feeling that is described as sadness, unhappiness, and discontent. What’s fun about that? The other six brothers and sisters of envy afford some pleasure. Envy is the black sheep of the sin family.
So why do we envy? This is worth pondering since inspired men commanded us to get rid of it (1 Peter 2:1; Galatians 5:21).
Envy is born in us when we feel that others have more status, abilities, possessions, gifts, and talents than we do. We feel we deserve what others have. That feeling takes center stage in our thoughts and birth these awful words: “why not me.” Or in the case of a national envy, why not us?
Nations envy other nations. Israel had a king: God. For reasons I can’t discern they felt a human king is better than a God king! Was Yahweh too demanding on their sinful nature as a people? Did they feel they could get away with more grumbling and posturing with a human king than with the God king? The why not us attitude took roots and sprang up like a weed “we want a king to rule over us like the other nations.”
God laments this request from his people: “They (the people that I rescued from slavery) have rejected me as their king.” And what did their envy of other kingdoms get them? Heavy taxation, wars and more wars, betrayal and intrigue in the palace, children put in front of war chariots, a divided kingdom, another day older and deeper in sin, weaker in morale and morals, subject to attacks, revenge, slavery, and loss of homeland for hundreds of years on end. Their human kings put lusts ahead of the good of the people. And what is the end result of the why not us debacle that crept up on Israel? Exile. A vagabond people! And all the human miseries attached thereunto!
If history is not written from a revisionist posture, I wonder how many wars would be attributed to malicious, nefarious, necrophilia-loving envy.
National envy is likely preceded by personal envy. Here again, the Scripture masterfully give us the reason hatred and murder came into the world: Envy produced by the why not me attitude. Envy first reared its ugly head in the midst of paradise. Envy when indulged becomes Exile, a sad alienation.
Cain championed envy in the next generation. He was lackadaisical about his sacrifice to God. His brother, Abel, was dead serious about worshipping God (pun unintended). God called Cain on his envy. It crept up on him. He nursed it. He formed it into a weapon dripping with hate and manipulation, destruction and death as he slew his own flesh and blood. The earth cried out. God stepped in. Another vagabond generation! More exile. We’re still paying for the original why not me? Why does God accept my brother and not me? It never occurred to Envious Cain to emulate the good-hearted Abel.
Today’s advertisement world runs on envy. This industry buys and sells envy. Nothing is sold in America, and now around the world, that is not envy-wrapped. This is not to say that what is advertised is not needful. But why does it need the cloak of envy? From personal care products, to cars, to gum and beer, and you name it, the advertising industry has hit on a cash cow by capitalizing on envy. “What your computer takes 3 seconds to download 10 megabytes? Mine does it in 2.” The three-second guy rushes to the store faster than speedy Gonzales outsmarting his nemesis, Sylvester the cat.
What about you and me? A friend takes me on a spin in his brand new Lexus. Bells and whistles I’ve never heard of don the dashboard. Silently, envy’s germ gets planted in my heart: Why him and not me?
The pastor five miles away has to build again. Last year we dropped another 15% percent in attendance at our church. God is good to him but what about me?
A relative retires and now takes several vacations every year. Cuba in the winter, Cancun in the spring, Florence, Italy in the summer, and a Caribbean cruise is slotted for the fall. Not fair. Why not me?
Never mind the hard work it took these relatives and friends to enjoy the benefits of their labor. What about me?
Those who walk with the Master put away envy. How, in your own life, have you been envious of other people? Can we live free of envy? How are you overcoming the sin that causes so much sadness in us? Next month, we’ll see how.
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