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The Rev. Ian Garrett: “I Want That, or Can I Help?” (Galatians 5)

March 30, 2010

From the good people of Jesmond Parish Church in the United Kingdom comes a sermon titled I Want That, or Can I Help? by the Rev. Ian Garrett, which is based on Galatians 5.  This sermon is the last in a series on “The Seven Deadly Sins” being preached at Jesmond Parish and Rev. Garrett asks

  • what is envy? and
  • how do we deal with it?

In his discussion of what envy is, he makes a very good point about how envy may surface:

Now, as with all other sinful desires, envy is like a submarine. It’s always there under the surface, but it breaks surface in at least three ways. The first way envy surfaces is in active hostility. That’s what the Lord Jesus got that first Easter. Israel’s leaders accused him to the Roman governor, to get him crucified. And listen to what the governor said (in Mark 15):

9 “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, 10 knowing it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. (Mark 15.9-10)

So they knew the people were turning away from their leadership to Jesus; they felt threatened and out it came in active hostility – just like it does today, eg, when the really able kid in the class is verbally bullied and called a ‘Geek’ or a ‘Spod’.

The second way envy surfaces is in passive hostility. So, eg, instead of praising someone for their success, we just can’t bring ourselves to do so – and say nothing. Or, eg, we’re not actually un-co-operative towards that colleague promoted over us; we just won’t go the extra mile for him.

But the third way envy surfaces is in competitiveness. Eg, the Old Testament (OT) book of Ecclesiastes says this, 4.4:

And I saw that all labour and all achievement spring from man’s envy of his neighbour.

You see, if my sense of worth is threatened by you doing better than me, one apparent solution is to compete so that I do better than you. And certainly before I became a Christian, competitiveness (the Bible would say, envy) was basically what made me tick. I happened to be good at academic work so I started coming top of class, then top of year, then top of school. And that’s where I got my sense of worth. Which drove me to keep trying to come top – I had to. But that’s actually a lousy way to try to find your sense of worth, because it only works as long as you’re succeeding. Come second, or (horror of horrors) get a grade B, or get dropped from the first team, or mess up a professional exam, and where’s your self-worth then?

But Rev. Garrett does go on to talk about how to deal with envy – a good message indeed for all of us.  If you’d like to hear it you may do so here.

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