envy

John 3

Today read John 3.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. Actually, it is a big ugly secret but I don’t think most Christians know about it. The secret is: envy and jealousy are not sins that church members struggle with only. Pastors and ministry leaders struggle with it, too. I have--more often and more recently than I would like to admit.

On the outside, we are glad for the ministry success of others. And, when we’re thinking biblically, we are genuinely glad for God’s blessing on other churches. I really don’t think that we are in competition with other churches. Our competition is entertainment, relaxation, sleeping in, working extra weekend hours, materialism, secularism, and all kinds of other noise that distracts people from church attendance and, ultimately, from the gospel message.

I want all my friends to succeed and I want other gospel preaching churches in our area and elsewhere to be reaching people in salvation, baptizing them, discipling them and, therefore, growing in numbers and in spiritual life.

But I want our church to prosper as well. I want us reaching people and baptizing them. I want to see the people who attend and are members of our church to be showing up enthusiastically ready to worship and grow on Sunday. I want to see you bringing friends, too, and to see others coming for the first time.

So, when our church attendance is up and down but others I know are adding additional services to accommodate all the growth, it is hard not to want what they’ve got. So the latter half of John 3 is just for me today. John the Baptist’s disciples are concerned about Jesus’s success. They were alarmed that Jesus was preaching and baptizing and that “everyone is going to him” (v. 26d).

John the Baptist, the greatest man who ever lived--apart from Jesus, of course--had a godly response: “ To this John replied, ‘A person can receive only what is given them from heaven’” (v. 27). Jesus’s success--anyone’s success--results from God’s blessing. John was happy to see Jesus doing well because he understood who Jesus was (vv. 28-30). John served faithfully in the role that God called him to fill. Now that role was nearing completion (v. 30) and John couldn’t have been happier about the attention Jesus was receiving.

Are you jealous of anyone, envious of anyone else’s life? There is a lot that could be said about that. On one hand, appearances are not always reality and, when that’s true, reality always emerges eventually. Also, there is the whole matter of “sowing and reaping” and sometimes our struggles result from what we’ve been sowing.

But we all need to remember the sovereignty of God over this life. He has different purposes and plans for each of us. If we are faithful to what God commands us to do and calls us to become, if we are sowing good seed and doing it consistently, then we need to trust God with the results.

Proverbs 24:1-18

Today’s reading is Proverbs 24:1-18.

This week saw the unraveling of the reputation and career of a successful Hollywood mogul named Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein used his influence to take advantage of and assault multiple women. He is not the only man to have done this kind of thing. Other wealthy and famous men have committed these sins and so have plenty of guys who are neither famous nor wealthy.

Because of his success, however, Weinstein (and others--entrepreneurs, politicians, athletes, entertainers) was envied. Many people wanted to be like him or to run in his circles of influence. Proverbs 24:1-2, however, warns us against that: “Do not envy the wicked, do not desire their company; for their hearts plot violence, and their lips talk about making trouble.”

Be careful about who you admire, who you pattern your life after, and who you want to know or become. Visible success is attractive, but wickedness is destructive. It is much wiser to fear the Lord than to envy the wicked.