Forget About Greed, It’s All About Envy
A couple weeks ago I talked about greed. Among other things, I said politicians and news pundits tell us the economy has tanked and the world is in financial crisis because of greed—and we would all agree. And as a follower of Jesus, I have been taught many times about the perils of greed—and I would agree.
But that’s not really the whole story…or even the whole truth. Greed is subjective. What may be greedy for me may not be greedy for you. You can read more about greed here.
It’s not really about greed. It’s about envy. This is the real problem. It’s what’s behind greed. It’s what leads to greed.
In my life I describe envy as:
Wanting something you can’t or shouldn’t have.
The dictionary defines envy as:
One of my favorite old hardcore bands called Youth of Today has a song about it that says:Conceit, false prestige, same old story, hunt for glory…
On a practical (or impractical) level, envy will get you to buy a flashier car than you need or more house than would otherwise be prudent. It can influence you to buy extra new stuff (clothes, guitar, etc) or go out to eat too much–when you should just brown-bag-it or stay in.
Envy is the real problem behind most problems that involve us making bad decisions. Whenever I sit wondering why I am so stupid, I can always trace it back to envy.
On a spiritual level, envy is behind every sin. Let me repeat: envy is behind every sin.
For example, let’s list the 10 Commandments:
1. ‘You shall have no other gods before Me.‘
2. ‘You shall not make for yourself a carved image–any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.‘
3. ‘You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.‘
4. ‘Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.‘
5. ‘Honor your father and your mother.‘
6. ‘You shall not murder.‘
7. ‘You shall not commit adultery.‘
8. ‘You shall not steal.‘
9. ‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.‘
10. ‘You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.‘
Or let’s recall just one of the parables Jesus told with regard to actions, heart, and motive (but any would apply). After telling the parable of a farmer who sowed seeds, Jesus explained the meaning:
“The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.”–Luke 8:11-15
Do you see it? The problem is wanting something you can’t or shouldn’t have. And let me make it clear, it may not be something bad. Perhaps it’s just the wrong timing. The new car might be in the deck at another time. The big house isn’t necessarily a problem, you just might need to wait until it doesn’t consume such a huge percentage of your income. Or that relationship may be a good idea in the proper context–like marriage.
But it comes down to wanting a possession, self-image, or experience that you can’t or shouldn’t have. It may be something that will never be okay. Are you okay with that? Or it may something that will be right in the right timing. Are you okay with that?
Whenever I sit wondering why I suck so much, i can always trace it back to envy.
You see, it is much easier to talk about greed…but don’t do it. Doing that enables you to point fingers at other people and divert attention away from the real culprit. Talking about envy is much more uncomfortable. It points the finger at ourselves. But it is much more effective.
So will it be the same old story? Tangled up in a hunt for glory? Prestige? Possession? Pleasure? This will blossom into full grown greed. Preempt that. Focus on envy.
Will you master the beast of envy?