From Jim O'Brien
July 19, 2019

The Price of Envy

Hi Friend,

In a Political Science class during college a hot topic triggered an animated discussion about the most frequent cause of war. The professor proposed the idea that the whole world would exist in peace if every nation on earth lived in poverty-but, if only one nation were wealthy and every other nation were poor there would be war.

Envy inevitably leads to war!

One would think that poor nations, seeing success, would ask "why" the one nation prospered and learn to emulate it. History has not shown that to be the case and thus the need for a strong army.

This brings up an interesting question. What happens when God blesses one of His servants or maybe a nation? God blessed Joseph and his brothers tried to murder him. God blessed Israel and there is no other nation that has suffered repeated genocidal attacks as frequently as the Jews.

In an article titled Envy: Most joyless of Seven Deadly Sins, author Paul Kokoski writes, "Envy is one of the most potent causes of unhappiness. It is certainly the most joyless of the Seven Deadly Sins. It was envy of God that caused the fall of the angels. The devils came into existence through envy! It was envy that brought on the fall of our first parents. The devil envied their happiness, tempted Eve, who tempted Adam, who brought sin into the human race. It was envy that caused Saul to want to murder David, because David was so popular and successful. It was envy that caused the Scribes and Pharisees to persecute Christ, have Him condemned, and finally had Him crucified on Calvary. So the litany of the results of envy reads on."

He continues, "As a capital sin envy refers to the tendency to be saddened by another's good as if that good constituted an affront to our superiority."

The Apostle Paul once went into a gentile city and preached at a Jewish synagogue. A significant number of the Jews were so moved by the logic and truth of Paul's words that they were convicted that Jesus was the Messiah "but other Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city." (Acts 17:5 NIV) Their envy caused a riot and they would have killed Paul had he not escaped.

In the 1st Century Christianity grew like the proverbial wildfire. Many gentiles were convicted to repent of their pagan practices and live a completely new life in Christ. One such gentile practice was asceticism, which taught the pagans to reject anything good. The philosophy of life was summed up in the admonition "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle." (Colossians 2:21)

These pagans gave up any enjoyment in life and thus they envied the joy found by newly converted Christians. The rejoicing of Christians was especially obvious during the Holy Days, which the 1st Century Church observed. So pagans persecuted the Christians and attacked them for keeping the Holy Days and Sabbaths.

Paul was moved to write, "Let no one, then, judge you [for] eating or drinking, or in respect of a Feast, or of a new moon, or of Sabbaths." (Colossians 2:16 Young's Literal Translation) In other words, enjoy the blessings God has given without letting someone condemn you for your blessing. Don't worry about the envy of evil people.

Back to the discussion in the Political Science class: Will there ever be a country that can succeed without being overthrown by an envious enemy?

The Good News is that the most frequent topic of the Jesus' messages in the New Testament is about a nation whose success will eclipse every nation that has ever existed. And because Jesus is the most powerful king the world has ever known we have a guarantee of an eternity of prosperity.

Until next time,

Jim O'Brien