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  • Writer's pictureRob

The Eighty-First (Envy)

Have you ever just wondered what someone's thinking when they do something? If you're like me, that happens more and more each day it seems. It's interesting though, because when you start to think about that and apply what we know from scripture, you'll figure out where, or from whom, a person's actions come from.

We're going to talk this week about envy, as you likely gathered from the title, but to fill out the thought we started on, this is one of the emotions that influence people's actions. I'm not just talking about the person themselves, I'm also talking about people, or groups of people, using that emotion to control individuals. What I mean by that is when you know someone is prone to envy, like much of the world, you have the opportunity to exploit that to get that person to do what you desire.

Take celebrities, for example. The use of celebrities to promote products, or political agendas, is all centered around envy. These people are just like you and me, created by Yehovah. However, they have been lifted up and idolized to the point where the majority of society envies them and their lifestyle. They want their money, their perks, and their renown. Because they want this, they hang on the celebrity's every word, taking it as gospel, and as a result willingly give their life decisions over to the celebrity by doing or believing whatever they say.

So, what does scripture say about envy? The funny thing is that despite it's pervasiveness in society, because mankind started with a relationship with God, and learned right and wrong from Him, even society thinks envy is a bad thing. The term "green with envy," actually came from Shakespeare's use of the color when associating jealousy to a monster. Envy is in 19 verses of the KJV bible, with 20 occurrences, envied is in another 6, and they all definitely confirm that envy is bad.

When we look at all the references to envy, we see that it rots the bones (Proverbs 14:30), it slays the silly (Job 5:2), and can even drive people to sell their own brother (Acts 7:9). But, even worse, we learn that Jesus was delivered to Pilate because of envy (Matthew 27:18, Mark 15:10).

Now, it's important to point out as we look at these verses that envy is translated from two different words in the Greek, but Hebrew only has one. Qinah is used for jealousy and envy in Hebrew, while in Greek, phthonos means envy and zelos means jealousy or zealous. So, similarly to qinah in Hebrew, zelos can mean two things: jealousy, as in a negative context, and zealous as in a positive context.

Since phthonos is most definitely envy, let's focus on the occurrences of that word. When we take a look, we see it's in nine verses, but the interesting part is that in the many of those verses the word comes in a list. And they're not lists of good things! These lists include all manner of evil.

In the first list, Paul talks about people that live in unrighteousness despite seeing God as clearly evident in His creation (Romans 1:29-31). He adds envy to a list including things such as murder, deceit, and being haters of God. In another list, Paul includes it when talking about the things he and Titus used to display in the past, before becoming believers in Christ (Titus 3:3). In this list, he combines it with things such as malice, hate and diverse lusts and pleasures.

Paul does help us out though, not sticking to just listing the bad things. When writing to Timothy, the first time, he talked about where envy actually comes from. And it's not what you would expect. Focusing on arguments and disputes about words is a place where envy comes from, along with things such as strife, slander and suspicions (1 Timothy 6:4).

The bigger picture Paul explains to Timothy when he references envy though, is that the obsession with arguments and disputes about words comes from teaching something other than serving. But not just serving anyone, he's saying masters serving their servants! More specifically, he writes of masters who believe in Jesus treating their servants as brothers (1 Timothy 6:1-3). Even more, that they use the wholesome words of Jesus and His doctrine of godliness.

Now, I'm pretty sure you don't have a servant, let alone multiple servants, so let's think about how to apply this to us. It goes back to Jesus, as everything does, and His example that we are to follow. Regardless of who you meet, who works for you, or who you work for, treat them with the love, kindness and servitude Jesus displayed while He dwelt on earth. Treat them as equals, neither looking down upon them nor putting them on a pedestal. Jesus sought out the outcasts, and called out the self-righteous Pharisees and Sadducees. Man has not changed in the past 2000 years. We still have these groups of people.

This brings us back to what we first talked about. Don't put celebrities on a pedestal, or put any more stock in their words than anyone else. They see gain as godliness just as Paul equated with envy and he says to withdraw from them (1 Timothy 6:5). But it's more than that. We brought nothing into this world and we can't take anything out (1 Timothy 6:7). We should be content with what Yehovah gives us (1 Timothy 6:8), because love of money is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10).

Pay attention to how much stock you're putting in those that are well known. Yes, even the news celebrities. And also pay attention to your thoughts and actions towards those that society outcasts or considers "less than." Use Jesus as your example.

Shabbat shalom and God bless you!

-Rob and Sara Gene

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