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Envy: A Joy Killer

August 1, 2018 | by: Scott Denny | 0 comments

The grass is always greener on the other side, or so it seems. This kind of temptation, this lie, is familiar to all of us. It’s one that promises us that what we don’t have is better than what we do have. It’s a temptation, however, that cannot deliver on its promise and one that sucks the joy out of our lives.

It was, also, the first lie, the first temptation faced by Adam and Eve.

Adam and Eve were tempted to believe that life would be better out from under the shadow of their God and their Creator. Satan threw out a question to cause them to rethink God’s faithfulness and trustworthiness. He threw out a question, if you will, to tempt them to believe the grass is greener on the other side. He threw out a question to tempt them to look away from the goodness of their Creator, so that they might believe the lie that God is not to be trusted and that they deserve what they do not have – knowledge of good and evil.

“Did God actually say” [Genesis 3:1] began the question. The question is one that many of us face. Did God actually say in the face of suffering His grace is sufficient? [2 Corinthians 12:9] Did God actually say He would meet our every need? [Philippians 4:19] Did God actually say He is an ever present help in times of trouble? [Psalm 46:1] Did God actually say _______? Fill in the blank with whatever lie comes your way. As we listen to the lies, we are tempted to believe that the grass must be greener. We are tempted to believe that joy can be found outside the green pastures of our loving Shepherd.
envyIt remains all too easy at times to be swayed by what we can see with our own eyes causing us to envy a different life, a different providence, a different marriage, a different job, etc. This is the experience of a man named Asaph.

Psalm 73 is the cry of Asaph who wrestled mightily with envy as he witnessed ‘the prosperity of the wicked’. [Psalm 73:3] Within this psalm we read about his confession, his confusion, his conclusion and lastly his hope.

In verses 1-3, Asaph begins where we all must begin, he confesses, “Truly God is good to Israel”. He confesses and declares that which he knows to be true – the goodness of God towards his own beloved people. A confession that if you’re in the faith you can enthusiastically echo and say, “Amen!” After confessing God’s goodness, he has a different confession, a confession that reflects the fragile condition of his heart.
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He confesses, “My feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” [Psalm 73:2, 3]

What happened here to Asaph? What began to occupy his thoughts that would cause him to envy others and to nearly stumble?

In verses 4-14, Asaph began to examine the lives of those who don’t follow after God with a pure heart. Following his confession, his confusion mounts. He notes that the wicked prosper. [Psalm 73:12] They’re arrogant. They mock God. They don’t suffer. They do whatever they want. They possess whatever their hearts desire and nothing ever seemingly goes wrong for them. He wonders, in verse 13, if the pursuit of godliness is even worth it. Wondering and even declaring that ‘all in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence’. [Psalm 73:13]

Many of us can be like Asaph. While we know and believe the truth that God loves us, will care for us and meet our every need, we can, nevertheless, be tempted to look elsewhere and envy what others have or don’t have because following Christ means, at times, suffering and hardship.

scott-dennyIf you’re like me, then you can relate to Asaph. It’s easy to look around and see how those who reject Christ seem to have it all. While those of us who seek to love righteousness and pursue godliness at times seem to get the short end of the stick. Would it just be easier to compromise – maybe just a little? Maybe life wouldn’t be so hard.

For some, you may think that maybe you could work more hours in order to get a bigger house, a newer car, or take a better vacation – knowing it would only mean sacrificing a little time with your family, but in the end wouldn’t they be happier too? Wouldn’t the grass be greener?

It can be easy to grumble when our eyes are fixed upon our circumstances. It can be easy to complain to God when things don’t seem just. It can be easy to envy the world and what it offers when the world seems to prosper.

Eventually, Asaph is wearied by these very thoughts. They seem to sap him from all of his joy.

“But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task.” (v. 16)

In his weariness, though, Asaph’s tune changes. His attitude changes. His heart changes. His joy and his hope change. They change because he concludes to set his mind on Truth.

We read that in his weariness he entered the sanctuary of God. [Psalm 73:17] He began to worship the Creator rather than creature. He began to set his affections in heaven rather than on earth. In verses 18-28, he realizes the stuff, position, comfort, riches, etc. in the end cannot save the wicked from an eternity without God. What appears to be good, in the end, leads to their destruction. He begins to see their end and his hope through the lens of the faithfulness, goodness and mercy of God. He worships God and his hope changes. He repents and he returns to his first love. In light of all that he considers, he declares his greatest hope:

“But as for me it is good to be near God. I have made the Lord God my refuge that I may tell of all your works” (v. 28)

In our own weariness, dear reader, Christ calls the weary to come to him where he gives us rest. [Matthew 11:28] We come to him in prayer where the Spirit of God meets us in our weakness and intercedes for us. [Romans 8:9]  We come to Christ in the Word where God speaks [2 Timothy 3:16] and the Spirit renews our minds. [Ephesians 4:23] We come to Christ in praise and worship when we fix our eyes upon the glory of the cross. We come to Christ in thanksgiving, for he has given us all we need for life and godliness. [2 Peter 1:3] As we do our eyes are lifted up from this world and placed squarely upon the riches and goodness and mercy of God. We enter into his presence, and it is there that we find joy. [Psalm 16:11]

Reader, our hope and faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ makes all the difference in how we view the providences of our lives. Our faith and trust in a risen Savior give us hope that we can and will see life through a different lens; that we can and will set our affections upon our Savior, rather than a desire for the empty promises of this world. This world is passing away. Don’t believe the lie. The grass is a beautiful shade of green in the pasture of our Good Shepherd. Keep your eyes fixed upon Him as you persevere in the hope of eternity.

Scott Denny is a Pastor at Grace Bible Church

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