As a pastor, I find myself being envious of other pastors with bigger churches, more money, more staff, more “success”, a church building etc. I find that this envy usually surfaces when I talk to my brothers in ministry.
Just last week I went to the awesome Oxygen conference. One of the things I love about conferences is catching up with brothers and sisters who I haven’t seen in ages and seeing how they are going. But when it comes to them listing off the successes that God has given them I say what I am supposed to say “That’s great man!” or “How encouraging!” But a lot of time, while I am saying that, my heart is really saying “Well if only I had (fill in the blank) I would be seeing that growth” or “They cheated” or “They are lying!”
What is happening in my heart is bitter envy, pure and simple.
A brother shared this passage from James 3 with me yesterday:
But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
Did you see what James is saying? He is saying that this envy is tied to selfish ambition. This envy shows that I am more concerned with me being a success than the great things God is doing! When I am envious of someone else I have forgotten that God has given them whatever I want of theirs and I have forgotten that my identity is not found in my success or anything else but what Jesus has done for me.
The cure to my spiritual disease of selfish ambition and bitter envy is to remind myself of my treasure. My treasure is not my job, my church, my family or my stuff. My treasure is Jesus and what he has done for me. Only when I my heart rejoices in the fact that I am more blessed in Christ than I can ever imagine will bitter envy and selfish ambition be a thing of my past. Only when when I am joyful in the fact that I am child of God and he loves me with an infinite love will I ever be able to say to a brother who is recounting what God is doing in his ministry “That’s great!” and have my heart agree with my mouth.
I need grace!
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