Summary: God tells us that godliness with contentment is great gain. But there is one trait that gnaws at the heart of many Christians that can deprive them of that contentedness. What is it, and how can we defend against it?
TEXT: I Timothy 6:3-10 TITLE: The Envy Trap
OPEN: How many of you have heard of the tooth fairy? (The question met with a little laughter as everyone raised their hands). I read a story not so long ago about a woman whose 2nd grader had collected a fair amount of money from the "tooth fairy." Every time her daughter Rachel lost a tooth, they’d put it in a small envelope and put it under her daughter’s pillow, and behold, in the morning, the tooth was gone and its place was $2. That was just great. Two dollars is a lot of money for a 2nd grader. At least it was until, one day Rachel visited a friend of hers. Her friend was telling how she had put her tooth under her pillow and found $10 the next morning. Rachel then asked her friend’s mother, ‘Mrs. Kraft, would you mind doing me a big favor? Would you please call my mom and tell her which tooth fairy you use?’”
APPLY: Paul writes that godliness with contentment is great gain.
But this little girl had lost her contentedness. Why? Because she had fallen prey to one of the most devious thieves known to man. A thief that robs more Christians of their joy and satisfaction in life than many things I know of. It’s one of the traps that Paul hints at when he says “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap” (I Timothy 6:9)
I. What is this “trap” that can rob us of contentment? I call it the “envy” trap
Notice, that the little girl had gotten $2 a tooth. A 2nd grader with $2 in their pocket should be literally in heaven. That’s a lot of money for a child. But suddenly, that wasn’t enough… why?
Because her friend got $10 for her tooth. NOW $2 was no longer quite enough.
ILLUS: I recently read about South West Airlines. After the tragedy of September 11th, South West has been THE only big carrier to still be making money (although they are still making about ½ what they had last year). All the other airlines are swimming in red ink and have either declared bankruptcy or are thinking about it – in order to try to avoid their creditors. So, in an atmosphere where most airlines are struggling to survive, SW’s employees have relative job security. And yet, some of the workers in one of its unions is threatening to strike for higher wages. Why? Because comparable employees in one of those other airlines (that’s failing) make more per hour than they do.
Does anybody besides me sense the insanity of that? These union workers were not content, because somebody else (in a failing and potentially bankrupt airline) was getting more than they did.
Solomon wrote: “And I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man’s envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind” Ecclesiastes 4:4
Apparently, envy is a driving force in the lives of many people. It pushes them to be competitive, hard working and successful. So, you would expect that such a motivation would be a “good thing.” But it’s not…
Jesus said: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’” (Mark 7:20-23)
James wrote: 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, of the devil. (James 3:14-17)
And Paul warned: The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)
In other words, envy can make us unclean, unspiritual & even rob us of our salvation. It is not a desirable trait to have in our lives.
II. What lies at the heart of envy?
The heart of envy is the belief that we deserve better than we’ve got.
ILLUS: Jesus told a parable that went like this:
Matthew 20:1-16 "For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard.
He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. "About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. "He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing.