Summary: Failure to confess and forsake the attitude of envy will destroy us. Envy is perhaps the most deadly sin of all.
The Seven Deadly Sins: Envy
I have to personally remind myself when it comes to this fourth deadly sin I “have stopped preaching and gone to meddling,” for envy or jealousy has been my personal, besetting sin since childhood and youth. Now every sermon I preach I always preach to myself, but this one really hits close to home. It is most personally revealing sermon I have ever preached.
Wayne Brouwer is a minister in the Reformed Church of America and a professor at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. He shares this story in his sermon “Taming the Beast”: “Recently, I read the autobiography of Malcolm X. He talks about his younger years, when black people had nothing and white people had everything. That’s how he saw it, and he wasn’t alone.
“He bought skin cream to lighten the color of his skin. He got his hair conked—that’s what they called it. They soaked their scalps in a foul-smelling potion of lye and other chemicals until their scalps burned raw. Then they took a hot iron and seared the curls out of their hair. They wanted to be just like white people with straight hair. It was all part of life on the envy side of the street. Anything about his natural life had to be bad.”
Brouwer continues with his personal confession: “I too, play with enough false humility to wish myself someone else often. Sometimes all I see is the worst in me. I wish to be someone else. When I do that, envy kicks in overtime. Envy and a negative outlook on life are constant companions.” [SOURCE: --Wayne Brouwer, “Taming the Beast,” Preaching Today, Tape No. 118.]
I personally relate to the struggles of Malcolm X and Wayne Brouwer, for many times all I see is the worst in me, and I often wish I were someone else. I know what it means to have “envy kick in overtime.”
The Christmas of my freshman year at Southern Illinois University Carbondale when I was only eighteen, I almost changed Churches over envy and hurt feelings. I was a regular organist once a month in my home Church and the weekly organist every Sunday evening. I would accompany the choir on occasion as well.
None of the musicians at my Home Church received a salary, but one Sunday evening our Lay Leader presented Christmas gifts after Church to the pastor, our choir director, choir accompanist, and the Sunday evening pianist. After he made those presentations, he looked directly at me and said, “There are others who serve us that we also appreciate, but we could not give a gift to everyone.” I pouted over that one for a long time.
Academics, music, and achieving honors were always personal priorities during my teenage years. My close friends and I were always competitors in these fields. Every May all the students in all four classes at Marion High School who had consistently made the honor roll had their names put on a ballot for the teachers to vote for the ten students in each class who would receive the coveted Rotary Awards. Academic excellence was only one requirement for the Rotary honors. Other factors taken into consideration were extra curricular activities, citizenship, and a cooperative spirit with the faculty.