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.
After the faculty voted for the winners in each of the four classes, the ten winners were announced and presented with their awards. The person receiving the most votes in each class received the gold key; the second highest received the silver key; and the remaining eight received a pin. I was fortunate enough to win a pin my sophomore through my senior years.
However, Steve, my best friend, surprised everyone our junior year and won the gold key for our class. Although I have had victory over that grudge for many years, originally it was hard for me to accept, and jealousy or envy really ripped my heart apart.
I verbally tore into a Christian brother by the name of Alan several years ago. Alan is an evangelist in our Annual Conference and had been the pastor of a State Trooper in the Church I was serving at the time. The State Trooper died of cancer during my first few months at that Church.
Although I had frequently visited and prayed with this brother and his family, they asked Alan to officiate at his funeral and snubbed me. When Alan came to talk about the situation, I snubbed him, that is, after I screamed and hollered at him with personal derogatory remarks and told him to leave as quickly as possible.
Now I am not proud of all of this, but I share it with you to let you know that I struggle just as much as anyone else in the constant battle against temptation and sin. It was the Walk to Emmaus that healed my relationship with my brother clergyman Alan. He was the Weekend Spiritual Director on the very first Emmaus Walk on which I was a team member.