Summary: Envy has a powerful effect upon our lives. It rubs of of peace, joy and love. God not only offers us forgiveness, but also a life of contentment.
Acts 8:9-25 “Where the Grass Is Greener (Envy)”
We are complex individuals. To be able to say that we were completely dedicated to and solely motivated by God’s will may be our dream and desire, but it is not the reality. All too often the less noble forces of greed, pride, envy, anger, and perhaps even fear drive us. Our goal in identifying and talking about the seven deadly sins is not to eradicate them from our lives—for that will be impossible to accomplish this side of heaven. Rather, we want to be able to confess their power in our lives, receive God’s forgiveness, and open ourselves to the new life that God has in store for us.
In his fantasy trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien introduced a small character in who envy was a major driving force. The third film from the “Lord of the Rings,” series gives us a glimpse of how envy was hatched in the life of the man who would be known to succeeding generations as Gollum.
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The man allowed envy to take root in his life and to control it. Eventually, envy turned the man into a miniature monster.
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The story of Gollum is a powerful one for us, because it resonates in our hearts and we acknowledge the core truth that it holds. We have, at various times in our lives, allowed envy to transform us into miserable, wretched, little creatures.
DRIVEN BY ENVY
The story of Simon the Sorcerer in many ways mirrors the story of Gollum. Simon was a magician, or an illusionist. He was not a wizard who had greater control of unseen forces than the mere mortals around him. Simon impressed people with his magic and he tricked them into believing that he was someone special—a great man. Some people even believed that Simon was one of the god’s, like Hercules, who had descended to earth.
Simon was living an illusion—a sham—and he knew it. Though he was respected by some and revered by others, he knew his life was all smoke and mirrors. This may be one of the reasons why he was open to the gospel message preached by Philip, and believed and was baptized when given the invitation.
Conversion takes place instantly, but the process of transformation takes a little longer. When Simon saw the power of Peter and John, when they bestowed the Holy Spirit on the new Christians, envy welled up in him. The people spoke in tongues, prophesied, healed the sick, and performed other great signs and wonders when they received the Holy Spirit. Simon knew he wanted to do those things, also. Even more, Simon wanted to be the one to give the Spirit to people. The envy in his heart drove him to offer Peter and John money if they would just teach him how to conjure up the Holy Spirit. Simon thought the Holy Spirit was just a trick that was similar to the ones he had performed.
Peter and John rebuked Simon. Envy isn’t to be the driving agent in motivating Christians to seek the gifts of God. The Holy Spirit is not bought off dropping a few more dollars in to the collection basket. The Holy Spirit comes to those who open their lives to him, and desire to accomplish God’s will in their lives.
A COMMON UNDERSTANDING
We may be uncomfortable admitting it, but we resonate with Gollum and Simon. We know how envy has been a force in our lives.
Christmas is in the not to distant future. I remember, as a child, that envy played a major part of my holiday celebration. The first thing I would do on Christmas morning was count the packages to make sure that we all had received the same number—or I had more. Envy showed its ugly head if my brother or sister had received more packages than I did. I must also confess that there were Christmas when I pouted because I deemed that my brother, sister, or friend had received a better present than I had.
Envy is not a neutral force. When it is unleashed, it powerfully affects our lives.
(Show PowerPoint slide of Gollum and envy list)
· Envy diminishes love. It is almost impossible to like, let alone love, a person whom you envy.
· Envy makes us angry. We become angry at our circumstances, other people, and God.
· Envy enflames frustration. We want something that someone else has and we can’t steal it from them, or get it through hard work and dedication.
· Envy robs us of our happiness, joy, and peace.
THE OPPOSITE OF ENVY—CONTENTMENT
It is obvious that envy is not part of the abundant life that is ours through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Certainly an envy-controlled life does not make a powerful and convincing witness to God’s love and power. The virtue of contentment is part of the abundant life that God invites us to experience, and a characteristic that gives our lives a powerful witness to those around us.