It’s everywhere you turn, yet so easily keeps itself hidden.
It’s pervasive in advertising and steers the course of political debates. It lives in all our hearts, but seems so petty that we’re unwilling to admit its presence.
But in God’s economy, envy in sinful and dangerous. “Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before envy?” (Proverbs 27:4).
Envy and Its Accomplices
Envy, says Joe Rigney, is a feeling of unhappiness at the blessing of others. It’s different than jealousy, which orients on what we ourselves own and is not always a sin. Envy orients on others and their blessing. And it hunts in a pack, keeping company with other “works of the flesh,” like covetousness, malice, rivalry, and resentment (Galatians 5:19–21).
But as tricky as envy is — in both its pervasiveness and hiddenness — it is highly susceptible to the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17; Romans 8:13). Awareness of envy’s masks, and direct confrontation through faith in the promises of God, go a long way in smiting the green-eyed monster. As does thankfulness. “It’s hard for envy to hide in a grateful heart,” says Rigney.
God’s Lavish Inequality
In this new episode of Theology Refresh, Rigney takes this bull by the horns, not only making us mindful of its power and patterns, but also preparing us to fight. He gets us ready not just to play defense against envy — “the great leveler,” as Dorothy Sayers called it — but also to go on the offensive in pursuit of the riches of God’s lavish inequality. That’s right, there’s a kind of inequality that God loves, and discovering the beauty of God’s gracious variety (Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 12:4; 1 Peter 4:10) just might be one of the breakthrough truths for you.
Joe Rigney is professor at Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis. He gave the seminar “Like Like a Narnian” at the recent Desiring God 2013 National Conference, and is author of a new book by the same title. For this weekend only, the book is available at a special discounted rate, in softcover and for Kindle.
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