Blinded by Envy
An ancient Greek legend talks about several men competing in a footrace. One of the athletes ran well but took second place. The public showered the winner with great adoration and praise. They esteemed him so highly that they even created a statue in his honor. Envy consumed the runner-up. Each day his resentment toward the winner grew and consumed his every thought. Finally, he decided the only way to stop his envy was to destroy the statue.
Each night under the cover of darkness, the man went to the statue and secretly chiseled away at the foundation to weaken it. Then one night as he chiseled away in violent anger, he went too far. The heavy marble statue started to rock back and forth. Suddenly it crashed down on the disgruntled athlete. Beneath the marble replica of the man he had grown to hate, he died—his own envy had destroyed him.
This envious athlete had never learned the truth found in Psalm 73. Even if we fall away from God and tough times come into our lives, we need to trust that God is teaching us from every one of our life's situations. If envy begins to fill our hearts, it blinds us from focusing on trusting in God.
Psalm 73 marks the beginning of the third book of Psalms. Asaph, who wrote this and eleven other psalms, was one of the chief musicians David appointed to serve in the sanctuary. A respected Levite musician and prophet, Asaph faced a crisis of faith when envy blinded him.
Read the verses below and answer the following questions:
"Truly God is good to Israel, to such as are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no pangs in their death, but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men, nor are they plagued like other men" (Psalm 73:1-5).
1. What proclamation did Asaph make about God? Describe who benefits from this attribute.
2. What metaphor did Asaph use to contrast himself with his unwavering God?
3. What sinful emotion did Asaph confess?
4. Explain who he envied and why.
a. Asaph's eyes were temporarily blinded to God's goodness in his life, which opened the door to envy and jealousy. Journal about how God has demonstrated His goodness to you in the past week.
b. Asaph was honest with God about his doubts and anxieties. Use the following steps to journal an honest prayer to God. "If I say, 'My foot slips,' Your mercy, O LORD, will hold me up. In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul" (Psalm 94:18-19).
Step One: Tell God why your foot is slipping (e.g., what dilemma plagues you?).
Step Two: Ask Him to hold you up with His mercy.
Step Three: What attribute of God comforts your soul in this situation?
Because George and Sally were leaving for an extended vacation, he asked their neighbor Jane to water his rose bushes. When the couple returned home, the weeds had covered over any roses. George asked Jane about it. She explained that when she saw the weeds starting to come up, she thought they were plants that had been planted among the roses. So Jane sprayed and watered them, even putting on a little extra fertilizer. Later George thought about the weeds and roses in light of the cultivation of his own life. Weeds—the bad habits—grow quickly, and they can take over. The good habits and disciplines of life—the roses—must be carefully cultivated.
Too many of us water the weeds. The famous American psychologist William James said that when we engage in actions until they become habits, "we are spinning our own fates, good or evil, and never to be undone". Like the experience of the psalmist, envy blinds us when we look at the seemingly trouble-free lives of those around us. As we faithfully follow the words of Scripture, that discipline and consistency do something significant in our everyday lives: we learn to rejoice in God's love of the pure of heart and continually grow to become more like Jesus.