This article wraps up my series on Contentment. Here are the previous parts of the series if you've missed any:
Part One: Contentment instead of worrying
Part Two: No Complaining!
Part Three: Coveting and finding joy in our unique circumstances
Last Wednesday, I talked about coveting and today I'm talking about envy. I've always had a hard time understanding the difference between the two; however, now that I've studied them both a little, I think I realize the distinction:
Coveting is an unquenchable thirst for the things of this world---material things, specifically; but, perhaps, personality traits or life circumstances as well.
Envy is more of a resentment of the joys and positive things in another person's life.
Where coveting is a verb, an active and conscious action, envy is a personality trait that festers and grows. It can start out small, but it's fed by irrational thoughts and fears.
James 3:16: "For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there."
Isn't that the truth! How many times has your respect for someone grown to admiration, then to desire to "be like her", then to feelings of inadequacy when she succeeds, then to wishing she wouldn't succeed so much, then to wanting to sabotage her success now and then, and finally to complete contempt for every good thing in her life?
That's envy. Jealousy. With it comes hatred, malice, and a little voice inside that tells you that you just don't measure up.
I've been on both the giving and receiving ends of envy. There are people I know who have lost incredible amounts of weight and I've been envious of how easy that comes for them. I think I've gotten to the point of wishing she wouldn't succeed so much before my "voice of worthiness" speaks up and reminds me who I belong to.
As for being on the receiving end, let's just say that I've got a loving and present husband, obedient and healthy kids, and a very peaceful home life. This doesn't sit well with some who are struggling in these areas and I truly, from the heart, feel for those who envy this good life to the point of maliciousness.
This verse in James is surrounded by wisdom---wisdom about wisdom!
James 3:13-18: "Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace."
I think the last verse just really sums up this whole series on contentment:
"Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace."
Being content is not a place we somehow and someday arrive to and stay. It's a conscious daily choice to sow seeds of peacefulness and reap the blessings. Instead of actively seeking contentment for ourselves, I think that we will be much more successful at finding peace when we seek to make peace abound around us.