The Color of Envy

Note: These scenarios are not gender-specific. Depending on the sex of the person reading this, male and female roles can be switched.

Scenario
You are a valued ministry team member who renders essential service to the Lord. One day, a new member joins the team. He (or she) happens to be blessed with many talents, and the spotlight shifts from you to him/her. What do you do?

  1. You welcome the new person with real joy, thinking of how much stronger the team will be now.
  2. You decide to leave the group and join a new one where you can be the focus of attention again.
  3. You are determined to have the focus put back on you and begin a smear campaign against the new person.
  4. You feel envious, but wanting to do the right thing by God, you remain in the group and do your best to work together in harmony.

Notes
Shortly after Jesus predicted his death, two of his apostles — James and John — came to him with the request that when he reached heaven, one be seated at his right and one at his left. When the other ten heard about this, they became indignant, no doubt eager to be seated by Jesus's side themselves. You will find the story in Mark 10.

The desire for glory and eminence is as old as mankind. In this world, where we are exhorted from birth to be the first in everything, people have committed murder to attain it. Christians, however, don’t play by the rules of the “world,” as we have been given another set of rules we need to follow. Jesus tells us what they are as he deals with his apostles’ desire for importance.

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:42-45).

There are other things that we can consider when dealing with scenarios like the one described above, and we all face such situations in one way or another.

  1. It helps to remember that we are all parts of one body, the body of Christ, and each of us is chosen to perform a particular function, whether teaching, healing, helping, administering, or something else. (1 Corinthians 12:28) We all have a role to play.
  2. It is stupid for one part of the body to feel jealous of the other and consequently want out. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body (1 Corinthians 12:15-18).
  3. In the same way, we cannot say we don't need those whose functions don't seem very glamorous. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty (1 Corinthians 12:21-23).
  4. If our goal, as most of us publicly state, is to grow the Kingdom of God and not our own little fiefdoms, then it makes sense that we will be happy if we have people working with us who are blessed with talents that we don't have, or even with greater talents that we possess. And that we will honor them. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it (1 Corinthians 12:26).
  5. And finally, it might also help to remember Elizabeth's behavior when Mary went to meet her after an angel told her that she would bear the Son of God. There was no trace of jealousy in her that her cousin was more blessed than she was, only joy that God had chosen Mary for such an honor (Luke 1:39-45).

Answer
In our scenario (with their numerous variations), responses (b) and (c) are the most common, with people either engaging in subtle but systematic slander and walking out of one group and into another. This is a pity in any walk of life, but especially so with people who serve God. I have, however, seen a significant number of people exhibit option (a) as well, genuinely joyful when they find somebody who appears blessed. The latter could be exercising option (d), which is experiencing slight feelings of envy/jealousy, but determined to do the right thing nonetheless. That is fine enough with God because, eventually, it will translate into joy.


Application

  1. Celebrate others' gifts: When someone with impressive talents joins your ministry team, make a conscious effort to celebrate their abilities. Acknowledge how their presence can contribute to the team's overall effectiveness in serving God. Expressing genuine appreciation for others helps combat feelings of envy.
  2. Focus on your unique role: Remember that God has given you specific gifts and talents to fulfill your unique role in the body of Christ. Instead of comparing yourself to others, concentrate on developing and utilizing your own abilities to the best of your capacity. Embrace your God-given identity and purpose.
  3. Cultivate humility: Regularly practice humility by putting others' needs before your own. Seek opportunities to serve and support your team members, including those who may be more talented or recognized than you. By adopting a servant's heart, you align yourself with Christ's example and teachings.
  4. Communicate openly: If you struggle with feelings of envy, consider sharing your thoughts with a trusted spiritual mentor or friend. Being honest about your struggles can help you gain perspective and receive encouragement. They may offer valuable insights and help you develop strategies to overcome envy.
  5. Pray for a transformed heart: Regularly pray for God to transform your heart and help you view others through His eyes. Ask for the ability to genuinely celebrate others' successes and to find contentment in your own role. Trust that God is working in and through each team member for His greater purposes.

By applying these principles, you can create a ministry environment that fosters unity, mutual support, and a focus on serving God rather than personal glory. As you consistently practice humility, celebration of others, and finding joy in your unique role, you will grow in your ability to overcome envy and work together in harmony.


Conclusion
Envy is a natural human emotion, but it can be detrimental to our spiritual growth and the unity of our ministry teams. By embracing the biblical principles of humility, service, and celebration of others' gifts, we can overcome feelings of envy and find true contentment in the roles God has given us. As we focus on serving God and others, we will experience the joy and fulfillment that comes from being a part of his divine plan.

More in this category: Beware the Gossipmonger »