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Polygamous, Monogamous, Global Envy

I started thinking about envy the other day when one of the wives of a polygamous community was asked whether she ever envies her husband’s other wives. Her response seemed honest. She admitted that it happens but is sure that those who don’t practice polygamy aren’t above such problems.

She’s right isn’t she. None of us, as right or as wrong as we may be, has a free pass or monopoly on envy or any other problem of the heart.

But let’s stay with envy for a minute. I’d hate to have to pay with my taxes a dime for every envious thought I’ve had in the current year. It’s an underrated motive that causes more than its share of problems. When teamed up with “pride,” it forms a “Bonnie and Clyde.” It prompted our first parents to lose Paradise. It moved the religious leaders of Israel to call for Christ’s death (Matthew 27:18). It moved the highest and most privileged of angels to lead an attempted coup. Ever since, it is at the heart of our personal conflicts and international wars (James 3:14-4:4).

Envying eyes-a longing for what we don’t have; a wish to be on the level of another; a sense of having been deprived. Behind our envying eyes are shadows of discontent that cause us to ignore everything we have, while looking longingly at the perceived advantages of another. Behind such eyes is a malignant desire that gives rise to discontent, ill will, and finally an attempt to take for ourselves– things that, in the end, won’t be ours to keep.

The Apostle James said that where envy and selfish ambition exist, there is confusion and every evil thing (James 3:16). We recognize it in ourselves from time to time when someone else gets high marks and compliments at our expense. Someone else gets a promotion. They get good looks, a happy family, or a nicer house– without deserving it– we think, any more than we do (Psalm 73).

It really does seem to be a recurring theme not only of the Bible, but of our own struggles. As far as we can tell, the Devil’s own problems began when he envied God. Then later, the first family envied God. Are we different? Do we too envy not only one another, but God himself? Is that what is happening when we struggle with Him for the control and honor and time of our lives?

What do you think? I’m sure you’d agree that it would be a mistake to think that envy only shows its ugly head in polygamous communities. So what’s the solution? How do you think we can come to terms with this universal problem? And when is envy good?

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8 Responses to “Polygamous, Monogamous, Global Envy”

  1. rabbineil says:

    I believe the root of envy is pride, and all the sin in the world was grouped by James into: The lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and PRIDE. We can see these in the Devil’s temptation of Eve, and again in his testing of Jesus. It never changes, and the worst is Pride, since it keeps us from admitting the other two and dealing with them.

  2. yvetterjh says:

    Mart this is a hard one for a Saturday morning. As I am reading your commentary I kept picturing Eve in the garden being tempted by Satan. You said it when you said that behind envy lies discontent, and I agree.

    In Gen 3, Satan tempted Eve into sin. I like to say he took her by the forearm and escorted her into sin. If I had to sum up the conversation in the garden it would be-God is a lie-you’re naive- eat from the tree, and see for yourself. There is a whole lot more that you’re missing-His suggestions ushered in discontent, envy and sin.

    How many of us still fall into this scenario? When we look at our single friends not having to submit to a man, or chase after kids? On those bad days it is easy to eat from the tree. Or men, when you see your co-worker in his shiny new sports car with the golf clubs hanging out the back, while you’re busy packing the mini-van, you would eat from the tree as well.

    But we have to remember to look around the beautiful garden that God has placed us in and see its worth. “Resist the devil and He will flee”, we have to know God’s word, and believe it is true. We must trust Him as God, and He knows what’s best for us. He is Sovereign. God knows that if I lose 50 lbs He won’t be able to keep me out of that bikini, and therefore nothing would get done :))). Just like we tell our children, “no means no”, and “not now means not now”. We cannot let anyone tell us differently.

    Let’s enjoy our lot today, and take a stroll in our own garden. God is good to us and He is worthy to be praised.

  3. stevendsouza2001 says:

    I agree with the comment above. Pride gives us the feeling that we are entitled to something.It could be justice fairness,equality. These are good things to pursue,but there is a fine line. Jesus being God, who created the heavens and the earth humbled himself to pontius pilate…He didnt have to. Prides motives are constantly opposing Love described in 1Cor13. Pride never wants to admit that it is wrong,but if we confess our pride to someone..we can be held accountable. Admitting to the fact that i am prideful to someone allows God to fill me with love,mercy and grace…which we all need.. saved or not. We too are just as likely to act like the pharisees when we think that we are better than unbelievers and in the right just because ive been following God for many years.

  4. dep7547 says:

    My life, alone, can attest to the fact that envy is ever present in the monogamous community as well as any other. As a red blooded American man (not that that is an excuse) I have committed adultery in my heart–something that Jesus equivocates with the very act. I think it begins with the roving eye that men develop from the moment that they learn that the opposite sex is appealing. It is ironic; however, when as young men longing to be married, it seems so easy to commit ourselves to that one special girl that we have dreamed about and never stray from in our fantasies, we are never adequately prepared to pass every test once the lord has rewarded our desires. I have never strayed in the flesh, but that one fact does not make me guiltless.

    True, in real life, I am not that chivalric hero that i once dreamed I was. In fact, more often than not, I am a clumsy oaf that save for the lord’s attention to my life would have failed miserably many times. The truth is that my wife is a bigger hero than I am at times–this is not to say that women do not struggle with these same issues–it just seems that men act on them with more frequency. To be honest, it probably has as much to do with receiving attention as it does with gratification. I suppose that is why envy can carry over into so many other categories in life. I mean that promotion is not always about the raise as much as the attention we hope to get from our co-workers.

    I recall reading a daily devotion article from “Our Daily Bread” back in the early nineties that dealt with a man who had written what was considered one of the most profound of inspirational works (I cannot recall the name of the man or his work); who failed to secure a copyright and lost all of the proceeds and credit for the publication. The man was later interviewed and asked how he felt about it. In reply (because the book was so well received) he was far more grateful that the lord had provided a way for his message to be received than he was hurt by the fact that it was not accredited to him. I imagine that these are the kind of heroes that God patiently waits for us to become. It takes a lot more courage and strength to be a hero in a situation that God created us to conquer in than it does to overcome the mighty challenges that we imagined ourselves overcoming if God only gave us our dreams!

  5. brownsfan1642 says:

    two interesting quotes on envy and pride, which in fact do seem to go together. Dorothy Sayers said of envy and pride, “Envy begins by asking plausibly, ‘Why should I not enjoy what others enjoy?’ and it ends by demanding, ‘Why should others enjoy what I may not?’” CS Lewis wrote, “Pride is essentially competitive… Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better looking than others.” Pretty interesting stuff.

  6. djacks11 says:

    A young pastor was preaching on pride one Sunday about 28 years ago and he said something I’ll never forget.
    ” Pride is the hen under which all of the eggs of sin are hatched.” I don’t know if this was original with him or if he “borrowed” it from someone but it really impacted me because the pride of life, etc. has often been a struggle for me. I thank God for His grace and patience with me as I continue this journey of life.

  7. Hephzibah610 says:

    (James4:1-4 NAS) 1. What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members ?
    2. You lust and do not have ; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain ; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask.
    3. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.
    4. You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God ? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

    How often I have made myself a friend of the world and hostile toward the God who loves me. How often my eyes have wandered and longed (lusted) after things belonging to someone else instead of being thankful and content. I pray that the eyes of my/our heart(s) would be opened to a new way of seeing and understanding how to be a friend of God instead of the world.

    I also believe that some of us are living under the dominion of “lies”. Things that were formed in our minds when we were young that created “broken” places in us…things that told us we would never be good enough, or we were “less than” and “undeserving of anything good”….or “unloveable”…. It is often these strongholds that motivate us toward envy and ugly thoughts/sin. Whenever we see these ‘ugly’ thoughts (of coveteousness, etc.) rise up in us, it is time to go back to God and ask Him to uncover the lie(s) we have believed and ask Him to set us free. The process can be painful…but it is eternally worthwhile.

    Let us pray for one another! God’s grace be with you all!

  8. mosessowale says:

    hmmnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! godliness with contentment is a great reward…

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