Today on Summit Life with J.D.
Greer. Envy always assumes if all I have is what God gives to me, if I rely solely on God, it's not going to be enough. My soul is going to dry up. I'm going to miss out on something.
But that is always a lie. And tragically, it keeps you from enjoying what God has given to you for your enjoyment in the present. Welcome to Summit Life with pastor, author and theologian J.D. Greer.
I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch. Here's perhaps an obvious statement, but envy surrounds us. And sadly, most of us don't realize the deadly poison that it can be.
We think of envy as kind of a petty jealousy that just comes from wanting a little more. But the Bible treats it as far more serious. We're discovering what God's word really says about some deeper and perhaps sometimes darker emotions as we continue our teaching series called Smoke from a Fire.
If you missed any of the previous messages, you can always find them at jdgreer.com. But for now, let's join Pastor J.D. in the Old Testament. All right, we got your Bibles this weekend, and I hope that you brought them. If you'll take them out and open them to Numbers, chapter 11. Numbers, you're like, where is Numbers?
If you have a Bible with an Old Testament, and it is the fourth book in the Old Testament, so it's really easy to find. And we're going to be in chapter 11. The idea behind this series that we're in, and this is the fourth week of that series, it's called Smoke from a Fire. And the idea is that our emotions function like smoke from a fire. And just like you can follow the trail of smoke to figure out what is on fire in your house, well you can also follow the trail of your emotions to figure out what is on fire in your heart. Or to change the analogy a little bit, each of these emotions that we've looked at, depression was the first week, then anxiety, anger, this week it's going to be envy, next week it's going to be shame.
Each of these functions like warning lights on the dashboard of our hearts indicating what is going on in the engine of our souls. The key when you see one of those warning lights is to figure out what the warning light points to. How many of you have ever been driving when unexplainably that little check engine light comes on in your car? The problem is when it comes on is that's it. That's all that it says. I mean, I look at it, I'm like, what am I supposed to make of that?
Right? I mean, if you're like me, the first time I saw it, I dutifully complied. So I pulled the car to the side of the road and I got out of the car and it opened the hood and I stood there for a couple of minutes and I looked at the engine and I'm like, man, there's a lot of stuff in there. The problem is there was nothing in there where there was no blinking lights, there was no little tiny flags waving and saying, it's me, it's me, I'm the problem here.
It just basically looked like a big engine with nothing going on there. So I do what I know how to do. I start tugging on things. I start tapping on things. Pretty much the only thing I know how reliably to do in a car is to change the windshield washer fluid. So I do that. And now having completely exhausted my check engine abilities, I get back in the car hoping that somehow I've taken care of whatever the car was telling me needed to be taken care of. That's the problem with the check engine light.
You don't know what it points to. Well, thankfully the Bible helps us interpret our souls indicator lights better than our cars do their check engine lights. And maybe nowhere is that going to be so clear as in the case of envy. As with the other emotions, the best thing to do when envy arises in your heart is not just to try to get the light to go off. That's what most of us do.
I got to figure out how to stop envy. Just make the light go off. You got to figure out what is wrong in your heart that is making the light go off. Does that make sense? One of our pastors told me literally, he literally, when the check engine light came on in his car, he literally took a piece of paper and taped over the check engine light. Because he said, I just hated seeing the light and I didn't have money to do anything about it anytime soon. So I just taped over it.
That is not wise. Let's just be honest here. How many of you are driving a car right now like your car has the check engine light on? Just go ahead and raise your hands.
That's a lot of people. How many of you, how many of you, how many of you keep your hand up if it's been on for over a week? All right? How about this? Over a month it has been on. Just keep your hand up.
All right, over three months keep your hand up. Okay, see? That's what I'm talking about right there. One of our pastors said he didn't know what to do when his check engine light came on, so he just traded in his car. He said, I just took it and I traded it in and I got a different one.
So unfortunately, you and I don't have the option to do that with our lives. So we've got to figure out what it's pointing to. Think of envy as a check engine light and we're going to look at what this points to. The Bible unpacks for us the heart of envy in an obscure little story in Numbers chapter 11. So Numbers 11, we're going to be first 10 verses or so of that chapter.
Let me give you the context. The children of Israel at this point are about a year out from being delivered from slavery. You remember the story with the 10 plagues and God brings them out miraculously and he splits open the Red Sea and he meets them at Mount Sinai and he leads them with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Every morning, he provides manna for them to eat miraculously on the ground as he leads them to this promised land that he has said flows with milk and honey. Chapter 11 verse one, that's the context.
Now the people began complaining openly before the Lord about hardship, about hardship. Verse four, the riffraff among them. By the way, I love that this was the technical word that the CSB translators chose to translate the Hebrew word. The Hebrew word, I looked it up. I was like, it's As-Pes-Fuf. It kind of sounds like riffraff.
It's like an insult back then. The riffraff had a strong craving for other food. The Israelites wept again and said, who will feed us meat? We remember the free fish that we ate in Egypt along with the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic and the olives and the pastries and the scones and all that delicious food. We just, man, we lived like kings back then. Verse six, but now our appetite is gone.
There's nothing to look at but this manna. Verse 10, and Moses heard the people weeping throughout their clans, every one at the door of his tent, and the anchor of the Lord blazed hotly. First, a couple of questions I want us to look at. First, what is envy? The simplest definition of envy is wanting what you don't have and feeling like what you do have is not enough. Feeling like you deserve more indeed that you are owed more by God. Envy can begin with discontent with what you have and turn very quickly into resentment toward others who have the thing that you want.
Not only do you wish that you had what they have, you hate them for having it. You see, whereas the Bible tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep, envy is the opposite. Envy weeps with those who are rejoicing and rejoices with those who are weeping. The Germans have a great word for this. It's one of my favorite German words, schadenfreude. It literally means pain joy. Your pain brings me joy. It always reminds me of the story I heard about how fishermen can put a bunch of crabs in a bucket and a crab by itself could crawl out of that bucket but none of the crabs ever escape because the moment one begins to go up the side of the bucket to go over the edge, the other crabs will reach up and grab his leg and pull him back down. I don't want you to get out. I have pain.
I have joy in your pain. Envy, you see, like you see in this story, thrives off of comparison. When you compare your situation with somebody else's. I've heard those comparisons described in three major categories. First there is, let's call it material comparison.
Material comparison. He posts a picture of his truck on social media and you used to like the car that you had but now you're mad because you want that truck. Or she posts a picture of the brownies she just made but you're not really looking at her brownies. You're looking beyond her brownies, at her kitchen, at her countertops and her perfect little cabinet pool knobs with a little inspirational quote on the chalkboard in the background of her perfect little kitchen and you think, I hate her brownies.
I hate her brownies. Or maybe one of your friends posted that perfect family picture from the beach again for the second time this month and you can't even afford to go to the lake. It's material comparison. You're envious of what others possess or maybe it could be relational comparison. You see a post of all your friends and again, again, somehow you weren't invited. Or maybe even worse, have you ever seen yourself cropped out of a picture that somebody put on the internet?
I have. You're like, I was there and then like that's my shoulder. They literally cut part of me in half because they didn't want me in this picture. Or maybe you're not married and it just seems like every other person you know is married and you start to think thoughts that you don't really like but they're thoughts like, well I'm more attractive than him or I'm more attractive than her or I'm a better person than they are. Why do they get married and me not?
By the way, let me make clear there's nothing wrong with grieving that you're not married if you want to be. There's nothing wrong with being sad that you don't have a particular blessing that you want but what happens is that turns to envy where no longer are you just sad because you don't have it. You envy, you resent the other person for having it and feeling sorry for yourself that you don't. Or maybe you get one of those Christmas cards where you know the family that's sending it to you just looks so perfect. You know all their kids are holding up the cheesy little you know block letters spelling out their last name and everybody including the dog is wearing the same shirt and they're in front of that quaint little barn that you know is not normally a part of their house and they've never been through it in their lives and they all look so perfect. You know so perfect and your family doesn't seem like that.
You're like if I were going to send out an authentic Christmas card it'd be of all of us like strangling each other. That's what it'd be like on the front and and all of a sudden you find yourself envious about somebody else's family. No I wish I had their family. I wish I had her husband.
I wish I wish I had their situation or maybe it's circumstantial comparison. You just wish you had somebody else's situation in life. I wish my job had that kind of significance. I wish my job gave me that kind of freedom. If I can be honest I feel like this sometimes because like most of our Summit campus staff members here at the church I have to work all weekend long Saturdays and Sundays. I don't even want to look at social media on the weekend because you're all posting pictures like oh I'm at the football game and oh look I'm at the lake and I'm like fine I'll just serve God here at the church while you serve the devil.
Okay out there have your little fun and I'll just try to save the world by myself here on the weekends. All right I didn't say envy was rational but that's just kind of how you start feeling. Right or maybe it was much more serious. Maybe it's you know it's it's a question like well why can't I have a baby? It seems like this is the 14th reveal party of the week for one of my friends and I want to be happy for them.
I really do. I want to be happy for them but I can't I can't even seem to have a baby. Sociologists say that envy seems to be a bigger problem for our generation than any before us because social media seems designed to play on envy and here's why. When we look at other people's lives on social media what we're seeing is a carefully filtered image or like a friend of mine says it we are comparing our behind the scenes footage with other people's highlight reels. Right so we feel like losers because we see the best of their best and we know the worst of our worst. Right you were feeling great about the flowers and a home cooked dinner your husband gave to you on your birthday until you see that one of your girlfriend's husband bought her a pony and took her backpacking through Europe with the cast of Hamilton.
You know they may be on the brink of divorce that might be the only nice thing he's ever done for her but it's all you get to see. Y'all I heard about two moms true story I heard about two moms who confessed to each other in a small group that they had hated each other for years on social media. One of them was a working mom this true story and she told the she told the stay-at-home mom she was like I just hated you because you were the perfect pinterest stay-at-home mom who does crafts and structured time with her kids and it made me feel so guilty and the stay-at-home mom said well I hated you because you've got a life and you're out in public and you're doing things and I haven't had my hair in anything but a ponytail or had an adult conversation since 2015. Here you have two people again true story longing for what the other person has based on a filtered presentation on social media and never before in the history of the world could we so accurately measure our popularity compared to everybody else's. You know when I was a kid you just kind of had to randomly guess how popular you were. Now you can literally measure it well I only got 214 followers and she's got 442 that means she is literally twice as popular as me or my picture only got 17 likes and the one before that only had nine and my high is 33 and every time she posts something even if it's like a picture of her toast in the morning she gets triple digits of likes. The researchers have demonstrated that the more we compare ourselves to others in social media the less satisfied we become. I heard about this study that was done at two college universities where they had students spend one half hour half an hour on Facebook looking at random people who were in the same stage of life as them and then they surveyed their feelings after that half hour.
Get this, they found that one third of the students felt this was the language they used felt significantly depressed and many more another big percentage feeling much more down than usual after simply 30 minutes of monitoring what happens on Facebook or Instagram with their friends. We ought to call it Envygram or in your Facebook it just seems designed to make you envious. Envy surrounds us and most of us don't realize the deadly poison that envy is. We just think of envy as some kind of petty jealousy that comes out from wanting a little bit more but the Bible treats it as something far more serious. Jonathan Edwards, the great American Puritan theologian used to say never underestimate the spiritual power of envy. You know the English translation of verse six in our Bibles the numbers 11, the English translation of that verse is actually unfortunate. In English it says our appetite is gone but literally in Hebrew what the Hebrew says is our souls are dried up.
The word soul in Hebrew means life force. Comparison and envy dried up their soul force. It's like the book of Proverbs says Proverbs 14 30 envy rots us down to the bones. Envy and comparison rot us down to the bones destroying our appetites or our ability really to enjoy anything and so when you're envious like the children of Israel were you start to find fault with everything but this man is terrible.
It tastes nasty and I don't even think it's good for us and it makes our breath smell bad or whatever they were complaining about. Think about what our culture of envy has done to our perception of our own beauty. We live in a culture whose preferred marketing strategy is getting you to envy somebody else's beauty and the result is that when we look in the mirror we can't enjoy it at all.
We can't enjoy what we see at all because we have in our mind what they're eating back in Egypt. Never underestimate the spiritual power of envy. Martin Luther said that God concluded the 10 commandments with number 10 thou shalt not covet which is a synonym for envy thou shalt not envy because Luther said if you kept that one you would keep all the others without any effort. The reason that you lie, the reason that you steal, the reason that you commit adultery, even the reason many times that people kill is because of envy, because of coveting. Look at how strongly James, Jesus's half brother talks about it in James 3.
If you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your heart and don't boast and deny the truth and no matter how much you go to church how many Bible verses you know such wisdom does not come down from above. It is earthly. It is earthly.
It is unspiritual. It is demonic. For where there is envy and selfish ambition there is disorder in every evil practice. Envy in other words is a root sin that gives rise to many many other sins in our lives and even allows us to be controlled and manipulated by the devil himself.
Well this has been super encouraging hasn't it? All right so next question. What are the root causes of envy and how can we overcome them? We can see or at least I see four root causes of envy. Envy revealed in Numbers 11 and recognizing these I think will allow you to pull up envy by its roots not just trim off the fruits but pull it up by the roots.
Here they are. Number one, envy forgets God's goodness poured out in the past. Envy forgets God's goodness poured out in the past.
Verse one is pretty rich with audacity. Now the people began complaining openly before the Lord about hardship. Hardship? They are less than 13 months out from when they were slaves and now they're saying things like yeah yeah but the food was awesome. Sure we ate it and changed.
Sure we got beaten almost every single day but the onions were exquisite. They seemed totally oblivious to where they would be had God not in an act of sheer compassion intervened. Furthermore they seem oblivious to what that indicates about how God will surely take care of them in their future. A God who saved them like that in the past will surely provide for them in their present.
He wouldn't have gone to all that trouble to deliver them if he was just going to put them in the wilderness to die. Envy stays unaware of what it actually deserves and it acts like God owes us much more than we have received. That's why I think sometimes it's helpful to stop and think about what you actually deserve. Next time you're having a bad day just remind yourself of where you should be that day. You should be under judgment. You should be in hell. Instead you're a child of God with his spirit inside of you and a promise inheritance that cannot be taken away. All in all I'd say pretty good day.
Right? All in all pretty good day. And then you should reflect on the incredible kindness of God in saving you and the assurance that should come with that salvation that the God who has delivered us didn't do so just to let us perish. Clearly God has our good in mind.
I mean think about it at this point in your life if you are a Christian God has more invested in your life than you do. You're like well I went to school and I've you know I spent a lot of time studying I got a great job and God's like yeah I poured out my son's blood for you. So you may have done a lot in your life and you may have spent a lot of money on yourself and a lot of effort but I spilled my blood for you.
I got more invested in your life than you do and I will take care of my investment. So again see we find ourselves again in Romans 832 he who did not spare his own son for us would he not also surely and freely with him give us all things. It's just a it's a it's a statement of obvious logic if God did that when you were his enemy surely he'll take care of you now that you're his friend. You know that verse you and most of you can quote that verse. The question is does the disposition of your heart show that you believe it?
Because if you're worried you don't believe it that was a couple weeks ago and if you are envious it shows that you don't actually believe it. The cross proves to us Psalm 84 11 that no good thing will God withhold. No good thing will God withhold from his children. So envy forgets God's goodness poured out in the past. Number two envy overlooks God's goodness provided in the present. Envy overlooks God's goodness provided in the present. Envy cripples your ability to enjoy the good things that God has put in your life now.
Things that actually could bring you a lot of joy. The Israelites are like well all we got is this manna and if that's all we have then we're going to shrivel up and die which was an absolute lie. You know in Deuteronomy 8 Moses says that during the whole 40 years in the wilderness which was not God's original plan by the way they wandered for 40 years because of the hardness of their hearts of their hearts. But even then when all 40 years in that wilderness he says your feet did not swell.
Feet swelling back then was a sign of malnutrition. In other words the manna really was enough. Envy always assumes if all I have is what God gives to me. If I rely solely on God it's not going to be enough. My soul is going to dry up.
I'm going to miss out on something. But that is always a lie. And tragically it keeps you from enjoying what God has given to you for your enjoyment in the present. Envy at least a version of it was a key element at work in the Garden of Eden. God had told Adam and Eve that they could eat of literally every tree in the garden except one. And they thought well I bet that's the best one. I bet that's where the best fruit is.
I bet he's holding out on us. Tim Keller summarizes it this way. He says envy will make you think something is wrong even in paradise. And that dries up your soul taking away even your appetite to enjoy things. I was one time talking with somebody who had some issues with throat and mouth cancer and they said you know one of the worst most unexpected things was losing my ability to taste. He says food no longer tastes good to me. And he says I didn't realize that that when you lose your appetite just so much of your life gets destroyed. That's what envy does.
It is a cancer that destroys your ability to enjoy anything to taste anything. For example envy makes some of you unhappy in your marriage. It makes some of you unhappy in your job. It's why you've become a generally critical person. Critical about everything. It's why you can find a flaw in anything.
That critical spirit is not a personality quirk. It comes from a deep dissatisfaction that arises many times from envy. It's why some of you guys are having a midlife crisis when you're only in your early 20s because you're like well I just feel like there's got to be more from life because you're looking around. It's why lurking in the back of your mind every time you look at Facebook or Instagram you're always thinking well I think others are probably enjoying something that I'm missing out on. In fact if I could go so far as to say this it's why some of you are so picky and dating. It's why nobody's ever good enough. It's why some of you can never join a church because you're picky picky picky because you envy envy envy. Nothing's ever good enough because envy has destroyed your ability to enjoy the good if not imperfect things that God has put in your life.
Stop ignoring that check engine life. I don't know about you but that truth resonated with me today. The happy life always seems to be right over there just out of reach but it really is a lie. Let's acknowledge that truth today and move away from our envy toward a loving God. You've been listening to Summit Life with J.D.
Greer. Pastor J.D., it's safe to say that we talk a lot about gospel partners here on the program letting folks know how important they are to the health of our ministry. Can you share a bit more about what a Summit Life gospel partner is? Well first I want to thank all of you who became gospel partners in 2021. We were quite honestly pretty overwhelmed and already we're seeing fruit that is coming from teaching the word of God on the airwaves in some of these places.
So I want to thank you for making that possible. So you asked, well what is a gospel partner? Well it's an exclusive group of people that have committed to give at least $35 or more every month. When you join that group you're going to receive a new hand-selected resource from me in addition to getting private access to updates and some resources that we make exclusively available to our gospel partner community. We consider you a team member here when you become a gospel partner because you are now an integral part of helping us proclaim the word of God in the airwaves and take the gospel into some places that it otherwise would not be able to go.
So we would love it. I would love it if you would join with us today in that mission of just making the word of God accessible. You can sign up to become a gospel partner today.
You can go to jdgueer.com. You'll see information there and we'd love to have you join this team. We would love to have you join the family and when you sign up this week we'll send you our newest resource as well. Ask for smoke from a fire.
How our emotions reveal what's really going on. 10-day devotional and scripture guide when you donate today to support this ministry. Call 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220. Or you can donate and request this devotional workbook online at jdgueer.com.
I'm Molly Vinovitch inviting you to join us tomorrow when we'll conclude today's message on Envy. That's coming up Thursday on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
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