Sermon Notes: The Things Killing Us–Envy

Posted: August 23, 2010 in Uncategorized

If you asked guitar greats Eric Clapton or B.B. King or Keith Richards, “Who is the greatest guitar player of all-time?”  Without missing a beat, they would answer, “Robert Johnson.”

Johnson lived a short life and only recorded one album’s worth of material but he is widely regarded as one of the greatest musicians who ever lived.

But do you know the legend of Robert Johnson?

The story goes that young Robert Johnson was a very good blues guitarist but longed to be the very best, so, one Saturday night at midnight, he made his way to “the crossroads” and played the blues until Satan himself appeared.  Johnson then sold his soul to the devil in return for a short life as the world’s greatest guitar player.

The legend is that Johnson was good but he dreamed about being someone else…another person with more talent than God had given him.  He envied this “other Robert Johnson” and forfeited his own life for another.

That is the sin of envy. 

Envy is wanting someone else’s life and this sin has a long history.
For example, look at Psalm 73:1-5:

73:1 Truly God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
2 But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
my steps had nearly slipped.
3 For I was envious of the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

4 For they have no pangs until death;
their bodies are fat and sleek.
5 They are not in trouble as others are;
they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.

Why preach on envy?
Envy hides in that we don’t really think about it.
Unlike other sins, there is no real pleasure in it.  It just sucks the life out of you.  Think about it–laziness at least brings rest and the products of lust and greed are ultimately destructive but immediately gratifying but envy just builds a resentment toward your own life.  Yet, the life you have is the life God has given you. 
God made you who you are, gave you certain strengths and placed you in a certain context but when you lose yourself in daydreams about another life then you insult God, fail to fulfill your mission and grow bitter.  That is all that envy will give you.
Fortunately, by God’s grace, you can understand a lot about yourself by studying what you envy.
What do you daydream about? It tells you where your heart truly is and what you need to prayerfully repent of lusting after.  

Do you remember the story of Cain and Abel? God tells Cain that “sin is crouching at your door and you must master it.”  As Tim Keller points out, the picture of sin crouching is like that of a wild animal and the key to surviving an encounter with a wild animal is to spot it.  if you don’t then you are surely done for.  Envy provides an opportunity for us to identify the sin crouching at our door.

But why do we envy?
Soren Kierkegaard argued in “Sickness Unto Death” that God calls us to live our lives before Him but that offends us, so we live before other things.
What do you live before?
What do you look to for self-justification?  Money? Fame? Power? Sex?  
If it’s not God, then it will disappoint you. 

Think about it–how many of you want to be a rock star? How many rock stars do you see topping the charts and inciting the screaming longing of young girls at age 60?  Do you want to be a Kardashian? What do you think they will be like at 70?

Fame and looks, like all false gods, are fleeting and will ultimately disappoint.

What do you do about envy?

The only real answer to envy is worship.
Consider Proverbs 23:17-18:

17 Let not your heart envy sinners,
but continue in the fear of the Lord all the day.
18 Surely there is a future,
and your hope will not be cut off. 

The “fear of the Lord” is often shorthand for worship. 
How do you cultivate a worshipful heart? The Gospel.
At the heart of envy is an attitude of entitlement…that we deserve someone else’s life.
Yet, Jesus died a death we deserve and granted us a life only he deserved.
We need to preach this to ourselves every day and worship at every opportunity in order to kill the sin of envy within us.

Jesus lived, died, rose and will return for you…not “another you.” 

Next week, we deal with anger.  Until then, grace and peace.

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