Lucia's Blog: THE LITTLE FOXES THAT SPOIL THE VINEYARD
Google Logo
Image Caption goes here.

Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9

Friday, April 29, 2016

THE LITTLE FOXES THAT SPOIL THE VINEYARD

“Catch the foxes for us,
The little foxes that are ruining the vineyards,
While our vineyards are in blossom.”
Song of Solomon 2:15


We turn green with envy sometimes, but mostly we get over it. It is such a small thing. Yet it was for envy that the Jews asked that Jesus be crucified. Is there really a cure for that?  Let’s consider the causes and cures for envy and jealousy.

Recently, I came across this verse which caught my attention and made me reflect on it. I began thinking about the sins, the little sins that so often destroy our perspective or expectations. They render us weak and limit any fruit bearing in the service of our Lord and His kingdom. Sadly, these little things often destroy the Lord's church, its work and the Christian personally.

Sin is sin regardless of its nature and brings death to our soul.  Paul says, 
“For the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23)

Sometimes what we call a “little sin” can be more detrimental and fatal to the soul than a so-called big sin. The truth is that sin in its context separates us from God, (James 2:10; Isaiah 59:1; Ephesians 4:18). Sin is sin, and we have an obligation to preach and teach on any sin whether great or small.

How often do we teach or speak against the sins of covetousness, jealousy, selfishness, gossip, anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, unconcern for the lost, prejudice, cynicism, voyeurism, and so on!  These sins are not “little” in any sense. They are as destructive to the soul as are the more shocking sins of adultery and fornication, theft and murder.

There are so many dangerous “little foxes” that often go unnoticed and overlooked. Why? 
  • Because we tend to think that they are insignificant and common among us. 
  • Because we feel uncomfortable rebuking them and are unwilling to rid ourselves of such sins that can wreck our souls.
The danger of these little foxes or “little sins” is that they stay permanently within us without any change whatsoever.

In this study, I would like to focus on the little twin foxes of Jealousy and Envy (the comparison game). I hope this study can edify you.

The word “comparing” means examining the similarities and differences between two or more things, ideas or people.  Comparing ourselves to others can be a form of jealousy and envy that results from not walking in the Light as He is in the Light and not trusting in God's love and fairness.

Sadly, many arenas such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, etc. are a temptation for comparisons which lead to nothing more than discontent and ultimately envy and jealousy. Without even knowing, we find ourselves trapped in these sins of envy and jealousy which is nothing more than comparing ourselves to others. It is insane! Why?

  • Because it drives many to live lives that are merely fake realities. 
  • It makes them slaves of living a life that is censored through status updates on Facebook, Instagram, etc.
  • It makes them compete with one another.
    • Always trying to see who is the best and who is superior; 
    • who has more power and control rather than busying themselves with something else that is more productive (their walk with the Lord and bearing good fruit for His glory). 
  • They play the game of comparing their faith, their talents, educational and intellectual achievements, their friends, their children, their lifestyle, their beauty, their righteous deeds, their popularity, etc. The list can be endless!

You see, comparing ourselves to others can be a very dangerous game. And while it may be perhaps a motivational thing or an inspiration, it can often lead to terrible consequences.

  • It can destroy our primary focus (righteousness and the kingdom of God) and lead us into the path of sin. 
  • It can make us feel better and more worthy than those to whom we are comparing ourselves. 
  • Ultimately this comparison game leads us to pride, boasting, discontent, discouragement, envy and jealousy. 
We must be careful!! Let us not be like the Pharisee of Jesus' day who boasted of being more righteous than other sinners.

The comparison game is nothing new. Cain compared himself to Abel.  Jesus’ disciples also struggled with this, John 21:23. One way or another we all have to fight against the impulse of playing the comparison game, but it must not be so among us.


I.   THE LITTLE TWIN FOXES OF ENVY AND JEALOUSY:

Jealousy is the uneasiness felt due to suspicion, resentment or fear of rivalry, particularly regarding love or affection. Envy is the feeling of resentment, discontent or jealousy of another's position or success.

These little foxes of envy and jealousy are almost identical twins. They walk hand in hand, and it 's hard to tell them apart. These two words are found together often; they are synonyms.

The word “jealousy” is a word that is used many times in a good way, (Romans 10:2; 2 Cor. 7:8,11; Phil. 3:6). It is used both in a good and bad sense whereas envy is often associated with evil. Unfortunately, when this word “jealousy” is adulterated, it turns into something ugly.  Envy is discontent with the good fortune of others while jealousy fears to lose what it has. Both words deal with feelings of discontent and resentment that emerged in the heart as a result of some favor, good fortune, blessing, honor or affection someone else is receiving that makes one think it should be bestowed on him. It is sad to say, but I see so much of this behavior portrayed in the hearts of my brethren whether on Facebook or some other arena, at church and even in the home. This ought not to be among Christians! It is carnal with terrible consequences!

Envy is like gangrene that can destroy a man's heart, causing pain like a knife in the chest. It splits many churches, reduces our circle of friends and destroys our souls. In Proverbs 14:30 we read, 
"A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot." 

Envy is a terrible disease of the heart and sows the seed of discord among brethren. It has two main causes: 
  1. Lack of contentment.
  2. Lack of love.  
When we envy, it is because we are not content with what God provides and has done for us. We are dissatisfied all the time, rendering us weak so that we envy or covet what others have. Envy is a powerful temptation and very destructive as well. Jealousy and envy among brethren leads us to refuse to submit to those in leadership such as elders. Why?  Because if you have your way as the one in control, then you will have a hard time submitting to those who indeed have that responsibility. There are many negative facets to envy.

  • Envy is not just desiring what the other person has. 
  • It is not just being resentful toward those who have blessings that you don't.  
  • Envy does not want the other person to be blessed. 
  • Envy is the root of many other sins as well:  adultery, stealing, slander, hatred, and murder. 
  • Pride is the cause of this terrible disease of the heart. 

II.   BIBLE EXAMPLES OF JEALOUSY AND ENVY:

Cain and Abel: Genesis 4:3-5, 8
“And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto Jehovah.  And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And Jehovah had respect unto Abel and to his offering: but unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. And Cain told Abel his brother. And it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.” 

Envy and Jealousy go back to the beginning with Cain and Abel.  It led to sibling rivalry. God was not pleased with Cain's offering because he did not offer what God had commanded: an animal sacrifice.  But He did approve Abel's offering because “by faith he offered a more excellent sacrifice than Cain.” (Hebrews 11:4)

You see, Cain's envy and jealousy led to wrath and murder. Cain was resentful that his brother had received more honor than he did.


Sarah and Hagar:  Envy and jealousy provided the motivation for wrongdoing: Genesis 16:5-6:
"And Sarai said unto Abram, ‘My wrong be upon thee: I gave my handmaid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes: Jehovah judge between me and thee.’ But Abram said unto Sarai, ‘Behold, thy maid is in thy hand; do to her that which is good in thine eyes.’ And Sarai dealt hardly with her, and she fled from her face.'"

Envy and jealousy led to wrongdoing. We see it portrayed in Esther 5:11,13-14; Daniel 6:3-5 when men conspired against God’s servants.


Joseph's brothers:  Genesis chapters 37, 44, 45:

Joseph's brothers envied him and planned to kill him because they were jealous of him. Later, they chose not to kill but rather sell him into slavery because of their envy and jealousy. They had no other choice but to lie to their father about Joseph being killed by a wild beast. By the grace of God, they were all reunited, reconciled and forgiven later on in Egypt.


Aaron and Miriam envied Moses for the position God had given him: Numbers 12:1-2, 9, 10, 15:
“And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married; for he had married a Cushite woman.  And they said, Hath Jehovah indeed spoken only with Moses? hath he not spoken also with us? And Jehovah heard it... And the anger of Jehovah was kindled against them... and, behold, Miriam was leprous, as white as snow: and Aaron looked upon Miriam, and, behold, she was leprous... And Miriam was shut up without the camp seven days: and the people journeyed not till Miriam was brought in again.”

You see, envy and jealousy led to murmuring and complaining.

Rebellious Korah and his followers envied the leadership position that God had given to Moses. Therefore, they spoke against Moses and falsely accused him: Numbers 16:3

“and they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and Jehovah is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the assembly of Jehovah?"  (See also Psalm 106:16-18).
Saul and David:  I Samuel 18:7-9
“And the women sang one to another as they played, and said, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands. And Saul was very wroth, and this saying displeased him; and he said, They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands: and what can he have more but the kingdom? And Saul eyed David from that day and forward.”

We see it played out in Saul toward David. David's many accomplishments in battle, his victory over Goliath and all of Israel's approval toward him awoke this sin of envy in the heart of Saul. Saul’s jealousy produced the seeds of many other evils. Remember, he tried to kill David many times. Envy was the cause of his anger, jealousy, paranoia and murderous intent toward David.  Because of this envy and jealousy of heart, Saul ruined the rest of his life. His envy toward David was disturbing to him so much that he became obsessed with attempting to kill David. Saul hunted David like an animal to be killed. Envy and jealousy cause striking and powerful actions. It is the first step in the damaging sins of slander, gossip, fighting and murder.


Because of envy and jealousy Haman wanted to kill Mordechai and all the Jews: Esther 3:8-13; 6:4:


The Jews were filled with envy against Jesus:  Matthew 27:17-18
"So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, 'Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?”'For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. '"

Because of this terrible sin, the Jews delivered Jesus into the hands of evil men. The Pharisees resented Jesus' popularity.
“So the Pharisees said to one another, 'You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.'"  (John 12:19).
“But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children that were crying in the temple and saying, Hosanna to the son of David; they were moved with indignation.” (Matt. 21:15).

Evidently envy and hatred led the Pharisees to rise up against Jesus, calling for His death. Pilot knew Jesus was innocent and that it was envy that led them to kill Him. All because Jesus was getting all the honor and respect of the people and they were getting none. Their envy turned into hate and hate led them to mock and crucify the Son of God.


Acts 13:45, 50: Following the same pattern of envy, a later group of Jews expelled Paul and Barnabas from Antioch of Pisidia.


Acts 17:5:  Envious Jews stirred up a Greek mob to persecute Paul and the brethren in Thessalonica after seeing Paul's success with the people.


The Corinthians were divided because of envy:  I Cor. 3:1-4.  

Some even preached Christ out of envy, in order to add affliction to Paul's chains:  Phil. 1:15-16.


III.  THE REMEDY FOR ENVY AND JEALOUSY:

We all, at times, are guilty of this terrible disease of the heart, but this ought not to be. We must examine our hearts and purge out both envy and jealousy. Those who call themselves children of God ought not to behave in this manner.  We must be more like John the Baptist who refused to begrudge Christ, His success knowing that the success of Christ was his own success, (John 3:30-35). Let's have that same spirit in us.  

"For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.  But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." (Titus 3:3-7).

Envy, as well as jealousy, are fruits of the flesh, Galatians 5:19-21. It is demonic, James 3:14-15. My question is:   why do people envy?  We can suggest several more things:  

  1. Immaturity, Gen. 37:3-4.
  2. Ego, Daniel 6:4.
  3. Insecurity, I Samuel 18:7-9.
  4. Greed, Ecclesiastes 4:4.
  5. Frustration, Psalm 73:3.

 Envy and jealousy are seen all around us:

  • in the business and professional world; 
  • in the church; 
  • among preachers, elders, deacons, song leaders, and teachers;
  • among sisters in Christ (Preachers' wives, elders' wives, etc.). In other words, it is common among all Christians.

Many times envy causes us to feel unhappy because others do a better job, are smarter, prettier, or more popular. They get more attention or approval and so on. Sadly, this terrible disease of the heart leads to resentment, pain, and discomfort. Tragically, envy will lead one to use the tongue sinfully to damage others; causing others to doubt, misjudge, and think poorly of us.

Envy and jealousy are a matter of the heart. Jesus said,
"It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man."   (Matthew 15:11). 
"Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life."  (Proverbs 4:23).

The heart is the starting point of envy and jealousy. Sadly, envy and jealousy will determine which paths we will take on our life’s journey. The remedy for this disease is to always guard our hearts against such works of the flesh with all vigilance.

The remedy for envy and jealousy is found in Romans 12:15; Romans 13:13-14; I Corinthians 12:26-27; I Cor. 13:4-7 and I Peter 2:1-2.

So, if God has given my brother or sister a greater talent than He has given to you and me, should I not rejoice in their success? We are neither superior nor inferior to anyone else.  And although we have all been created in God's image, we are not the same. We all have different talents and skills. Why not be thankful for what our Father in heaven has given each one of us? Why not learn to be content? Why not fill ourselves with love, rejoicing for the success of others? Let these words sink deeply into your hearts!!


IV. THE CONSEQUENCES OF COMPARING OURSELVES TO OTHERS:

Consider why comparing ourselves to others is such a dangerous game to play:

Comparing ourselves to others can lead to pride, boasting, and self-righteousness. (Luke 18:9-14; Romans 12:3; Romans 14:13; I Cor. 4:7).

⦁ Comparing ourselves to others can deceive us into thinking that we are superior to others, causing us to stumble (sin), compete, be arrogant and ultimately lose our soul.

Comparing ourselves to others is often the result of carnality and spiritual immaturity: (Romans 8:5; I Cor. 3:1-8; I Cor. 4:5-6; 2 Cor. 5:12; I Peter 4:2).

Comparing ourselves to others will take our primary focus off of God by putting it everywhere else except on the cross.  When we focus on ourselves, we are going to find trouble seeing all that God has done for us:  all of God's mercies and riches.  We will often be disappointed that things are not as they could be.  We will be tempted not to see things as they truly are and be unaware that others might be going through difficulties and challenges as well.

Comparing puts the primary focus on us.  This is wrong!  Because we can become consumed by thinking only about our "wants," indulging in "pity parties."  In our selfish pride, we may try to impress others into thinking that we are what we are not. When we do this, we can no longer live a life that brings glory to God, because our focus is on our own glory.  This can make us miserable!  It can affect our walk with Christ and those around us.

Comparing ourselves to others sets us up for discontent and discouragement that leads us to jealousy and envy. Comparing ourselves to others doesn't lead us to contentment and thankfulness. We must be careful and guard our thoughts properly. "But godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment. "  (I Timothy 6:6). Let's be careful and not allow this to make us sin against our God by being ungrateful to Him. It is like shaking our fist at God and saying, "What you are providing for me is not enough!" It takes away our trust in our Lord's loving kindness.

Comparing ourselves to others robs us of so much JOY.  When we wrongly compare ourselves to others, we are robbing ourselves of the peace, joy and blessings that God has to give us. We must look back and honestly consider and evaluate what the Lord has done and is doing in our lives. Do we have a roof over our heads? Do we have food to eat? Do we have clothes to wear?  Let us be grateful because the Lord has met all of our needs. "Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning."  His loving and everlasting faithfulness endures forever. It is in this that we need to be focused because He is faithful!

Comparing ourselves to others keeps us away from our GOD GIVEN PURPOSE.  How are we going to reach and save others if we are totally absorbed with what we don't have in comparison to others? God expects us to love others and to do it heartily. He wants us to focus outwardly not inwardly. If we are always comparing ourselves to others, we are not going to be able to love our neighbors and rescue them from the kingdom of darkness. Let's be wise and know that the days are short. Our goals must be eternal. We must think beyond this life, eternity, where the moth and rust do not destroy. 


CONCLUSION:

Comparing ourselves to others leads to the little twin foxes of jealousy and envy, having their roots in pride, vanity, and selfishness, Ecclesiastes 4:4; Galatians 5:26; I Timothy 6:4.  These little twin foxes of envy and jealousy are the products of carnal hearts. If we find ourselves walking this path of destruction, we must repent and let the Word of God work in us in the spirit of love. Envy and jealousy are nothing more than the devices of the devil, and it can rob us of bearing good fruit. On the other hand, jealousy makes us unwilling to share and often results in a total loss of that which is not shared.

We all have gifts that differ, and each of us must do our best with such. It is not fair to make life a constant competition with our brethren and neighbors. That takes the joy out of our relationships. We must not consider everyone as our adversary to be conquered and overcome but rather accept help to improve ourselves and multiply our God given talents. Much of the hostility in the world and in the church is caused by senseless rivalries and foolish efforts to “keep up with the Joneses.”

Comparing ourselves to others leads us to competition. I do not deny that competition is right when is put in the right place. But it is so terrible to think of others as competitors against us. If we are bound to compare ourselves to others, why not compare ourselves to Jesus our Lord, to the stature of His fullness? Why not focus on the Lord and His example when we are tempted to compare ourselves to others?  Ultimately, pleasing Jesus is all that really matters. The game of comparison is a very dangerous game that is not worth playing at all.  So, if you find yourself going down that path, it is time to turn yourself around!  Instead of comparing yourself to someone else (which leads to envy and jealousy) why not compare yourself to Christ Himself and His TRUTH.  His Words will never steer you wrong.  They are light to our feet and a lamp to our path.  He is the ONLY WAY, the HOLY ONE, that will lead you down the RIGHT path of contentment and righteousness.

Contentment is easy to achieve when one kills the dragons of comparison (jealousy and envy) and keep our eyes fixed on our King of kings and Lord of lords. The only one worth our comparison is Jesus.

May our God help us to compare ourselves ONLY to Him and not to others.  He is our ONLY standard of measure.

Luci

P.S. I leave you with the beautiful words of this poem:

The stick I made for measuring
I used most every day.
It helped me to compare myself
with others on my way.
I watched all those behind me,
or further down the road,
and I would readjust my pace
or lighten up my load.
The only real drawback
with how I ran my race
was watching everything around,
except my Savior's face.