Basketball fans are caught up in March Madness, but we’ve been studying a different kind of madness this March at my church: The Madness of Sin. We’ve been using the characters of the classic movie “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” to draw our attention to the basics sins that plague humanity. Many people think the worst sins are terrible things like rape and murder or rooting for the Duke Blue Devils…
Actually, all sin is an abomination to God. And the basic sins of gluttony, pride, greed, sloth, anger, envy, and lust lead people to do the more terrible sins like rape, murder, and sexual immorality. The first sin recorded in the Bible was when Adam and Eve at a fruit God told them not to eat. They disobeyed God and it broke their perfect relationship with Him, led to spiritual death, and the downfall of all humanity and creation. It seems like such a small thing to eat a piece of fruit, but even small disobedience to God’s Word leads to terrible results. Adam and Even ate forbidden fruit; their son Cain murdered his brother Abel.
Romans explains the progression of sin in humanity:
28 Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. 29 Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. 30 They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. 31 They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. 32 They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too.
Sin is madness. It is an evil cancer that starts small and then grows out of control until it consumes everything in its path. That’s why Jesus came and died on the cross and was raised from the grave. Now we must heed Jesus’ command and the preaching of his disciples in Acts 3:19, “Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away.”
The first step in repentance is to recognize the sin within us. Today, we will consider the sin of envy. There's a scene from “Willy Wonk and the Chocolate Factory” where Charlie Bucket finds the last golden ticket--something everybody wants. A lady grabs him by the wrist and drags him into a mob who nearly crush him for a chance to see the golden ticket. It's a awonder someone doesn't steal it from him, because they want it so badly. Fortunately, one good samaritan rescues Charlie and tells him to run straight home and don't talk to anyone until he gets there. Charlie runs home safety.
The Madness of Envy
Most people have some understanding of envy, because we’ve all envied someone at some point in our life. However, envy goes deeper than just longing for something someone has. Envy makes you discontent with your own blessings and even leads you to resent others for the good things they have. Thomas Aquinas defined envy as: “Sorrow for another’s good.” So you are actually sad that other people might be happier than you. Here are some symptoms you might suffer from envy.
Symptoms of Envy
Do you compare yourself to others? God has already blessed you with thousands upon thousands of gifts. But if you are constantly looking to see what others have—their possessions, their looks, their personality, their talents, their wealth, their friends, their health, etc.—then you are doing much the same as Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden. The first few chapters of Genesis tell us Adam and Eve lived in paradise. Life was absolutely perfect and they had everything they needed and wanted. They were perfectly happy, until Satan tempted them to look at the forbidden fruit. Suddenly, all the other blessings in the Garden of Eden were forgotten. They wanted the forbidden fruit. Do you compare yourself to others?
Do you criticize and complain? Sometimes when we criticize and complain about others, it’s because we are really jealous. Maybe we are jealous and wish we had a house like them, so we criticize them for spending so much on such a luxurious house. “I would never do the things they did to get the money to get a house like theirs,” we say with disgust. When really, we’re just envious and we can’t be happy they are blessed with a house bigger than our own. Subconsciously, we wish our house was bigger and better instead of being grateful for our own blessing. And that leads us to a third symptom of envy.
Are you ungrateful for your own blessings? If we were to truly count all our many blessings, count them one by one, it would take up almost all our time. We wouldn’t have time to envy anyone else. But most of us, most of the time take our many blessings for granted. We wish we had nicer clothes, rather than thanking God that we have decent clothes to wear. We want a newer car, rather than being grateful we have a way to get to work every day. We wish our health were better, rather than praising God we are still healthy enough to get out of bed and come to church to hear a fabulous sermon!
If we envy someone long enough or deep enough, it can lead to hatred. If there’s someone in your life that really irks you or that you truly hate, there’s a good chance it may have started with some form of envy. Often we harbor hatred to cover up our envy. Envy is a terrible sin that starts out small, but can lead to terrible darkness. Cain murdered his brother because he envied him. Envy is a dangerous sin we need to get rid of quickly.
Repenting of Envy
Jesus loved us so much he left the glory of Heaven to come to our world and save us from sin. He preached, “Repent of your sin for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” And he willingly gave his life on the cross of Calvary to pay the price for our sins. Now, each of us needs to turn away from our sins—including envy—and turn to God so our sins may be wiped away. But how do we do it?
The first step is to recognize the problem. We can’t let God help us change until we realize we need to change. We need to prayerfully examine our heart, our relationships, our feelings about others. Do we exhibit the symptoms of envy? If so, we need to pray to God and Him to forgive us and help us change.
Second, don’t compare yourself to others; connect with others! Romans 12:12 says, “Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.” Realize this life is not a competition. We are all in this together. We are all sinners in desperate need of God’s grace. God so loved the whole world that He sent his one and only Son that whoever believes in him would not perish but have everlasting life. Jesus taught you are to love your neighbor as yourself and that everyone who walks upon the earth is your neighbor. The best way to guard against envy is to truly connect with others—to feel with them, to learn to be happy for them and with them, to share in their celebrations and also to share in their sorrows. Stop focusing so much on yourself and love your neighbor. When you learn to rejoice at the blessings of others, you will learn to rejoice all the time because someone somewhere always has something to rejoice about.
Finally, view all of life from a Gospel perspective. Consider what Jesus has done to save us. We were lost and imprisoned by sin. We had no hope and Jesus came to set us captives free. He bought our freedom at the price of His blood on the cross—His life for ours. He opened the door to our prison cell. Through repentance, we walk out of our cell into the glorious light of His love and grace. We take off our prison chains and put on the royal robes of kings and queens in the Kingdom of God. Some of us have already realized this freedom. We have walked out into the light. Others are still huddled fearfully in their dark cells, waiting for someone to tell them they are free to leave or to realize the door is standing wide open and find the courage to walk on through to a new and better life. Why should we spend one more second envying what someone else has? We’ve already been given everything and eternal life awaits us in the glorious presence of God. When we envy, it’s as if we’re looking back through the bars of the jail and longing for what’s back inside. That’s insane! That’s madness! That’s envy! And we’re not going to do it anymore. Are we?
Our God, through Jesus Christ, is a magnanimous God. Do you know what magnanimous means? It means generous and forgiving—especially toward someone less powerful. God is magnanimous with us. So we can come to Him in prayer and our magnanimous God loves us and blesses us with infinite love and grace. So, we don’t have to envy anyone anymore. In Christ, we have all we need. Amen.