LIFE’S TOO SHORT…
To Be Envious
October 5, 2003
My first experience with oral hygiene occurred when I was five years old. My mother looked at me and said, “Son, if you don’t brush your teeth, you are going to end up having green phantom fangs.” That made an indelible impression upon my life. Several days later, a photographer came by our home to take some pictures of the family. When this guy smiled, he had these green looking pointy teeth and I said, “Mom, he’s got green phantom fangs!” You know what? A lot of us in this place have green phantom fangs—not in the dental world but in the relational world. A lot of us have the green phantom fangs of envy.
Shakespeare called envy a “green sickness.” When you tell someone that they are green, you are saying they are kind of nauseated looking. When we go offshore fishing, or we go on a cruise and we get a little bit queasy, people say, “Hey, you look green, dude.” We get sick.
Green is all about envy. When we are involved with envy, we are involved with a sin that is “u-g-l-y, you ain’t got no alibi,” ugly. It’s gross. This is what we must look like when we are envious in the eyes of God. [The lighting on the stage turns green and Ed appears to be green]
There is a good kind of green, though. I’ve got to say that. Green is a hot color in the fashion world. It looks great on the back of the winner of the Masters, the Green Bay Packers, on St. Patrick’s Day, or on a hundred dollar bill. But, don’t get green with envy. People say, “The grass is greener on the other side of the fence.” That’s all about envy. When you think about envy, it’s “u-g-l-y, you ain’t got no alibi,” ugly. And God called it ugly. And he calls it ugly time and time again in the biblical reference.
The other sins at least start off with some fun. Initially, when you are involved in pride, it feels kind of good to elevate yourself over another person. It feels pretty cool to have that adrenaline rush, “I’m prideful. Yeah!”
Anger feels good in its initial stages. I’ll rage on you. I’ll dominate you. I’ll show you who is boss.
Envy, though, starts out “u-g-l-y, you ain’t got no alibi,” ugly. And it ends ugly. Envy—it picks up hideous stuff from the beginning to the end.
What’s your knee jerk reaction when your business partner closes the mega deal and makes millions of dollars? What’s your knee jerk reaction when a gorgeous woman walks into the room? The guys struggle with a sin I talked about a couple of weeks ago [Ed is referring to the series, Just Lust], but do the women flash those green phantom fangs of envy? What’s your natural thought process? What goes on in your consciousness when that occurs? Envy is ugly. It’s all about green phantom fangs.
In fact, in the book of Galatians, it kind of details the running buddies of envy—and they are some pretty ugly buddies. [Galatians 5:19-21] “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.” I told you—the green phantom fangs of envy are bad. They are horrible. And we mustn’t sink them into people’s lives.
Have you ever wondered why these tabloid television shows are so popular—“Celebrities Uncensored;” the fabulous life of J-Lo, Brad Pitt, Snoop Dog, and others? Why are we drawn to this stuff? Why do we like it? I’ll tell you why. We envy celebrities. We say, “Now, why does J-Lo have the Gulf Stream 5 Jet and seven houses and all the ‘bling-bling’? She doesn’t deserve that.” “Why does Brad Pitt do that,” and “Why does this other person do that? I would never do that.” These celebrity shows show us the dark side of these stars and that makes us somehow feel better about ourselves. So, we watch “Celebrities Uncensored,” and the fabulous life of this person or that person. Envy—we are drawn to it. It’s part of our nature. We have that southward, downward, gravitational pull that loves to give people the evil eye.
WHAT IS ENVY?
What does envy mean? Envy is being sad over someone’s success or it’s becoming a fan or another person’s failure. In Galatians 5, the word “envy” in the original language is pronounced “phonos.” It’s the feeling of displeasure produced by witnessing or hearing of the advantage or prosperity of others. That’s what it means when I envy you. That’s what it means when you envy me. Envy—it will eat your lunch. It will erode the great stuff that God wants to do in your life.
Remember this series is called LIFE’S TOO SHORT. Life is too short to be envious. Life is too short to be eaten up with jealousy and debauchery, and all of this stuff that envy ushers in. It’s “u-g-l-y, you ain’t got no alibi,” ugly.
You may be asking, “Well, Ed, is it really that ugly? Is envy really that bad? Come on, man, isn’t it okay? Doesn’t envy drive some stuff? Doesn’t envy make me kind of a goal-oriented person? Doesn’t it push me to succeed?”
THE PHANTOM FANGS OF ENVY
No, envy is bad. And when God labels something bad, it’s bad and it will mess us up. It will diminish the effectiveness of our lives. That’s why God says to stay away from it. Well, what happens when we are envious? How does this stuff play out? What happens when we allow the fangs, those green phantom fangs of envy to sink into our lives?
PHANTOM FANG #1 – ENVY ENERGIZES INSECURITY
Well, several things happen. Number one—we are energized with insecurity. Do you want to sign up for a lot of insecurity? Do you want to get your security from others which will, in turn, usher in insecurity? Just get involved in envy. “Psychology Today” surveyed 25,000 adults who had a whacked out self-esteem. They discovered that people with a poor self-esteem were people who were eaten up by envy. Envy will energize insecurity. If I’m insecure, then I see myself the way you see me and not the way God sees me. A great self-esteem is seeing myself the way God sees me, nothing more and nothing less.
Some people say, “Well, Ed, I don’t struggle with insecurity. I’m a confident guy. I’m a confident woman. I pull myself up by my own bootstraps. I’m autonomous. I’m independent. I’m secure.”
Oh, really? We know how to camouflage envy. We know how to camouflage insecurity. We camouflage it by transitional praise. Do you do this—transitional praise? Let me give you an example: “Yeah, he’s a good speaker, but is he the kind of guy you want to go fishing with?” “She has a great physique, but have you seen her nails?” “She is a great mom, but have you seen her house? It’s like a pig sty.” But, but, but, but… It’s always the big but. [The audience responds to this statement with laughter] I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about transitional phrases. “Yeah, but. That’s nice, but. That’s cool, but. That’s great, but. But, but, but… Therefore, moreover, however.” Transitional praise. If you do that, whenever I do that, I am revving up those envy engines.
Here’s another way we camouflage envy—by condescending comparisons. I’m really good at this and I know you are too, because we are all sinners. Someone walks up to me, “Ed, I just got back from the Cayman Islands. It was incredible. My kids were snorkeling and we were feeding stingrays. The people were so nice and the food was so good. It was incredible! You know, we flew there on frequent flyer miles, and got a great deal on the hotel.”
Then I’ll say something like, “Yeah? That’s great. You know, last week I got back from Fiji. You know, the Caymans are fine, but Fiji makes the Caymans look like Galveston. If you want to see real water, come with me to Fiji.”
I’ll never forget a couple of years ago when I bought a new truck. I was proud of this truck. A guy asked, “Can I see your truck?” I said, “Yeah.” He asked, “Can I look inside?” I said, “Sure.” He looked inside and he said, “Man, this is a sweet truck, but it would look really cool if you tricked it out. What I would do is, I would…” Wow! Then he goes, “If you want to see a real truck, my neighbor bought one and…” Condescending comparisons—they are all about envy.
That’s why the book of Proverbs 27:4 boldly proclaims, “Who can stand before [envy]?” Do you want to sign up for some serious insecurity? Then you just allow envy to sink its green phantom fangs into your life.
PHANTOM FANG #2 – ENVY DEVELOPS DISCONTENTMENT
Here’s the second phantom fang of envy—envy will develop discontentment in your life and mine. Our problem is that we are not content with our contents. My mind rushes to Luke, chapter 15. It’s a pretty powerful illustration. Most of us recognize this chapter in the Bible because that’s the chapter where Jesus talked about the Prodigal Son. I don’t care if you cut your teeth on the pews in a Baptist Church, or if you are totally unchurched, you have probably heard about the Prodigal Son. Let me give you the Cliffs Notes.
THE PRODIGAL SON
The Prodigal Son (he was like 18 or 19) took his Merrill Lynch trust fund, left his mansion and spent it on wild living. When he got to his last dollar, he came to his senses, turned back, and went home. His father greeted him, welcomed him home, gave him a goat (which was big during biblical times), invited his friends over, threw him this big pizza party, and bought him a new wardrobe from American Eagle. Yeah, everything was incredible. This story is an awesome illustration of the grace and forgiveness of God. No matter how far we have gone, and no matter how far we have traveled away from the Lord, he waits and welcomes us back. That is how the Prodigal Son is used in many different teachings.
But so often we miss the subplot. My favorite part of the Prodigal Son story is not that the Prodigal Son himself. It’s the older brother, because the older brother went on tilt. He saw the empty pizza boxes and the American Eagle bags and he was like, “What!?” Here is this older brother who was rolling in the “bling-bling” himself, living in the mansion, and driving his father’s Range Rover chariots and Lamborghini chariots. He had all this stuff at his disposal. But he was so mad about what he did not have, he was so envious because of what had happened to his brother that he missed thanking God and thanking his father, Jesus said, for what he did have.
We pick up this dialog in Luke 15:28-30, “The older brother became angry and refused to go in.” He basically said, “Dad, I’m not going to the party.” [The passage continues] “But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.” You show me someone who is envious, and I’ll show you someone who is a whiner. Life is too short to whine. [The passage continues] “But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!” This happens in my life and your life when we get involved with envy. We are so focused on what we don’t have and what is happening to other people, that we miss the grace and the blessings of God. I told you, man, envy will eat your lunch and it will eat my lunch. It will bring in insecurity and it will develop some major league, deep discontentment—more and more and more. If you are envious, you become a whore for more. You sell yourself out for stuff.
You say things like, “I’ve got to have that! I’ve got to do that. I can’t believe that she gets to have that and do that. I should have that and do that because after all, I am who I am.”
I say, “No, you’re envious.” And it’s “u-g-l-y, you ain’t got no alibi,” ugly.
PHANTOM FANG #3 – ENVY SILENCES MY APPLAUSE OF OTHERS
Here’s the third fang of envy—=envy silences my applause for others. The Bible says we should applaud when others are blessed. The Bible says we are to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. But we don’t do that when we are envious. We rejoice with those who weep and weep with those who rejoice. We do just the opposite and that shouldn’t be that way.
What is your knee jerk reaction, ladies, when your roommate rushes in ring finger-high and shows you the ten-karat diamond she was just given? What is your knee jerk reaction when you know you don’t have any prospects on the horizon? What’s your knee jerk reaction?
Guys, what’s your knee jerk reaction when this guy you sat next to in algebra back in school has closed some deal and made 20 million dollars and you think the guy is not that smart? What’s your reaction? Do you flash those phantom fangs of envy? Or do you say, “Yeah, God!” Whenever I am envious of someone’s voice, or their speaking ability, where they live, their wardrobe, their physique, or whatever, I am trashing the grace and the mercy of God, because God is the one who gave them all the stuff. They might not realize it, but God is the one who has blessed them. Let’s thank God and not others.
First Samuel, chapter 18, this is cool. Remember Saul—psycho Saul—King Saul? He was like six foot six, handsome, articulate, and wired to be a great leader. He was on the battlefield one day in his tent, but he should have been out there fighting Goliath. This little Hebrew hillbilly comes on the scene, David. David said, “I’ll fight that giant.” Saul said, “Oh, you can’t do that.” David said, “Yes, I can.” Saul said, “Well, here’s my armor, boy.” David said, “I don’t need your armor. God is going to deliver me.” So, David walks out, picks up some rocks, puts them in his sling, and … boom!
[Ed acts like a ring announcer at a boxing match] “The winner and the new heavyweight biblical champion of the world…David!” David won because God empowered him to do so. The rest of the story is that the Israelites dominated the Philistines. And after they had secured this incredible battle, the Bible says the Israelite army was marching back to J-town, I’m talking about Jerusalem. [Ed imitates the band music] They were just having a party. They were so excited. And they were singing this song, “Saul has killed his thousands, but David has killed his tens of thousands! Saul has killed his thousands but David has killed his tens of thousands!” Psycho Saul went on tilt.
Let’s see what he did. 1 Samuel 18:9 reads, “And from that time on, [psycho] Saul kept a jealous eye on David.” He showed David the green phantom fangs of envy. He was eaten up, he was eroded by envy. Read about it. He was sad over David’s success and he was a fan anytime David failed. Saul was not envious, though, of David’s musical ability. He was not envious that David was a genius poet or a world class athlete. But Saul did get envious though when David fought the battle he should have fought.
Teachers are not envious over preachers. Surgeons are not envious over professional athletes. Professional athletes struggle with envy over other professional athletes. A surgeon struggles with envy over another surgeon. A pastor struggles with envy over another pastor.
Envy is the great leveler. It’s always about a little less than or a little more than. If you find someone you are a little bit less than or you are a little bit more than then you’re involved with envy, if you see it from the world’s prospective. And envy is “U-G-L-Y, you ain’t got no alibi,” ugly. Saul freaked out over envy. Saul hydroplaned, lost his life and his kingdom and he is a tragedy of what might have been. Life is too short to be envious. You don’t want your life to be a tragedy of what might have been. So, do you want some insecurity? Do you want some discontentment? Hey, do you want to be unable to clap, applaud and give others a high five when God blesses them? Just wax those green phantom fangs of envy.
PHANTOM FANG #4 – ENVY GUTS THE GRACE OF GOD
Here’s the fourth phantom fang of envy—envy guts the grace of God. It guts the grace of God. In Matthew, chapter 20, Jesus told a story. It’s kind of a unique story. Jesus said a master hired all these people: he hired one at 6 am, another one at 9 am, another one at 12 noon, another one at 3 pm and another one at 5 pm. The master came back and paid the one he had hired last a full day’s wages and also paid the one he hired first a full day’s wages. Well, you can see where this story is going. The people who were hired first were like, “I can’t believe it! I’m going to call an attorney. How about my rights? This is horrible! This is the worst thing!” They were just whining and moaning and complaining.
In Matthew 20:14, here’s what the master said (paraphrased), “Hey, take your pay and go. (He was cool.) I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. I just want to do it. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my money?” Now here is the kicker. He asked, “Are you envious because I am generous?”
I want to ask you the same question, because I believe God is asking you and me the same question. Are you envious because he is generous? Are you envious because God is generous? Are you envious because that person looks that way, talks that way, sits in that office, uses that kind of transportation, lives in that size house, makes that kind of money, or has that kind of power? Are you envious because God is generous? Because it all comes from God.
Why do we waste time, why do we miss the moment in this one and only life, messing up with envy? Well, I know why. It’s because we have this southward, downward, gravitational pull that loves envy. Satan is all about envy. Think about it. Read his bio. Before he was kicked out of heaven, his name was Lucifer. It means “the star of the morning.” He was the worship leader in heaven. But he was lower than the Lord and he tried to attempt a kingdom coup de′ tat. He tried to usurp the Lord from his throne. He convinced a third of the angels to follow him. They were kicked out of heaven. He was eaten up with envy. And now, we have the Devil and all of his demonic forces who are his fallen angels. Whenever I am envious, whenever you are envious, we are so much like the Evil One. That’s one of his favorite sins because it starts out “U-G-L-Y, you ain’t got no alibi,” ugly, and it ends “U-G-L-Y, you ain’t got no alibi,” ugly. It’s all about green phantom fangs.
You may be thinking at this point, “Well, man, Ed, this is a pretty ugly message. I’m feeling down.”
I am, too. It’s bad. I mean, wow! Insecurity, discontentment, the inability to cheer people on, gutting the grace of God, not thanking God for stuff…is there hope for me?
BRUSH YOUR PHANTOM FANGS
Yes. We are all sinners. We all have a tendency to envy. Here is how we can turn envy’s scowl into a smile. Here is how we can brush away the green phantom fangs of envy and turn it into a million dollar smile. Are you ready?
GOD WILL SUPER-SIZE YOUR SECURITY
We need to come clean. We need to say, “God, I struggle with envy. God, I struggle with it. I have a problem with it. I like to flare my green phantom fangs of envy.” Once we do that, God will super-size our security.
Everything is super-sized these days. If you drive to McDonalds and say, “I’d like a Big Mac, French fries, ice cold Coca—Cola.” They’ll ask, “Do you want me to super size that?” Everything is super-sized.
Once we come clean with the Lord and say, “God I give you my envy. I admit to you that I am envious. God, do a work in me.” Do you know what God will say? He’ll ask, “Do you want me to super-size that?” He wants to super-size your security and mine. He wants us to see our security in him—nothing more and nothing less. The moment I begin to worry about what you think, what you say, and what you feel, that’s the moment my self-esteem turns horizontal. My self-esteem, your self-esteem should always be vertical. We should ask, “How does God see me? How is God looking on this?” It’s all about God and that gives me security.
That’s why 1 Peter 2:1 says, “Lay aside all envies.” Not just envy… envies. So, my security is super sized.
GOD WILL CATIPULT YOUR CONTENTMENT
Here is something else that will happen. My contentment will be catapulted to another level.
Look at Philippians 4:11. The Apostle Paul, who knew a lot about this stuff, said, “I have learned to be content (that’s not complacency, that’s contentment) whatever the circumstances.”
I need to say, “God, I want to be content with my contents. You’ve given me this stuff, these abilities, and I am unique.”
You know the Bible says this in the Book of Psalms, “We are God’s workmanship.” You know what the word “workmanship” means in the Hebrew? It means “poetry” or “poem.” We are a piece of art. We are one of a kind. A friend of mine is a top cardiologist and he will tell you that every person has a unique heartbeat. Is that crazy? Isn’t that great?
So, why compare yourself with others? When you compare yourself with others, you are making a mockery of God’s creative genius. When God made you, he made you as you. So be you. Don’t be someone else. When we get to heaven, God is not going to say, “Hey, why weren’t you more like J-Lo?” I hope not. “Why weren’t you more like George Clooney?” I hope not. God is going to say, “Why weren’t you more like you?” You be you, because if you weren’t you, there would to be a hole in history, a gap in God’s creative order. When I come clean, my security will be super-sized and my contentment can be catapulted to the next level.
GOD WILL AMPLIFY YOUR APPLAUSE OF OTHERS
Here’s the third thing that will happen when we come clean—God will amplify my applause. We need to learn how to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those weep. When something good happens to someone else, realize it’s from God. If they have a windfall, it’s from God. Their ability to multiply is from God. That position is from God. We need to say, “Yeah, God! Yeah, God!” That should be our mentality.
When you hang around certain people, do they rev up those envy engines? If they do, you better watch out how often you hang out with them. How about this? Driving through certain neighborhoods, does that rev up those envy engines? Do you say, “Wow, it must be nice?” Do certain times of the year rev up those envy engines? “Oh, Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree?” Does it? Do you say, “Yeah, I would look like that too if I had a personal trainer.”
No, you wouldn’t. You don’t have the discipline. Get over it. I’m just joking. I kind of sounded like Dr. Phil, didn’t I? I was kidding around about that.
But do you know what I am saying about how we do that? It’s pitiful, isn’t it? I should applaud others. I should say, “Good for you! High five. Great!” We should be the most joyful people around, because we know Christ. We should be all about outrageous, contagious excitement and thankfulness. We should say, “God, thank you. You are so awesome. Thank you for my life. Thank you for a roof over my head. God, thank you for my wardrobe. God, thank you for my position. Obviously you have placed me here for a dynamic reason and I want to give it back to you in the most developed way possible as an act of worship.”
GOD WILL BUILD UP YOUR BLESSINGS
Here’s one more thing. When we come clean with envy, it will build my blessing. It will build my blessing.
I’ll say it once again…a sign, an earmark of spiritual maturity is how thankful we are. We need to be thankful to God. We don’t need to freak out about what we don’t have because of what someone else has. We need to thank God for what he has done in our lives. Thank God for his gifts. That’s why so many worship songs, so many scripture verses, so much stuff that we talk about around here is about the “attitude of gratitude,” this ability to live life like you are on a thank you safari. When I begin to thank God, I begin to understand what life is all about and envy begins to melt away from my life.
Are you green? Are you turning green with envy? Are you sad over someone’s success? Are you a fan of someone’s failure? Are you so freaked out about what you don’t have because you are always looking at what other people do have? Drag envy out into the light, because life is too short to be eaten up with envy.