by Pastor Steve Liersch
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[Simon] boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, ‘This man is rightly called the Great Power of God’ (Acts 8:9b,10).
There’s not much difference here between greed and envy (coveting) for Simon the Sorcerer. Both make the list of the seven deadly sins. Both can have very subtle ways of showing themselves.
Martin Luther’s commentary on the last two commandments teaches how wicked human nature is and how pure we should be from all the desires of the flesh and desires for this world’s goods. But that means to struggle and labour as long as we live here below. He said that God concluded the Ten Commandments with ‘Thou shalt not covet’ (envy) because if we kept that command, we would keep all the others. The reason people lie, steal, commit adultery and even kill is usually because of envy. We want something others have.
There’s a phenomenon known in church circles called ‘ministry envy’. (Be assured, envy occurs in business, sport, families and politics, too.) It can happen in all areas of Christianity – from clergy to lay people, young to senior, male and female alike. People look over the fence at what other churches, pastors and groups are doing and fall into the trap of comparison to the point where they begin to grumble about what their church isn’t doing and how other churches seem to be going better than theirs.
From that point on, it’s easy to see the slippery slope of discontent that blames others for the decline. It can also lead to schemes to get rid of the perceived problem and replace it with their solution. Whatever money can buy, they offer (like Simon did). The use of political lobbying at meetings is common. Safe Church policies can mean nothing when subtle bullying isn’t stopped. Common is the threat of leaving and taking their money with them.
Coveting (envy) can be seen here by Simon the Sorcerer’s thinking that he could buy the power of the Holy Spirit because he was so impressed with what he had seen it do through the apostles.
Three quick lessons on envy quickly help to restore perspective and call us to repentance. They can help us trust God for all that we are and need.
1. Envy forgets God’s goodness poured out in the past.
Where would you be without God’s provision?
2. Envy overlooks God’s goodness and blessings provided in the present.
The happy life is finding satisfaction in what God has provided for you today – because it is always enough. We find this especially in the gift of Jesus as our Lord and Saviour and with our sins forgiven.
3. Envy ignores God’s goodness promised for the future.
Nothing will compare with what’s in store for us in heaven.
What are you envious of, and what sort of hold has it got on your life? Repent if necessary!
Merciful Father, help me recognise your goodness in my life. Please give me a thankful heart, and empower me to be content in all areas of life as you provide for me. Amen.