Provoking and Envying
“Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” Galatians 5:26
Galatians 5:22-23 speaks of the fruit of the Spirit. Verse 24 tells us that the flesh should be completely submerged in a Christian. Verse 25 says that we should walk in the Spirit; then verse 26 returns to the flesh. Becoming conceited, provoking one another, and envying one another are all matters of the flesh that must be put down.
Conceited: Becoming conceited is vain glory (King James Version). Yet many, even some Christians, seem to have obtained it. Let us not desire the applause of man because this is at best passing, and will eventually prove empty. Men applaud today but will forget and may even curse tomorrow. The Lord Jesus never sought the applause of men, although at times He received it. One day they strewed branches in His way saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matt. 21:9). Within a short time they were crying out, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” (Luke 23:21). So fickle is man’s conceit – man’s glory. Let us not seek it at all, but only the glory that comes from the Lord.
Provoking one another: The ways of some people, even some Christians, are most provoking. They can be so arrogant; and know better than anyone else regarding most things. They seem to always be right and everybody else wrong – they know so much and everyone else so little. Others are so talkative that no one can get a word in edgewise. Some are such awful grumblers, complaining about everything. Then others are high-hat, too great and important to even look down on other insignificant mortals. They despise those whom they consider inferior. Sometimes such are ready to greet you, but at other times they will utterly ignore you. Some provoking people are angry the moment they are shown the least bit of disrespect. They expect to be looked up to and honored. Many such people wonder why they are shunned like the plague and have few friends. If your friends are few, take stock of yourself and see what is wrong, and then seek to correct your ways at once.
Envying one another: Envy usually results from a feeling of inferiority. Provoking others is often the sin of the strong, while envy is the sin of the weak. Both can be a great hindrance to the advancement of Christianity; both are the seeds of strife and division. There is perhaps no sin more subtle than envy. Its disastrous results are often far reaching, yet many do not consider it as one of the serious sins. The dictionary defines it as, “Chagrin, mortification, discontent, or uneasiness at the sight of another’s excellence or good fortune, accompanied with some degree of hatred and desire to possess equal advantages.”
Rottenness to the bones: Perhaps no expression could better state God’s loathsomeness of this dreadful sin than the statement of Proverbs 14:30, “A sound heart is life to the body, But envy is rottenness to the bones.” This suggests its internal character; often hidden and therefore more dangerous. When it strikes it is usually under the form of some disguise. Falsehood is its constant companion. It injures not only the envied, but also the envious. An envious man cannot be happy. There is a rankling in the bosom and restlessness of mind and body.
Envy ruins: God has much to say about envy. In Proverbs 27:4 we read, “Wrath is cruel and anger a torrent, But who is able to stand before jealousy?” Wrath and anger, how we condemn them; but envy (jealousy) is worse. The best man, the finest of homes, the greatest of countries, the nicest and biggest church building, all have been broken to pieces on the rocks of envy. If the truth were really known, it is likely that most of the troubles among Christians can be traced back to this sin. Why the divisions among God’s people? Why the maintained separations? Why conflict among those who minister the Word? Why the distressing differences between leaders in the congregation? Is it envy? Too often it is.
Envy linked with murder: In the black list of sins recorded in Romans 1 we read, “full of envy” (verse 29), and immediately following is “murder.” Romans 1 tells of the awful condition of the lost of Paul’s day. We expect envy among such people, but it should not be found among Christians. Again notice that it is listed among the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:21. There, too, it is immediately followed by murder. Titus 3:3 puts this awful sin in our past life, but rules it out for the present; “For we ourselves were also once foolish . . . living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.”
Examples of envy: There are many examples in the Scriptures of what envy can do. What was it that put Joseph into the pit, and then sold him into Egypt? Acts 7:9 says it was envy. What caused Korah, Dathan, and Abiram to rebel against Moses, as we read in Numbers 16? Was it not that they envied his authority and favor with God? What was in the hearts of the princes of Babylon that caused Daniel to be put into the den of lions? Was it not that they envied his high standing and position under Darius?
They envied our Lord: The greatest crime of all time was instigated by envy, for we read of Pilate when he sought to release the Lord Jesus, “For he knew that they had handed Him over because of envy” (Matt. 27:18). Ah yes, it was that cruel monster envy that led them to demand the crucifixion of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
God favors the envied: Thank God for His favor to the envied. He was with Joseph in all his troubles and finally exalted him. His brethren were brought low – down to fears and tears, but finally forgiven. The rebels against Moses found that they had to deal with an angry God who could quickly bring them down into the pit. The Lord was with Daniel in the den, shutting the lions’ mouths. Soon after, the envious found themselves in the den and in the King James Version we read, “And the lions had the mastery over them, and brake all their bones in pieces.” The Lord Jesus went down into death and the grave, but on the third day He was raised by the power of His Father.
The folly of envy: Oh, the folly of envy. Do we find a spark of it in our hearts? Let us not tolerate it for a moment, but at its slightest movement immediately judge it. Let us remember that God links it with wrath, strife, and murder – as we shun these let us also flee from envy.