And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. (Ecclesiastes 4:4 NIV)
Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly. A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones. (Proverbs 14:29-30 NIV)
He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” (Mark 7:14-15 NIV)
The story of Adam and Eve, and the serpent in Genesis 3:1-6, and the story of David and Bathsheba in II Samuel 11:1-17 are clear examples of how emotions can lead us down a destructive path. With Adam and Eve, it started with them listening to the crafty lies of the serpent, then seeing the fruit, anticipating how it might taste, and desiring the wisdom and the power it might give them. In David’s story, he is not with his army as a king should be, he is not with the Ark of the covenant, but instead he is home, at leisure, on his rooftop and sees a beautiful woman. Next, David sends servants to learn about her, and once he knows she is the wife of Uriah – a member of his elite guard – he then sends for her to come to him and commits adultery with her, resulting in her pregnancy.
In both stories, Adam and Eve, David and Bathsheba did not sin immediately. Instead, the scriptures show us a progression that can start with the emotion of desire or anticipation – after seeing something we would like to possess for ourselves that either belongs to another, or that we have been forbidden to have. James 1:13-15 says, “when tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”
Desire and anticipation are not evil or bad emotions, but we can anticipate and desire money, people, clothing, cars, food, or relationships that belong to other people – this is envy. James talks of a progression that starts with desire or anticipation. Last week Alex talked about a way to find a proper perspective when our emotions are strong or overwhelming. That phrase was “to find perspective, practice the pause and in the pause to pray”.
If Adam and Eve had paused and prayed the outcome might have been different. If David had paused and prayed perhaps he could have prevented much of the family discord among his children in the future. Read Psalm 4 and pause, contemplate, pray over what you read each time you see the word Selah. This week see if you can pause and pray to gain perspective.