I read an interesting post yesterday, that got me thinking about envy. It’s hard to see someone who has something that we don’t have, but wish we did. Academic training is one area that I’ve had to deal with, after dropping out of college eight-and-a-half years ago. I would see other young men pursuing and getting degrees in areas that I was interested in, and envy would rear its ugly head.
There are sinful ways of dealing with sin, and I’ve indulged them. One way of dealing with academic envy is to denigrate the character of the other person – “they’re too intellectual”; set up zero-sum games – “too much knowledge makes you less caring (or less useful, or . . .)”; quote verses – “knowledge puffs up”; attack the institutions – “colleges/seminaries can’t teach you everything”; inflate yourself in comparison – “I could learn everything they’re learning (maybe even in a better and more balanced way)”; throw pejoratives – “ivory tower”, “intellectualism”, “academia” (said with a good dose of snark).
Some of these may even be true. They’re just terrible ways of dealing with the sin of envy. The answer to envy is not to downgrade the good that the other has, but to be genuinely content with what you have (and do not have). It guts contentment of real significance to say “what I don’t have isn’t really worth having anyway.” Contentment shows itself as a strong virtue in the face of real, genuine good that you don’t have for yourself.
Further, envy is a total failure to rejoice with those who have received gifts from God that you haven’t received, including the gift of a seminary education, or a PhD. Be genuinely glad that God has given these gifts to people, even if He hasn’t given them to you. Thank Him for their gifts, and for yours. Pray that he would use them and help them to be faithful with what they have.
At the root of envy is a dissatisfaction with God, and a failure to trust His plan for your life and for theirs. Envy ultimately denigrates God’s character, and as such, is utterly wicked. I praise God Jesus died for my sins of academic envy.