By, Isam Itson III
Matthew 20:13-16 – But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last.”
We are prone to envy, covetousness and jealousy in our relationships. We are borderline obsessed with not being left out or left behind. We are consumed with the fear of being overlooked or under appreciated. The disappointment of not being picked for a team on the schoolyard turned some of us into wallflowers and others of us into bullies. Even when we grow up we think we are outraged by life’s inherent injustice when we are passed over for a promotion at work. Sometimes that is true. More often, we never fully acknowledged our feelings of rejection and disappointment from our childhood.
This story reminds me of Cain who killed his brother Abel. Cain kills Abel because he is angry and jealous that God accepted Abel’s offering of worship but rejected Cain’s. Rather than learning from God and submitting to God’s way of life, Cain led his brother Abel into a field and killed him. Cain was so committed to being honored that he killed his brother to have his own way. He broke faith with God and he broke faith with his brother. For Cain nothing and no one was more valuable than his personal sense of pride and honor.
We can fall into the same trap as Cain when we nurse our sense of grievance and outrage. Our anger turns into bitterness and we justify our hurt feelings rather than learning from our mistakes. We harbor feelings of resentment rather than focusing on fulfilling the tasks that God has already given us within our own sphere of life. At a critical moment there is nothing to stop our unresolved feelings from fueling an outburst of thoughtless passion that breeds chaos. Why? Because we do not take responsibility for ourselves within our present circumstances. We resent others for what they have rather than honoring God with what he has already provided for us.
Submitting to God in faithful obedience and practicing gratitude for what he has already provided for us is crucial to following Jesus Christ. God humbles and exalts us. He trains, corrects, and promotes us as he transforms us more and more into the image of Jesus Christ. Daily, we have to remind ourselves that the only reward that matters, is the certainty of our everlasting life with God in Jesus Christ that frees us to fearlessly live for God everyday.
Every other social and material reward is inconsequential by comparison. God has already given us himself as our prize, even though we have done nothing to deserve his presence with us. He simply loves us. What a glorious gift!
The antidote for jealous pride and envy is gratitude for God’s all sufficient grace. Our goal is submission to his direction, and the strengthening of our character. Our goal is not getting God to fulfill our self centered ambitions.
1. Every day, thank God that his grace is sufficient to meet your needs today.
2. Every day, remind yourself that you have nothing to fear, since death no longer has any power over you in Jesus Christ.
3. Submit to God’s purpose for your life: In obedience to God, show others how much God loves them by being willing to spend your time and energy meeting their needs.