Breaking the power of envy
John’s disciples had a problem. They had followed their rabbi faithfully and done whatever he instructed them but the fad was getting out of hand. It had started as a simple extension of something the people had done for years but it had become so popular that they were having trouble keeping up with the demand. John told people who God was about to do something significant and it was time for them to be ready for it. He told them to wash themselves ceremonially in the river as a sign that they were preparing themselves to be part of what was coming. When the promised leader came they were willing to join him and would stand against his enemies, especially the hated Romans.
Having others pick up the same practice wasn’t cool to his disciples but John didn’t seem to care. They watched as more people came every day but were disturbed to see how others were muscling in on the thing for which their rabbi had become known.
Finally they couldn’t take it anymore, enough is enough! They came to John with a warning about what was happening. Since he wasn’t attacking and trashing the competitors they figured he didn’t understand how serious the situation was becoming. He was losing his influence as leader of the movement and he didn’t care! Their comments showed that they:
- Didn’t understand the scope of the task and the events which were coming
- Didn’t see the big picture and their place in it
- Thought God could only work through them
- Didn’t understand that God works in other people and places too
- Thought of co-workers as competitors
- Were being stretched beyond the scope of what they could handle
- Thought their resources were very limited
John put them right. He wasn’t fussing about anyone being his competitor and here’s the reason: “A man can only receive what heaven gives him.” The work was bigger than any man could handle on his own. Control was not an issue for John; getting the task accomplished was the real issue. He welcomed the help others could bring. He didn’t compare himself with others and what they were doing. Life isn’t a competition and finding others doing similar things to us does not pose a threat, not even when they do it better than we can. Instead of being competitive and clinging to control, John told his disciples to chill and focus on doing what is given to them to do. Criticizing and condemning others is not a part of that.
John effectively tells them to focus on what they were called and trained to do and keep with the main question, “What does God want ME to do with my life and ministry?” Others must answer the same question for themselves. Only then are we freed from the competitiveness that leads to envy and from coveting what others have. Teamwork replaces personal struggle and rivalry. Together we can do far more. No one has to do it all on his or her own. Faith tells us to trust that God will work things out right and everyone will attain his or her reward based on their willingness to focus on the task given to them.
When we find ourselves resenting the success of others and trying to control what they do it’s a sure sign we are playing with fire. The better path is to revisit what we are called to do and put our energy into doing that. The power of envy lies broken.
Posted on November 16, 2011, in Active faith, Self-awareness and tagged calling and service, comparing ourselves, competition and competitiveness, covetousness, envy, John 3, obedience, Religion & Spirituality. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off.