Even before I became a follower of Christ, I knew what my biggest sin was (as if there’s a “small, bigger, biggest” chart of sins—but you know what I mean): I was the kid who was always looking around at everyone else and pointing out what I didn’t have. My friend got a new bike, I wanted a new bike! My sister got to stay up late, I wanted to stay up late! The kid in the newspaper article got a citation for calling 911 when he noticed the neighbors’ house on fire, I wanted a citation . . . ! The list was endless. Envy took up a lot of space in my life.
I’ve been a follower of Christ for 40 years now, and I find that envy can still occupy a lot of space in my life—if I’m not mindful.
I like Asaph and the brutal honesty with which he wrote:
Surely God is good to Israel,
To those who are pure in Heart!
But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling,
My steps had almost slipped.
For I was envious of the arrogant
As I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
–Psalm 73:1-3 NASB
I can relate to the envy he describes here, an envy that can fuel my thoughts, directing my mind and heart, beckoning me to the “dark side.”
Envy may not be the sin that takes up space in your life, but what about deceit (think Jacob), or fear (think Timothy), or pride (think Paul) or _________ (think ‘your name here’)? We all tend to have a dominant sin tendency. What does repentance mean when it comes to dealing with that tendency that feels like identity?
For Asaph, as I have found for myself, dealing with the tendency towards envy starts with grounding himself in reality:
When I pondered to understand this,
it was troublesome in my sight
Until I came to the sanctuary of God;
Then I perceived their end.
Surely you set them in slippery places;
You cast them down to destruction.
How they are destroyed in a moment!
–Psalm 73:16-19 NASB
I may be envious of something that someone else has, but ultimately, their having it doesn’t mean that they’re better off. As Asaph describes it, having it sets them on a slippery slope—to pride, lust, sloth, idolatry—and they are utterly swept away by sudden terrors (v.19). And that is not something I’m envious of!
Making space for God means that I have to ground myself in reality and then move into gratitude. What I’m envious of isn’t really good for me, but God knows what is ultimately good for me. Can I be grateful for that?
But as for me, the nearness of God is my good;
I have made the Lord GOD my refuge,
That I may tell of all Your works.
–Psalm 73:28 NASB
ACTION: How is your strongest sin tendency (pride, lust, sloth, deceit, fear, being judgmental, etc.) cluttering up space in your life? What would it mean for God to redeem the space taken up by that tendency? What virtue do you need to practice more?