In last week’s post we considered the issue of envy. We looked at how it can poison our lives and suck out all of our joy. If you really want to understand your heart and what you believe is your sense of happiness, figure out what you envy. It will reveal what you heart really loves and desires. So how do we deal with our envy? In the Old Testament, in Psalm 73, we see a man who is struggling with envy. He envies the prosperity of others and the seemingly charmed lives that they lead. He feels sorry for himself having lived such a virtuous life while watching these godless people prosper. In verse 16, however, he enters the sanctuary of God, and it changes everything. It transforms his perspective on what really matters in life. In this Psalm one can see a certain type of man in the beginning but almost a completely different man at the end. One can see a man who has truly gained insight and understanding. And it is this insight and understanding from God that enables him to see what has great value and worth. To better understand this let’s suppose I am skilled at performing card tricks. Though you might find these tricks to be quite entertaining, would you envy me? Probably not. After all, one’s ability to perform card tricks is not very important, nor is it a skill that we esteem in adults. In other words this is not a skill that has great value or worth. In a parable in Luke 12, Jesus makes reference to the importance of being rich towards God and the things of God (v.21). Then in Luke 16:11, He makes reference to the “true riches” of life. But what are the “true riches” of Life? The Bible maintains a number of things which have great value:
- A person’s character: A good name is more desirable than great wealth (Proverbs 22:1).
- The gaining of wisdom: More valuable than silver and gold; nothing you desire compares with it (Proverbs 3: 13-18).
- The quality of our relationships: Nothing is of greater value than our relationships; they are truly priceless (1 John 4:7).
And finally, the apostle Paul, a wealthy Pharisee prior to his conversion on the road to Damascus in current-day Syria, had to sacrifice all of his wealth and power when he became a Christian. And yet he gladly parted with all of his worldly trappings because he had found the most valuable possession in all of life, and he recognized its value:
I consider everything worthless in comparison to the unsurpassing value of Chris Jesus my Lord for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and consider it rubbish so that I might gain this relationship with Christ (Philippins 3:8).
Paul said this relationship had changed all his worldly ambitions in life. Christianity is not about following a bunch of rules and religious practices. It is about knowing Christ personally and walking through life with Him. Perhaps most importantly, he saw its relative value to all other things…they were rubbish. As I get older, the sad truth I find in so many people’s lives is that they do not want God. They might believe in Him, they might seek his favor by going to church, they certainly want Him to bless them, but they do not want to know Him, be close to Him, or allow Him to guide them through life. Dr. Peter Moore recognized the great value of knowing Christ personally as he reflected on his silver reunion at his college:
Returning to my twenty-fifth reunion at Yale, I watched as Mercedes-Benz’s disgorged prosperous-looking members of the class of 1958 and their wives at the gates of the Old Campus. The program announced that former classmates were preparing to tell the rest of us about the lessons that they had learned while climbing the ladders to success. Wandering along familiar campus pathways that first evening of the reunion, two questions weighed heavily on my mind: “Had I been a success? … What was success?” The occasion, redolent with nostalgia, demanded such questions be asked and answers at least attempted. After all, what had one to show for all that expensive education after a quarter of a century?
I tried to be as honest with myself as I could be. I refused to take refuge in pat answers that, after all, I had started this and done that. While I was thus musing suddenly I remembered that a friend who was a rector of a nearby church had invited me to join him and a handful of parishioners for their customary 5:00 Evening Prayer. I hurried across campus to St. John’s and took my place as the service opened, still very troubled by the questions that I couldn’t shake from my mind.
We came in time to join a familiar part of the service, recorded in Luke 2, where the aged Simeon picks up the Christ child in the Temple and blesses God with the words: “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.” Listening to these words, I felt a quiet assurance settle in my soul. All the anticipation of wise old Simeon’s many years found joyous fulfillment in one moment’s realization that there in his arms was the long-awaited Messiah. Such was the sense of completeness that his knowledge gave him; he was now ready to “depart – or die – in peace.”
In the quiet of that service I discovered what real success was. It came to me quietly, but very clearly, that the only thing worth calling success was coming to the knowledge of God and being able to behold Him in the face of his Son. It seemed to me a knowledge so profound and yet so simple, that it made even the smallest achievement of great importance when done in its light.
Once our minds and our hearts recognize these true riches of life, and once we see that everything else in this world that people are chasing is not of great value, the envy in our lives will diminish, and eventually it will dissipate to very little; ideally, it will go to nothing.