You know these are good things—kingdom building things—and yet, somewhere deep down you feel something other than excitement, joy, and the need to celebrate. You feel something a lot like envy:
- A friend of yours is asked to be the speaker at your church's women's event. She hits it out of the park, and there's a huge response.
- Someone you know gets a deal to write a Bible study with a big-time publisher.
- A family in your church moves to the foreign mission field and are part of a mighty move of God.
- Your sister is a gifted prayer warrior. When she prays, things happen. Her prayers seem to have more power than yours.
- God clearly intervenes in someone's marriage, or with their child, or with their health while you continue to pray for Him to do the same in your life.
I can relate. Pride often rears its ugly head in my life when God is clearly using and working in the lives of others. I know better, and yet . . . I still feel a little jealous when God's hand rests on someone else's shoulders.
Perhaps that's why Jude 11–13 has hit me like a two-by-four in recent days:
"Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam's error and perished in Korah's rebellion. These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever."
To know who Jude is dropping the hammer on here, we must do our Old Testament homework. I'm sure you're familiar with Cain. In Genesis 4 Cain explodes with anger because God favors his brother's offering. His envy results in murder.
When we are upset about the gifts God gives others, we secretly and selfishly want attention or accolades and don't like it when others get it.
We don't bring offerings to the altar anymore, so this may look slightly different in our lives. But we follow the way of Cain any time we are angry, jealous, or put off by God's clear favor in someone else's life.
What was Balaam's error? If you've never read Balaam's story you should check out Numbers 22–23. For now, the main thing we need to know about Balaam is that he wanted to use the gifts God gave him for his own gain.
When we are upset about the gifts God gives others aren't we doing the same thing? We secretly and selfishly want attention or accolades and don't like it when others get it.
Korah was guilty of this. Korah's rebellion is outlined in Numbers 16, but here's the gist:
"They assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron and said to them, 'You have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?" (v. 3)
Korah and his followers hated hierarchy. They refused to place themselves under spiritual authority because they thought it meant someone was better than them. (By the way, Korah and his cronies were swallowed up by the earth!)
These stories sound dramatic, but they all have one thing in common—spiritual envy. These are simply folks who resented God's hand in the lives of others.
Jude has strong words for those of us who, like them:
- are jealous of God's favor
- use God's voice for personal gain
- want to be in charge
- resent spiritual authority.
And Jude gives us six clear word pictures for what spiritual envy makes us:
- Hidden reefs: a danger that's hard to detect.
- Shepherds feeding themselves: greedy and bad for the herd.
- Waterless clouds: useless.
- Fruitless trees: in case you missed it . . . useless.
- Wild waves of the sea: destructive.
- Wandering stars: giving misleading guidance to travelers.
This is the cost of our spiritual envy. It makes us a danger to Christ's Body and robs us of the fruit God intends to bear in our lives.
I don't want to follow the way of Cain any longer. I don't want to repeat Balaam's error or participate in Korah's rebellion. Instead, I am reminded that God's blessing is as much a gift when I'm a bystander as it is when I'm the recipient. What's good for Christ's Body is ultimately good for me.