The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Envy has reared its ugly head and is in the news of late. This is a new story, and in another sense it’s an old one.
Ancient Christians used to talk about “the seven deadly sins”---root sins that cause many other transgressions. Among those seven is the sin of envy.
A new study from Germany unveiled last week found that Facebook often triggers envy among many of its users. Envy especially over the social life and vacations and experiences of others.
Writing for REUTERS (1/22/13), Belinda Goldsmith writes, “Witnessing friends’ vacations, love lives and work successes on Facebook can cause envy and trigger feelings of misery and loneliness, according to German researchers.”
She added, “A study conducted by two German universities found rampant envy on Facebook, the world’s largest social network that now has over one billion users and has produced an unprecedented platform for social comparison.”
“Rampant envy”? One of the researches observed, “We were surprised by how many people have a negative experience from Facebook with envy leaving them feeling lonely, frustrated or angry.”
This story gives me an opportunity to ponder this often overlooked transgression. The Tenth Commandment says “Thou shalt not covet.”
Coveting is simply envy. Envying others for what they have and you don’t.
Billy Graham once said, “Envy takes the joy, happiness, and contentment out of living.” So even his success turn to ashes to the man who gives himself over to envy. Henry Greber said, “One cannot be envious and happy at the same time.”
There’s a tale from ancient Greece about a prized athlete who was so good in the public games that his fellow citizens erected a statue in his honor.
But a bitter rival, consumed with envy, went out each night to attempt to destroy the statue by pushing it off its pedestal; he made very slow progress. Finally, he was successful one night—only it fell on him and crushed him to death.
I find it interesting that the first murder in the Bible was motivated by envy. The first two children of Adam and Eve were Cain and Abel. Cain didn’t play by God’s rules, so his sacrifice was unacceptable, whereas Abel’s was accepted.
God tells Cain that if he sacrifices in the right way, like his brother Abel, his offering will likewise be accepted. But no. Cain deceives Abel into going out into the field, and he clubs him to death. Envy at work.
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