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WHY ARE YOU GREEN?

Publishing Date : 26 January, 2016

Author : MOGOTSI D BALOYI

It's one of those things we'd like to pretend don't exist. We'd rather not talk about it because it exposes our hypocrisy and shows us the ugliness of our character we'd rather pretend doesn't exist. Unfortunate as that is, humanly speaking, I guess it's understandable. Every person thinks themselves perfect, despite knowing the opposite to be the case. It's human to feign goodness or uprightness.

Even the glaringly morally degenerate protest their innocence, claiming to be misunderstood. My subject matter this week has a long history. In fact, for those who are Bible readers and Bible believers, you'll realize that the subject at hand goes back to just a generation after the Garden of Eden. Yes, it's that old! I'm of course referring to envy and jealousy.

You see, the first instance of envy ever recorded was in the Biblical story of Cain and Abel. That is the very first time we see the manifestation of this vice and its ugly consequences when left unchecked. Envy is found in almost every sphere of life. But it tends to read its ugly head particularly in the arena of possessions and wealth.

For instance look at Genesis 26:12-15. It describes Isaac's accumulated wealth and how his neighbors - the Philistines - "envied him." Isaac's possessions are mentioned three times, so we know he had a lot of stuff. This is interesting because the Philistines certainly weren't poor by any means, but they still envied what Isaac had.

You can have a lot and still be jealous. To be fair, though, it's easy to want just a little bit more than we already have whether you're well off or have very little. I've seen established Pastors driving German sedans envious and intimidated by young upstarts still footing it or driving third-hand Japanese imports! Not only can we envy someone else's possessions, but also their power. In the Book of Numbers, we find that Miriam and Aaron were envious of Moses' power and position among the people so they began to criticize him along with his family (Numbers 12:1). We also see that the tribe of Korah fell into the same trap (Numbers 16:1).

In the books of Kings and Chronicles, we read story after story of kings who usurped the power of other kings, often by criminal and traitorous acts; only to have the same things happen to them once they reached the pinnacle of power. History is littered with the ruins of nations whose leaders, motivated by jealousy and envy, led them to war. I believe that - from a purely human motivation - jealousy and envy were the main reasons the Jews had a part in the crucifixion of Jesus and, later on, the reason they persecuted his apostles (Acts 7:54-8:1).

They feared that their own power was eroding. This is still true even today, sad to say. It is disconcerting and disheartening to see Pastors at each others' throats, covertly or overtly, simply because of envy. I'm not bashing Pastors. After all, I'm one of them and I have a very high regard and respect for them. However, the envy that exists amongst them is highly toxic and very destructive.

Out of envy, Pastors connive and conspire against each other daily. Some go out of their way to sabotage each other, frame each other, and plot against the downfall of one another. They gather with another Pastor as their main agenda. Dare I say, some fast and pray to see each other fall! How sad! How shameful! But why? I'll tell you why. It's nothing but the same thing politicians grapple with - Power. Power circles can be a breeding ground for jealousy in the political and business world.

Sadly, the Church is not exempt. Whose Church is biggest? Who's getting the most media attention? Who has the largest staff or the most members? Who has the best conferences? Who invites the best speakers? Who drives the best car? Who has the nicest building? Who preaches better? Who prophesies better? Who has the most influential and affluent members of society? These are the things Pastors fight over. These are the seedlings of envy that persistently plague the Church and retard its effectiveness.

These are the maladies that continue to ensure that the Church is worldly and carnal. These are the reasons why unity, much talked about as it is whenever Pastors meet, can never happen. Then there is the arena of performance. If there is a circle where Christians are most vulnerable, this is high on the list - individually and corporately. Remember the story in the Old Testament regarding Saul and David? David became the young hero in Israel after he defeated the Philistine bully, Goliath. Jealousy and envy began to grow in Saul's heart as he saw the hearts of Israel go out to David, especially the womenfolk as they started to sing songs of adulation in David's honor.

Women will always get you in trouble, son! Believe you me, sometimes Pastors fight over women - women who are not even their wives! But I digress. Saul spent the rest of his life trying to eliminate the object of his jealousy, tracking David all over the Judean wilderness trying to kill him. He remained a captive to his jealousy and envy until the day he died. It is this madness of competition that has resulted in the murk we find ourselves in. Is it any wonder that we hear rumors of Pastors buying "powers" from Ghana, Nigeria, and Durban? Why this craze and obsession with being the best? It's nothing but the spirit of envy! You envy Pastor X because of what he has, so you travel thousands of miles to consult foreign gods so that you can best him! Our local Churches, I am sorry to say, are places where jealousy and envy lurk big time.

The enemy is just waiting for a chance to attack us. Perhaps it is because the Church is a "volunteer" organization. People give their money and "volunteer" their time, and as a result, feel they are entitled to certain things, whether it's roles of leadership, or recognition for special acts of service or giving.

People easily become jealous of one another across the board - people jealous of other people and their God-given abilities and even spiritual gifts. Parents are envious of other parents and even of the other parents' children. Women jealous of the Pastor's wife. Choir members fighting to lead songs. Sons trying to out-preach and out-prophesy their Pastors. Women elbowing one another in an attempt to catch the attentions of single brothers or single Pastors.

There is an ever-so-subtle but constant striving in our midst. It's total madness! How shrewd and sinister the enemy is so as to stir up jealousy and envy in our midst. But even worse, how naïve we are to give in to it! The Church of Jesus Christ is the last place the bane of jealousy and envy should ever find a home because grace and love can infect us, making us impervious to envy's attacks.

The seed of all this chaos begins with comparisons. Comparison is the root of all envy. Whenever you start comparing yourself, you’re in a no-win situation. If you compare yourself with someone who is more effective than you, you’ll be full of envy. If you are more effective than they are, you’ll be full of arrogance and pride.

Either way, comparisons will take you down. Jealousy and envy are emotions we all feel from time to time. But if they are allowed to become dominant in our lives, they warp our perspectives, keeping us from realizing our full potential, and ultimately leading us into destructive behaviors. Without question, jealousy and envy impede our growth to spiritual maturity. Once envy takes a hold of you, you soon act out of character.

Envy starts with desire. We all want things we don't have: a lot of money, a big Church, a pretty wife, an expensive car, a magnetic personality, a nice figure, a better home, or more clothes. We long for a happy marriage, successful children, a secure, pleasurable job. There's nothing wrong with these desires as long as we are realistic, recognizing that they do not bestow value on our lives, nor does their absence make us lesser human beings.

However, if and when these things become essential to us and are viewed as the benchmarks of success, we will look with the green eyes of envy at everyone who has what we want. We'll keep working harder and more desperately to reach our goals without ever being content. Eventually, we will be under the full-time control of envy, a brutal taskmaster. John D. Rockefeller, believed to be the wealthiest American who has ever lived, said when he was asked how much money is enough, "Just one more dollar," was his sage reply.

There's nothing wrong with wanting recognition for our achievements. But at times that craving can become a competitive spirit that has to outdo everyone else. When that happens, you can be sure envy is at the root. Today's society values people for their appearance or their achievements. It is very difficult not to be envious of the woman with a beautiful figure when you struggle daily to not gain a kilo. It's hard to feel good about ourselves when we've been driving the same car for ten years while others are enjoying this year's luxury models.

We don't feel accomplished flying economy while the person down the street is posting pictures of themselves daily on social media flying first and business class to exotic destinations. We don't accept ourselves as we are; we are unable to recognize our own strengths. Instead, we compare our weaknesses with others' strengths, and consequently we feel envious. We tend to compare ourselves to our peers. Athletes compare themselves with other athletes.

Lawyers compare themselves with other lawyers. Pastors compare themselves with other Pastors. And we compare ourselves with the ones closest to us. The successful Pastor across the country doesn’t bother us - but the one across the street does. F.B. Meyer was Pastor at Christ Church in London, England late in the 19th Century when Charles Spurgeon came to town.

Spurgeon’s crowds at Metropolitan Tabernacle grew larger and larger. The young story-telling preacher was so popular that his weekly sermons were printed in the paper on Mondays. Meyer became envious, which is a common problem amongst the Pastors I know. Meyer prayed, “God bless me. God fill my pews. God send a revival to my church,” but still he was jealous and competitive toward Spurgeon and other Pastors in London. Then he learned to overcome envy by praying for the success of his “big brother” Pastors on his right and left.

In time he found that his own Church grew from the effects of Spurgeon’s powerful ministry! Similarly, Jack Hayford, a Pastor in Southern California in more recent times, has the same testimony of overcoming envy by praying for the success of other Pastor. When his Church on the Way in Van Nuys was small and getting started there was a large Church down the street called First Baptist.

He prayed for God to bless and prosper that Church. It ended up that Church on the Way grew so much that it used First Baptist’s old building for overflow. That's the way to kill this monster - prayer. Until we can learn to pray for those who intimidate us and wish them well, we'll continue to suffer under the yoke of envy and jealousy.

And, let's not forget that these are not just character flaws or weaknesses - these are sins to be repented of! These are the parents of witchcraft! Back in the villages we hail from, we knew that witchcraft was begotten by envy. Those who were successful in life were often the targets of witchcraft simply because they had something, and the poorer village folks couldn't stand them and therefore resorted to witchcraft so as to halt their rise.

And it wasn't even like they had anything to warrant witchcraft spells! Such folks would be having maybe a small general dealer or a small bakkie! But the village witches would be up in arms! Well, it seems like the more things change, the more they remain the same.

The witches of yesteryear in the village who wore hobo garb and feathers and beads riding baboons and hyenas, have now changed wardrobes and are now wearing Armani suits and driving Range Rovers in the city. Same script, different cast. May God help us to be able to not just handle, but also be able to celebrate the success of our neighbor without turning green and nasty.

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