“Thank you,” is more than just a social formality. Thankfulness is a virtue, and a powerful one at that. Learn to use it correctly, and it can set you free from the slavery of envy.
Money can make slaves of us in all sorts of ways, warping our attitudes and inhibiting us from using our resources in the way that God wants us to. Among all of the ways that money slavery can bind us up, envy is one of the most sneaky. You can have a good head on your shoulders, budget well, avoid debt and even be a faithful giver. But if envy has got its hooks in you, it doesn’t matter how much you’ve been blessed — you’ll constantly be tempted to compare yourself to others. And when you do that, your heart becomes blind, and you miss out on the riches of Christ in your own life.
Fortunately, God has not left us captive to money slavery. For every way that money tries to take us captive, God provides us a way to break free. In this series, we’ve been studying some of the antidotes to money sickness in our hearts. Giving is the antidote to greed, and grace is the antidote to stinginess. Today, we’re going to examine how thankfulness is the antidote to envy.
Envy is that heart attitude that flares up whenever we see someone that has something that we want. If you see a friend obtain some level of success or esteem, and you have trouble being happy for him, you’re probably suffering from a case of envy.
The problem with envy is that it gives us tunnel vision. If Jimmy has a new car that I just love, envy will cause me to become fixated on Jimmy and his car. The thought process can go like this: “Wow, that’s a great car. I wish I had a car like that. I wonder how Jimmy got that kind of car. It seems like Jimmy has a lot of nice things. I don’t know how I could ever afford that. I work really hard, and I can’t have nice things like that. I bet Jimmy doesn’t even work that hard. Does Jimmy really deserve to have that car? Don’t I deserve it more than he does? Jimmy always gets everything, and it’s so not fair. I work so hard, and I don’t get anything that I want. Jimmy gets everything he wants. How dare he. I’m really angry at Jimmy. I don’t even want to see Jimmy or his stupid car. I just want to go back to my horrible, miserable little life where I don’t get anything that I want. God, why are you so good to Jimmy and so bad to me?”
When you see it written out like that, it sounds fairly ridiculous. But if you’re honest with yourself, you may recognize that thought process from your own life. I’ve been down that road a time or two.
When you focus on the one thing that one person has that you really wish you have, you lose focus on all of the other important things in your life. You forget all of the challenges that Jimmy faces in his life that you don’t have to, and you ignore all of the great blessings in your own life. Soon, it becomes impossible to be joyful about your life because your heart is so consumed in envying his.
In order to get our hearts back in the right place, we must reset our focus. Just like it would be dangerous to try to go navigate this world with literal tunnel vision, it’s dangerous to try to go through life blinded by envy. We must expand our fields of vision and look at life on the whole, instead of focusing on the areas of perceived injustice. And the best way to do this is thankfulness.
You see, when we begin to give thanks for all of the blessings that we have in life, whether big or small, we expand our fields of vision. Instead of focusing on the narrowness of our existence, we begin to see the grandness of God and the incredible breadth of the universe that He has created. Our individual trials and challenges pale in comparison to the greatness of God’s plan. And the inconveniences that we deal with are nothing in light of the rich blessings that we have in Christ.
Begin giving thanks for things around you, even if you don’t feel particularly thankful. If your heart is in a really bad place, start with something simple like hot water (a luxury that hasn’t existed for the vast majority of human history). Give thanks for a warm bed, a refrigerator full of food, and the car that gets you back and forth to work every day.
Give thanks for the company that employs you, even if working isn’t your favorite thing to do. Give thanks for the boss who took a chance on you. Give thanks for the family that loves you, and the friends that put up with you even though they don’t really have to. Give thanks for the community of believers in your life and the support that comes from them.
Give thanks that the God that created the universe cares enough about you to listen to your prayers. Give thanks that He sent His only son to rescue you from the consequences of your sin — even the consequences of your envy and unthankfulness.
Spend some time cultivating a thankful heart, and you’ll soon find that you have so much to be thankful for that you don’t even have enough time to thank God for each blessing individually. With an eternal perspective, you’ll find that what Jimmy has or doesn’t have is inconsequential. We have all been blessed beyond what we deserve and beyond what we could hope for.
If envy threatens to enslave your heart, fight back with thankfulness. After all, if you’re busy thanking God for all the wonderful things that He has given you, you’ll have little time or energy left for worrying about the things that He hasn’t given you yet.
Photo by Honor the Gift. Used under Creative Commons License.