Okay, we’ve looked at the first TWO of the so-called ‘7 deadly sins’ and by now you don’t need me to tell you that there are a LOT more than 7 deadly sins, because they’re ALL deadly, if not confessed to the Lord.  But the 3rd one is ‘envy’, and after getting our toes smashed while looking at pride and anger, you are all sitting there thinking “Whew!  Glad we’re past those others!  Now I can relax because I certainly don’t ENVY, do I?”

Well, we’ll see about that.  ‘Envy’ is such a LITTLE word…at worst it’s just a harmless emotion…something that we all take lightly.  But, that’s WRONG!  Envy is a SERIOUS matter!…so much so, that it’s included in the 10 Commandments…it’s number 10, actually.  You know, that one about not COVETING your neighbor’s wife.

In Colossians 3:5, Paul identifies ‘covetousness’ as what it really is; ‘idolatry’…the sin of putting something, anything, above GOD.  And THAT was the very FIRST of those Commandments.

So let’s not make the mistake of thinking this seemingly innocent sin of envy, is somehow HARMLESS.  It might very well be the MOST destructive of all the 7 sins!  And this morning I want to look at some of that incredible HARM that has been caused by ‘envy’.

And the partial story we just read, that story about Joseph’s brothers, is a CLASSIC case of ENVY causing HARM.  But, it is by no means the FIRST story in the Bible about envy causing harm.

The first example, at least the first example that was written down for us, took place way back when there were only FOUR people on earth: Adam, his wife Eve and their two sons Cain and Abel.

Cain was a tiller of the earth, and Able was a keeper of flocks.  And we’re told that both men brought offerings to the Lord.  An absolutely voluntary offering…since we have not been told that at this point God demanded any offerings.

But, in the 4th chapter of Genesis where this story plays out, we are told that Abel, the herdsman, brought an offering of the very best of his flock…while Cain, the farmer, brought just ‘some’ of his crop.  And God ACCEPTED Abel’s SACRIFICIAL offering, but He REJECTED Cain’s offering.  And it was NOT because Cain’s offering of vegetables was somehow WRONG!  It was more that he had not brought the BEST that he had; just some of his crop…some of his EXCESS!  And in that one statement is a lesson for ALL of us.

IF we are going to make an offering to Almighty God, as we just had the opportunity to, a few minutes ago…and it’s probably a good thing we did that offering-thing FIRST, BEFORE we hear this message…but IF you intend to MAKE an offering to God, and IF you want that offering to be ACCEPTABLE to God…then you better make sure that what you’re doing is going to COST YOU something!…that you’re not just giving some of YOUR ‘excess’.

You’ll remember when Jesus stood in the Temple and watched the people as they came to make their offerings, and some really large sums were poured into the collection chests…but He only PRAISED one offering…the “widow’s mite”…the SMALLEST of ALL coins.  Practically worthless!

But, what made the DIFFERENCE was, it was ALL she HAD!  The others were all bringing some of their EXCESS, for SHOW!  But SHE had brought her ALL, because she LOVES God.

The guy who comes to church, and drops a DOLLAR in the plate, when it means he’ll have to go without LUNCH one day next week…THAT GUY makes a BETTER offering than the guy who drops $100, because he just made a KILLING in the STOCK MARKET, or some such thing.

That’s why ABEL’S offering was ACCEPTED, and CAIN’S was NOT.  And because of that, Cain…instead of determining to do BETTER, NEXT time…he took OFFENCE to his brother’s success, and he snuck up behind him one day, and he BRAINED him with a 9-iron. (Okay, obviously I don’t know HOW Cain murdered his brother…but I think adding a few NONessential details helps us to grasp the story better.)

For all I know, he might have been as clever as MacGyver, and he put a few sticks and twigs together and made a primitive revolver and shot his brother in the back…from ambush…I don’t know, add your own details.  The POINT is: when there were only FOUR people on earth, ONE of them was a MURDERER.  And the simple MOTIVE for that crime, was ENVY!

So don’t try to tell me that envy is no ‘big deal’…it’s a VERY big deal.  And we’re going to look at some more Biblical examples that CONFIRM it.

Like that story about Joseph, that we read part of.  Joseph was the eleventh of the twelve sons of Jacob.  But he was the FIRST born of his favorite wife, Rachel!  And because of THAT, he was his father’s FAVORITE son!  And without getting into whether or not that was RIGHT, let’s look at what the RESULTS of that action were.

So Jacob gave Joseph, his favorite son, what is called a “coat of many colors”…but you know a more accurate translation of that would be “An ADORNED Coat”.  An EMBROIDERED coat, DECORATED with NEEDLEWORK, to make it SPECIAL!  It was a coat a man was SUPPOSED to give to his HEIR, the FIRSTBORN, to demonstrate that he WAS the heir.

And that firstborn SHOULD have been RUEBEN, Jacob’s ACTUAL firstborn son, by his wife, LEAH.  She was the older SISTER, which Jacob was TRICKED into marrying.  But, by the giving of that special coat, Jacob was announcing that he was naming JOSEPH as his heir.  And the other 10 were moved by ENVY, because of that.

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, there was that bit with the DREAMS, where he announced that not only his BROTHERS, but the FATHER and MOTHER would ALSO come to bow down before him.

And eventually, that’s exactly what happened…but when the brothers heard THAT, their ENVY turned to ANGER.  That’s what we looked at last week…and when Joseph came out to CHECK on them, they GRABBED him, and were about to KILL him…until RUEBEN, the TRUE firstborn, stopped them.  So they threw him in a PIT, thinking to kill him later and instead ended up SELLING him to a group of Arab SLAVE-traders because of ENVY!

Well, that set up the whole possibility of the TRIBE being brought into Egypt to avoid a famine…and where they GREW to become a large NATION.  And that was all part of God’s plan, NOT the BROTHER’S plan…as Joseph will later TELL his brothers, “You meant it for EVIL, but GOD used it for GOOD”…and they all DID bow down before him.

So, see, GOD’S plan ALWAYS trumps MAN’S plans.  Every time!  But the motivating FORCE behind all this, was little ol’ ENVY.

There was also the time when the Hebrews demanded that God give them a KING, like the nations AROUND them had.  I’d love to get into the REASON for that demand, but you all want to get outta here this morning…let’s just say that God was already GROOMING a young SHEPHERD boy to FILL that function…but they demanded a king RIGHT NOW, so He GAVE them one.

He gave them SAUL, a man who LOOKED exactly as a king SHOULD look, and for a while he ACTED like a king…but LOOKS will only carry you SO far…and Saul was never meant to BE the king, so pretty soon he fell apart.

Meanwhile, the RIGHTFUL king was content to just be a LOYAL subject TO the king that God had placed over him.  But SAUL was ENVIOUS of David, and on several occasions, tried to KILL him!  Why?  We have no idea.

Unless POSSIBLY he somehow KNEW that David WAS the rightful king.  But we really don’t know.  What we DO know is, Saul wanted to kill David, but David didn’t want to kill SAUL.  In fact, when David had a chance to DO that, and it would have been self-defense, he refused to lay a HAND on GOD’S appointed king!

But because of Saul’s unreasonable ENVY of David, he became enraged, in his mad desire to kill David.  And that rage caused him to make some really BAD decisions regarding the nation, until finally, when Saul was gravely wounded in battle, when his own dear son lay dead beside him, when his own army was in defeat, and he was surrounded by enemies, Saul took his own life by falling on his sword.

And that was a tragic ending for a man whom God had elevated to a position of greatness.  What a WASTE of the tremendous OPPORTUNITY Saul had, to LEAD the nation and be a GREAT king…all LOST, because of ENVY!  Because of UNREASONABLE ENVY!  So, still think it’s ‘no big deal’?

Want another example?  How about the Book of Esther, where a man named HAMAN is obsessed with the desire for political POWER!  And there was another man, named Mordecai, who turned out to be the UNCLE of the QUEEN!…but a man with NO political ambition at ALL!…just a man, like David, who was content to be a loyal subject of the TRUE king.

And one day Mordecai happened to hear about a PLOT to kill the king.  And he told his niece, the Queen, about it, and she, Esther, told the king, and the plot was foiled.  And the king determined to HONOR the man who had foiled the plot.

So the king asked HAMAN how he should honor that man.  And egotistical Haman thought for SURE the king must be talking about HIMSELF, so he gave the king this long, elaborate plan, and the king said “That’s great.  Go do all that for Mordecai.”

And Haman had a HISSY-FIT, because Mordecai was getting all the praise that HE wanted for HIMSELF!  And he became insanely ENVIOUS of Mordecai, and began PLOTTING how he was going to KILL him.  And that’s what we talked about LAST week.  And can you see the THEME here?  Of all these people being ENVIOUS of others, and ENVY turning to ANGER, and ANGER turning to RAGE, and the result of THAT is always MURDER?

Well, Haman hatched his plot, had a tall GALLOWS built to hang MORDECAI from, but through the workings of God to preserve His Own people, Haman ended up being hung from his OWN gallows.  And again, ENVY ended up costing the guy EVERYTHING!

We need to remember, these seven particular sins were placed ON this list, because each and every one of them is especially DEVASTATING in the lives of them that GIVE IN to them.

And not a ONE of the seven can be called INCONSEQUENCIAL!  NONE of them can be looked at as ‘NO BIG DEAL’.  Because they ARE ‘big deals’ every ONE of them!  And that certainly INCLUDES ‘envy’.

In fact, you will likely run into a lot of people who will tell you “I don’t have a JEALOUS BONE in my body!”  Well, HOGWASH!  Jealously is just another synonym for ENVY.  The two words mean the same thing.  Just like COVETOUSNESS means the SAME thing!

AND, just like the sins of PRIDE and ANGER, ‘ENVY’ is UNIVERSAL!  It has the POTENTIAL of affecting every single soul on the face of the earth.  If you hear someone say “I’m not envious of anybody!”, or “I’m not jealous of anybody!” it will only be because that person is LYING…or they haven’t yet met the proper set of circumstances!!

ENVY, and all its SYNONYMS, are UNIVERSAL!  It has the POTENTIAL of affecting every individual on earth, and the potential consequences of that envy can be DEVASTATING!

We’re human beings, and most of the things we do, we do for some sort of REWARD.  We work hard, because we want to become rich.  We give up some foods that we love, because we want to be THIN…we save our money because we want to someday retire in leisure.

And most of the things we do, RESULT in some sort of reward.  But NOT “ENVY”.  Envy has NO reward.  If you’re envious of a coworker, that envy is NOT going to make YOUR position more secure.  If you’re envious of a friend’s success, that envy will likely result in the loss of that friendship.

Envy never HELPS your status, or GAINS a profit.  Of course, you can always MURDER the coworker you were envious of, and try to ASSUME their position.  But that can’t hardly be looked at as SUCCESS; that just guarantees JUDGEMENT one day.

Envy can result from FEAR…fear that someone else’s success will somehow be the beginning of YOUR defeat.  Or, envy fueled by FEAR, will create mistrust and suspicion.

And THAT kind of envy can be found in the marketplace…in the professions…in the schools…and even in the HOME and in the CHURCHES.  We’ll never know how many HOMES have been torn apart, because ONE partner ENVIED the OTHER.

Let a WIFE start making more MONEY than the HUSBAND, and watch as ENVY destroys that marriage.  Or let a husband suddenly become real POPULAR, and watch the WIFE become CONSUMED with envy.  It’s HUMAN nature.  We all want to be on the TOP.  SOMEwhere, someone MAKES it, and we’re JEALOUS.

And the history of the CHURCH is COVERED with PERSECUTION and DEATH, caused by those who thought their OWN position or status was somehow threatened.

Look how the JEWS persecuted and murdered the early Christians, because they were seen as a threat to Judaism.  Look how the Crusaders persecuted the Arabs, because they saw them as a threat to the Holy Places of Christianity.  Look at how the Spanish Inquisitors persecuted EVERYone who was somehow seen to hold some difference in THEOLOGY from their own, very narrow beliefs.  Look at all the bloodshed that has been committed in the Name of Christ…because SOMEBODY was ENVIOUS…JEALOUS!

And nobody is immune to that Sinful emotion!  You let a man keep his nose clean, work hard at creating a happy marriage, a successful business, and well-behaved children…and there will be SOMEBODY who is ENVIOUS of him!

Now, obviously, the thing for that envious one to do, would be to do the SAME thing the one he’s jealous did, and work hard to secure all those things for himself…but NO!, the envious one doesn’t WANT all the hard work…he/she just wants the RESULTS of all that work, that someone ELSE performed.

Let’s look at what is maybe the ULTIMATE example of envy found in the Bible: in a sleepy little town called Bethlehem, one quiet night, a Baby was Born.  The Baby’s Birth was announced to shepherds, out in the fields, and to certain ‘Wise Men’ in a far-distant land.  And all of those people came looking for that Baby.

But when the Wise Men stopped in Jerusalem, where they had assumed the Baby would be, since they had been told He was the King of the Jews…and when the CURRENT king, Herod, heard there may BE a NEW King…he became JEALOUSLY POSSESSIVE of his throne, and he tried to have that Baby killed!

But he failed, and the Baby grew to be a young Man, and that young Man went walking all around the countryside, and telling people about God, and God’s LOVE for them, and punctuating those messages with such incredible MIRACLES, that people flocked to see Him.

And the religious leaders of the time, who could NOT perform such wonderful feats, became concerned that the success of Jesus would cause them to lose their own standing in the community, and they became ENVIOUS, and they plotted how they could have Him KILLED…to get RID of Him, to protect their OWN place.

It had nothing to do with “right or wrong”.  Many of those leaders KNEW that He WAS sent from God…they just wanted to kill Him, to preserve their own place in society.

And when the time was right, that’s exactly what they did.  They ARRESTED the Son of God, they TRIED Him, according to their own desires, and then DELIVERED Him to the leader of the hated Roman Occupiers, and they had Him KILLED HORRIBLY…BRUTALLY Killed…because they were ENVIOUS of HIS success…and they feared that if they didn’t do something SOON, everybody would run to follow JESUS!

BUT, just like Joseph told his brothers; “You meant it for EVIL, but GOD meant it for GOOD!”…because the DEATH…the SACRIFICIAL DEATH, of the Only Begotten Son of God…brought about by the ENVY of the Jewish leaders, brought SALVATION into the world.

God took man’s envy, and used it for His own GOOD!  And now, everyone who is willing to acknowledge that they are a sinner, and NEED Salvation, if they come to Jesus, and ASK Him, He will RUSH to do that, to make that one His own, for all eternity!

And if you’ve made that decision today; will you give us a call just to let us know?  WE won’t come camp on your doorstep of anything like that, but we’d be overjoyed to share that blessed event with you!

And I want to urge you, if you’re harboring ENVY, or JEALOUSLY, or COVETOUSNESS in your heart…please, GIVE IT UP!  Give it to JESUS, and get it OUT of your heart, and OUT of your LIFE!

Let the Lord REPLACE all that stuff that’s DRAGGING you DOWN, with His own PEACE!…that wonderful PEACE that will RUSH to FILL that empty place where envy, or anger, or pride once resided.

For your own peace of mind…for your SANITY, get RID of those emotions that ONLY drag you DOWN!  Be rid of them…”Let GO and let GOD” as we used to say.  Let Him FILL YOU with HIS LOVE, and HIS PEACE!

And do it now, while there is still time.  You have my personal guarantee that you’ll be glad you did!

And may Almighty God bless and keep you, one and all!