Envy and Happiness

There is a major contrast between envy and love in terms of your personal happiness.  Those that are consumed with envy are not happy, but disgruntled.    Those that love are not consumed with receiving, but with giving and being grateful for what God has given them.  They are happy, not because they were looking for it, but because they love people.

Dr. Bob Jones, Sr. said, “Happiness is stumbled upon in the pathway of duty”.   Another way to say it is that you don’t find happiness as much as happiness finds you.

A synonym for happiness is contentment.    They are twins; where you will find one, you will always find the other.   And where contentment is absent, so is happiness.    Someone said, “Happiness isn’t having what you want, but wanting what you have”.

Are you unhappy?   If you will stop and think about it, it is because you are discontented with someone or something in your life.   The root of discontentment is jealousy and envy.

We often say of a person, “They are rich”.   We are speaking about how much money they have in their bank account.    I understand that way of thinking, but I want to challenge your perspective on wealth.    What is a rich person?    A rich person is someone that has enough.    It isn’t how much you have, but your attitude toward what you have.

Ashley, my oldest daughter, with her daughter, Brighton.

Ashley, my oldest daughter, with her daughter, Brighton.

I read a story about a Sunday School teacher that had just told the class of boys the story of the rich man and Lazarus from Luke 16.   The teacher said, “Now, which would you rather be, boys – the rich man or Lazarus?”

One boy raised his hand and replied, “I’d want to be the rich man while I’m living and Lazarus when I die”.   It’s humorous, but sad because it reflects the attitude of so many of us.   We want the best, but without any pain or suffering.

A jealous person not only has no happiness, but no joy.     We are commanded to “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep”.   (Romans 12:15)   We typically do a lot better at weeping with the hurts of others than rejoicing with the blessings of others.  Until we learn to rejoice in the blessings of others we will never be happy.   Envy keeps us from rejoicing.   Love rejoices when others benefit.

Charles C. Colton wrote, “For one man who sincerely pities our misfortunes, there are a thousand who sincerely hate our success”.

Rather than being grateful for what we do have we become preoccupied with what others have.   The sure result is that we have no joy in God’s present kindness to us.

It’s easy to be friends when each of you are at the same status level, but when God begins to bless your friend in more visible ways than yourself, envy rears it’s head.    When both of you have nothing, it’s not difficult to laugh and have fun, but when one begins to outdistance the other (in money, fame, position, appearance), the fun stops – unless you are able to rejoice in their blessings.

If you focus on your blessings you will be grateful; if you focus on what you do not have you will become jealous and petty.   G.W. Target wrote an interesting story about this tendency in his book, “The Window and Other Essays”.

There were two men, both seriously ill, in the same small room of a hospital, just large enough for the pair of them – two beds, two bedside lockers, a door opening on the hall, and one window looking out on the world.

One of the men as part of his treatment, was allowed to sit up in bed for an hour in the afternoon, (something that had to do with draining the fluid from his lungs) and his bed was next to the window.

But the other man had to spend all his time flat on his back – and both of them had to be kept quiet and still.   Which was the reason they were in the small room by themselves, and they were grateful for peace and privacy – none of the bustle and clatter and prying eyes of the general ward for them.

Of course, one of the disadvantages of their condition was that they weren’t allowed much to do: no reading, no radio, certainly no television – they just had to keep quiet and still, just the two of them.

They used to talk for hours and hours – about their wives, their children, their homes, their former jobs, their hobbies, their childhood, what they did during the war, where they had been on vacations, all that sort of thing.   Every afternoon, when the man in the bed next to the window was propped up for his hour, he would pass the time by describing what he could see outside.   And the other man began to live for those hours.

The window apparently looked over a park with a lake where there were ducks and swans, children throwing them bread and sailing model boats, and young lovers walking hand in hand beneath the trees.  And there were flowers and stretches of grass and games of softball, people taking their ease in the sunshine and right at the back, behind the fringe of the trees, a fine view of the city skyline.

The man on his back would listen to all of this, enjoying every minute – how a child nearly fell into the lake, how beautiful girls were in their summer dresses, and then an exciting ball game, or a boy playing with his puppy.  It got to the place that he could almost see what was happening outside.

Then one afternoon, when there was some sort of a parade, the thought struck him, “Why should that man next to the window have all the pleasure of seeing what’s going on?   Why shouldn’t I get the chance?”

He felt ashamed and tried not to think like that, but the more the tried, the worse he wanted to change.  He’d do anything!

In a few days he had turned sour.  He should be by the window.    And he brooded and couldn’t even sleep, and grew even more seriously ill – which none of the doctors understood.

One night, as he stared at the ceiling, the man by the window suddenly woke up coughing and choking, the fluid congesting in his lungs, his hands groping for the button that would bring the night nurse running.   But the other man watched without moving.

The coughing racked the darkness – on and on – choked off – then stopped – and the man continued to stare at the ceiling.

In the morning the day nurse came in with water for their baths and found the other man dead.   They took away his body, quietly, with no fuss.

As soon as it seemed decent, the man asked if he could be moved to the bed next to the window.  They moved him, tucked him in, made him comfortable, and left him alone to be quiet and still.

The minute they’d gone, he propped himself up on one elbow, painfully and laboriously, and looked out the window.   It faced a blank wall.

Grateful people don’t have more than others, their focus is different.    They don’t have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything they have.   Jealousy makes us want everything we do not have.

“The Richest Man on Earth”

I’ve heard tell of millionaires and billionaires and such
Who gathered all their treasures and still did not have enough;
If money could buy peace of mind I guess they’d have it all,
But all the money in the world won’t hold you when you fall.

We’ve got a roof over our heads,
And the kids have all been fed,
And the woman I love most lies close beside me in our bed.
Lord, give me the eyes to see exactly what it’s worth
And I will be the richest man on earth.

Lord, when I wished I had the things that you gave someone else
I pray that you’ll forgive me for just thinking of myself;
I haven’t been as thankful as I know I ought to be
I should be more than satisfied with all you’ve given me.

We’ve got a roof over our heads,
And the kids have all been fed,
And the woman I love most lies close beside me in our bed.
Lord, give me the eyes to see exactly what it’s worth
And I will be the richest man on earth.

One thing is for certain it don’t matter when you die
If you had a million or if you just got by.

We’ve got a roof over our heads,
And the kids have all been fed,
And the woman I love most lies close beside me in our bed.
Lord, give me the eyes to see exactly what it’s worth
And I will be the richest man on earth.

(Paul Overstreet)

About familyencouragement

Pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama. Married for 41 years with seven children and nine grandchildren.
This entry was posted in Envy, Family Issues, Gratitude, Happiness, Jealousy, Love, Marriage and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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