Posts tagged ‘Envy’

Growing Homes and Envious Hearts

Not long before our second child was born, my wife and I decided that it was time to upsize the square footage of our home.  Kids, it turns out, come with lots of stuff.  Our first home was a testament to that.  Closets and corners were packed with everything from diapers to clothes to lots and lots of toys.  We wanted enough room to spread out and stretch out a bit.  So, we put our home on the market and moved into a new, larger home, which, as you probably have already guessed, now has closets and corners packed with even more kids’ stuff.  No matter how much space you have, you always seem to find stuff to fill it.

The move toward larger homes is a decades-old trend.  Joe Pinsker, in an article published last week for The Atlantic, writes:

American homes are a lot bigger than they used to be.  In 1973, when the Census Bureau started tracking home sizes, the median size of a newly built house was just over 1,500 square feet; that figure reached nearly 2,500 square feet in 2015.

This rise, combined with a drop in the average number of people per household, has translated to a whole lot more room for homeowners and their families: By one estimate, each newly built house had an average of 507 square feet per resident in 1973, and nearly twice that – 971 square feet – four decades later.

But according to a recent paper, Americans aren’t getting any happier with their ever bigger homes.  “Despite a major upscaling of single-family houses since 1980,” writes Clément Bellet, a postdoctoral fellow at the European business school INSEAD, “house satisfaction has remained steady in American suburbs.”

Larger homes, Mr. Pinsker reports, are not making for happier families.  Why?  It’s not because we don’t like the extra space.  I certainly appreciate the space in my home – and so do others.  It turns out that our happiness has very little to do with the amount of space we have in our own homes.  Instead, it has to do with the amount of space our neighbors have in their homes:

The largest houses seem to be the ones that all the other homeowners base their expectations on … Bellet sketches out an unfulfilling cycle of one-upmanship, in which the owners of the biggest homes are most satisfied if their home remains among the biggest, and those who rank right below them grow less satisfied as their dwelling looks ever more measly by comparison.

In other words, we’re satisfied with what we have until we see what somebody else has.  In this way, our dissatisfaction with our homes isn’t really a home problem.  It’s a heart problem.  It’s a struggle with envy.

Envy is a sin that’s virtually as old as, well, dirt.  When Adam is first fashioned out of dirt, it is envy that brings him down when Satan tempts he and his wife with the specter that they can “be like God” (Genesis 3:5).  “Instead of being created from dust by God,” Satan says, “you can be sovereigns with glory like God’s.  Why live in a Garden when you can reign from heaven?  I’m pretty sure heaven has more square footage.  Wouldn’t that be nice?”  Satan hooks Adam and Eve by appealing to their envy.  And so, in envy, they try to stage a coup against God.  But instead of becoming more like God in majesty, they become mere mortals who die.

In the Ninth Commandment, God commands: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house” (Exodus 20:17).  The desire for something that someone else has – including the very specific desire for someone else’s home – is nothing new.  But it’s also nothing helpful.  Which is why God warns against it.

As Mr. Pinsker notes in the conclusion of his article, there are good reasons to be satisfied with where you live, even if where you live feels a little small at times:

“The big house represents the atomizing of the American family,” a historian of landscape development told NPR for a story on gargantuan American homes back in 2006.  “Each person not only has his or her own television – each person has his or her own bathroom … This way, the family members rarely have to interact.”  It’s comfortable, in a way, but maybe also lonely.

Square footage that is gained may translate into closeness that is lost.  So, tonight, make sure you give your spouse and your kids a hug that last a little longer than usual – no matter how big or small your home is.  After all, your foundation, frame, walls, windows, doors, and drywall don’t really make your home.  They do.

June 17, 2019 at 5:15 am 1 comment

Casting Stones

Credit: Ciro Miguel via Flickr

Credit: Ciro Miguel via Flickr

From the department of the inane but entertaining, the real estate site Movoto.com recently published its list of America’s most sinful cities.  Surprisingly, the city famed for its profligate sinfulness, Las Vegas, didn’t make the list.  An article in The Street explains how the list was compiled:

The study analyzed 95 of the nation’s 100 most-populous communities…to see how often locals commit the Catholic Church’s seven major sins:  Envy, Gluttony, Greed, Lust, Pride, Sloth and Wrath…

[They then matched] each behavior on the church’s 1,400-year-old list of sins with a modern-day measure of immorality.

For instance, [they] gauged Wrath by looking at the FBI’s annual report on each U.S. city’s violent-crime rate – the number of murders, robberies, aggravated assaults, rapes and non-negligent manslaughter cases reported each year per 1,000 residents.[1]

Here’s what the study found.

Coming in at number five is Milwaukee.  According to CDC obesity rates, Milwaukee falls prey to the sin of gluttony.  Spot number four belongs to Pittsburgh, which struggles with pride.  In this city, there is one cosmetic surgeon for every 3,170 residents.  Minneapolis garnered spot number three.  Over 30% of Minneapolis’s residents are inactive, making this city super slothful.  Place number two belongs to Orlando, which, like Minneapolis, struggles with sloth.  And spot number one belongs to – drumroll, please – St. Louis!  Movoto found “the Gateway to the West places number two for Wrath and Envy, with 20 violent crimes and 65 property incidents per year for every 1,000 St. Louis residents.”  If it’s banal carnality you want, St. Louis is the place to go.

Of course, it’s hard to take a study like this too seriously.  But I have to admit, I breathed a sigh of relief when my town of San Antonio didn’t make the list.  Then again, I used to live in St. Louis.  I went to seminary there.  So I guess that means, according to this article, I once lived in a den of iniquities.

What makes a study like this one so comical for Christians is that we know that sin defies such simplistic statistical quantification and comparison.  This is the apostle Paul’s point when he writes, “There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:22-23).  There is no difference, Paul says, between one sin and another in God’s eyes.  Every sin leads to death.  Every sin leads to damnation.  Before God and apart from Christ, sin is sin.  Period.

This is why, when an angry mob of religious leaders seek to have a woman caught in adultery stoned for her sin, Jesus disarms this mob’s self-righteous pretenses by saying, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7).  Underlying this statement is an assumption that we have no right to use our own self-styled righteousness as a benchmark against which we can measure and condemn other people’s sinfulness.   The only benchmark that may be used to distinguish righteousness from sinfulness is God’s.  Everything else is just casting stones.

So, although I won’t cast stones at my old seminary town, I will eat concrete if I ever return for a visit.  And if that previous line doesn’t make any sense to you, just click here.


[1] Jerry Kronenberg, “5 Most Sinful Cities in America,” The Street (7.17.13).

August 19, 2013 at 5:15 am 2 comments

ABC Extra – Hey, Jealousy!

One of the things I’ve always wished for is more hand-eye coordination.  From the time I was a child, I have never been particularly adept at doing anything that required my hands and eyes to work coordinately.  This comes out especially in the arena of sports.  A baseball – I cannot hit it.  A basketball – I cannot dribble it.  A football – I cannot catch it.  This is why, to stay fit, I run and lift weights.  There is no hand eye coordination required.

I have always marveled at those who could crush a baseball or swish a basketball or catch a football.  After all, these athletes can do things I could never hope to do.  Honestly, I am more than a little jealous of some of these folks.

Jealousy is a strange emotion.  We usually think of jealousy as a strident yearning of the heart after something someone else has.  We can be jealous of someone else’s talent.  Or we can be jealous of someone else’s wealth.  We can even be jealous of someone else’s piety – his self-control, her gentle spirit, his ability to be content rather than jealous!

In the Bible, the word “jealousy” has both a positive and a negative use.  In its negative sense, it describes “envy.”  Solomon warns, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones” (Proverbs 14:30).  In its positive sense, jealousy describes “zeal.”  As Isaiah famously prophesies concerning the birth of the Messiah: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over His kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:6-7).  So what is the difference between sinful envy and holy zeal?  Envy is jealousy of someone while zeal is jealousy for someone.

Envy sees something someone else has and says, “I want it,” and either seethes with resentment because what is desired cannot be had, or uses dishonest or even diabolical means to attain what is desired.  King Ahab is the poster child for this kind of jealousy.  When the king tries to cut a deal with one of his subjects, Naboth, to purchase from him a vineyard, Naboth refuses.  When he is turned down, the story says Ahab “lay on his bed sulking” (1 Kings 21:5).  So Ahab hatches a plan.  He has Naboth stoned and commandeers his vineyard.  Ahab’s envy knows no bounds.

Zeal, on the other hand, is a deep desire and affection for something with which God has entrusted you.  As such, you are jealous for it, desiring to protect it and keep it from harm.  In Numbers 5, the law speaks of the jealousy a man has for his wife.  And indeed, a man should be jealous for his wife.  For God has given a man a great gift in a wife – and he should honor and protect her.  As Solomon says, “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22).

Jealousy is not all bad.  When God prohibits all forms of idolatry in the First Commandment, He explains His reasoning thusly:  “I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep My commandments” (Exodus 20:5-6).  God is jealous for us.  Beautifully, this simply means He loves us.

What kind of jealousy marks your life – jealousy for someone or jealousy of someone?  Do you seek to honor and protect those you love or do you seek to take that which you do not have?  One kind of jealousy flows from love.  The other flows from greed.  May you, as God’s child, be jealous with a “godly jealousy” (2 Corinthians 11:2).

Want to learn more? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message!

March 5, 2012 at 5:15 am 5 comments

Sermon Extra – True Treasure

The wise man of Proverbs reminds us, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones” (Proverbs 14:30).  Envy, the wise man says, is dangerous.  However, envy is also such a universal part of the human condition that God finds it necessary to warn us against it time and time again.  He even prohibits it in His Ten Commandments:  “You shall not covet…anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Exodus 20:17).

Part of what makes the sin of envy so dangerous is that because it can be engaged in privately, it can often go unnoticed and, even if people do spot envy in your eye, there are little to no repercussions.  Though you may get arrested for stealing, no such punishment exists for envying.  Indeed, we even have a saying that encourages envy:  “You can look, but you can’t touch.”  The under-riding premise of such a statement is that it although it is not okay to take something defiantly, it is okay to lust after it longingly.  It is okay to envy.

This past weekend, we continued our “Fit for Life II” series with a look at our hearts and how they are connected to our finances.  The message was based on Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:19-21:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

As I mentioned in my message, when we read words like these, we can be tempted to think, “Jesus’ words don’t apply to me.  I don’t store up for myself treasures on earth because I don’t have any treasures!  This economy has hit me really hard!”  And so we dismiss out of hand Jesus’ words about how our hearts and treasures are connected.

It is important to understand that when Jesus spoke these words, He spoke them not to people who were well-to-do, but to people who were poverty-stricken.  The crowds who listened to Jesus were most likely comprised of simple Palestinian farmers and tradesmen who would have been making around a denarius a day, equivalent to about 20 cents in today’s currency.  Thus, Jesus is calling on people who must live on 20 cents a day not to store up earthly treasure!  These people hardly seem like a group who would need this kind of reminder!  But Jesus knows the sad state of the human condition.  Even among the poor, storing up the wrong treasure in the wrong place can become a huge problem.  At issue is not the amount of money that a person has, but the perception of money that a person holds.  A person can be greedy and poor all at the same time.  For a poor person, like a rich person, can envy those who have more money and earthly treasure than they.  This is why Jesus continues:

The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matthew 6:22-23)

The ancients believed that the eyes were a source of light that helped illumine the world around, thereby helping a person see.  When the light of the eyes went dark, a person would go blind.  Thus, Jesus says, “If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”  But Jesus means to describe more than just physical blindness here.  He says, “If your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.”  The Greek word for “bad” is poneros, meaning “evil.”  The eyes, just like any other part of the body, can be used for evil.  The eyes can be used to gaze and covet.  The eyes can be used to stare and envy.  Just because you don’t have a lot of money doesn’t mean you can’t you use your eyes to look at someone else’s money or lifestyle and secretly desire it for yourself.  And this, Jesus says, is poneros.

What is the solution to such envy and covetousness?  The apostle Paul says it is to “know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2-3).  Rather than seeking and striving after the treasures of this world, we are to seek and to strive after Christ.  For in Him is true treasure.  So treasure Christ, for He treasures you.  In the words of C.H. Spurgeon, “So did Jesus Himself, at the utmost cost, buy the world to gain His Church, which was the treasure which He desired.”  You are Christ’s treasure.

Want to learn more on this passage? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Zach’s
message or Dr Player’s ABC!

February 7, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


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