Seven | From Envy to Contentment

Richard Haney on Proverbs 14:30 & Philippians 4: 8-14

For Meditation


Envy has been called "the silent sin" because we seldom admit whom and what we envy. Similar to the "coveting" that is forbidden in the Ten Commandments, Envy is subtly different in this way: while coveting is desiring something that belongs to our neighbor, Envy is coveting with the addition of resentment of the very thing we wan and the person who has it.   When it is full-blown, Envy is a desire that our neighbor actually lose his or her advantage or possession, while we gain it, instead. The great medieval poet, Dante, observed, "Envy is the love of one's own good perverted to a desire to deprive other men of theirs." When applied to our desires for another person or their affections, Envy is a synonym for jealousy. Evidence that this and the other Seven Deadly Sins are misapplications or misappropriations of things that God created for our good comes in the fact that God, himself  is jealous in his demand of his peoples' faithfulness and exclusive worship.


One more thing to consider as we prepare to hear God's word for us about Envy is that we are more likely to be envious of people like us than those who tower over us. While we may covet the wealth power and fame of people like Bill Gates or Lebron James, we are likely to actively resent those closer to home: "Why is my neighbor next door so successful when his gifts are more modest than mine?" Like all deformation from sin we need Christ’s transforming power to change. This week's text--Paul's stirring words to the Philippians about how he has learned to be content in all circumstances --points us to the hope that in Christ we can learn to move from envy to contentment.

Hieronymus Bosch' picture of Envy

Hieronymus Bosch' picture of Envy

In Bosch's image of Envy (Invidia) we see a complicated scene that combines envy of material possessions and personal affection.  The painting centers on a prosperous-looking husband and wife (who may be a customs officer collecting taxes), leaning out of the doorway of their house, while their daughter converses with suitor through the window.  At center right is a very stylish gentleman with a  hawk on his arm, and a game bird in the pouch at his belt. The  gentlemen seems to look across to the young woman, envious of the attention she is giving her suitor.  The parents are either thinking the same thing, or are merely envious of the greater wealth of the gentleman.  Finally, a poor laborer trudges at the right under the weight of a large sack of goods.  He casts an envious glance from beneath his load at the whole scene of leisure before him.  The key may be the large bone the father is holding, and the dogs looking up at it from below: just as the dogs are dissatisfied with the bones that are at their feet already, and long for the larger bone held by the man in the door, so most everyone else in the scene is dis-satisfied with what they have, too.  

Proverbs 14:30

30A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.

Philippians 4:8-14

8Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

10I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

14Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.


Video Testimony

About the Series

“Seven | Finding Freedom from the Darkness Within” is a Lenten sermon series on Pride, Envy, Anger, Sloth, Greed, Gluttony and Lust, known for nearly 1500 year as “the Seven Deadly Sins.” A couple of factors make this traditional accounting of sins “deadly.” One is that our society has tended to glamorize these sins and even made them into virtues; another is how unspectacular they are. These are incredibly ordinary, pervasive propensities that are so rooted in our nature that we tend to not even notice them. Or if we do, we may rationalize them, such as calling greed “healthy ambition” or gluttony “a deserved reward.” These sins are the roots of so many other distortions that prevent us from living as the people Jesus died to make us become.  In focusing on these sins during the season of Lent, we are inviting Jesus to do some surgery on our souls, asking him—together—what darkness may be hiding in our hearts that we may be ignoring or rationalizing, and opening ourselves up to his transforming love.

For a full description of the series, including week to week schedules, click HERE.


Learn Together

STUDY GUIDES for this sermon will be available on Sunday afternoon, with audio being added on Tuesday morning, both found by clicking the banner image for the sermon on the homepage.  We encourage all small groups to use these resources to foster self-examination in community in addition to privately, and as a way for our whole church to be participating in this season of preparation together

Click the image to download the Study Guide

Click the image to download the Study Guide

Join the Conversation

Looking beyond our walls, our sister congregations, Christ Presbyterian and City Church, are joining us in this series on the Seven Deadly Sins, partners with us in repentance and renewal, as well as in sharing the gospel.  

Pastors Corey Widmer, Kevin Germer, and Erik Bonkovsky are hosting a collaborative blog where they and readers can contribute additional thoughts and responses to the scriptures and sermons we'll hear during lent.  If you'd like to join that conversation, click below.