Friday, August 29, 2008

Spiritual Osteoporisis

By John Stallings

……it is rottenness to the bones…..Proverbs 14:30

The whole California community choked in pain!

It had started as a friendly rivalry. Both the girls were ambitious, talented & well liked. Both thrived within the beating heart of a small community and were at center stage of school activities. They even came to cheer- leading tryouts together.

Nothing seemed that much out of kilter. They both tried out for the squad, one was selected & the other wasn’t. You move on.

But quickly that evening a vile beast came out of the shadows to bite the loser. She felt a jolt as the poison hit her system. Her eyes grew sinister & dark & her face drawn as it transformed her momentarily into a monster.

Her hand found a gun. She stalked the other girl. That night in the darkness the winner became a loser & the loser became a devil. The girl next door had killed the girl next door. The community couldn’t absorb the reality of this cold & heartless act because it didn’t happen far away in the big city, but in their little town. They had chatted with both girls on the bus & saw them regularly on the street.

The killer wasn’t like the slashers seen in B-movies. She was our daughter, our sister, our friend, ourselves. And that’s precisely why the story is so incredibly shocking.

What had happened was that someone had acted on the feelings that everyone has felt; raging envy & insane jealousy. You know the feeling. I know the feeling. It’s our problem too.

Among the subjects that I write on with some regularity is envy. Maybe it’s because I want to drive every vestige of it out of me & away from me because I so despise it. It is ugly. Have I beaten it? Does anyone ever totally beat it once & for all? The seeds of its defeat are embedded in our daily walk & communion with God…. I die daily….1 Cor.15:31

Envy is so common yet seldom mentioned in sermons or anywhere else. It’s the two- thousand pound elephant in the living room that we skate around all the time & never talk about.

Proverbs 14:30 says—it is rottenness to the bones. Spiritual Osteoporosis.

Rivalry & envy destroys much yet still we can’t discuss it. We will admit to practically anything & everything before we’d ever admit to being envious. Oh, we play with the word now & then like when we say with a smile on our face, “I really envy you…..

We don’t want anybody to be better than us at what we do. When we hear about their success we turn green with envy. We go…yes but…or…yes she/he may have made it to the top but I really don’t think….

Envy…so common…but so seldom called by name.

Even the worst sins have a payoff, even though they’re at odds with righteousness but someone tell me where’s the payoff in envy? It’s an awful road to walk down. Secretly hoping for bad fortune to strike someone we’re envious of, always looking for some way to tear them down, to find fault.

Envy doesn’t sound all that terrible but to be honest it isn’t a gentle emotion. It’s aggressive & says, “I want what you have. I want you not to have it. I want to take it away from you & if I can’t do it I’ll try to spoil it or destroy it. If nothing else I’ll see to it that you don’t really enjoy it.”

Envious people live in an anxious state of competitive comparison focusing on what others have & what they themselves lack. Envy lives on the path of the wounded spirit. Why should your marriage end in divorce while others survive? Why should your business falter during the recession while hers only grows? Why should your life be plagued with sickness while his is never troubled?

Remember the two women who came to Solomon with one baby between them? One baby died & now both women claimed the same child. How could Solomon judge such a case?

“Bring me the sword,” Solomon says. He pretends to mark a dotted line, halving the baby. One woman is heart sick. “No,” she says, “No, not that. Just give her the baby.” The other woman was perfectly willing to stand there & see the baby chopped in two. When this woman’s baby died, envy leaped into her wounded spirit & she’s saying, “If I can’t have my baby then she can’t have hers.”

Through the years one of my favorite fiction writers has been James Michener. He made his mark in the literary world with massive historical novels such as The Source, Hawaii, Texas, & Poland to name a few. One of his strengths was going into detail about people’s genealogies & cultural roots. What makes that so ironic was that Michener was himself a man without a birth certificate.

Abandoned as an infant, Michener was raised as a foster-son in the Michener family headed by a widowed woman, never knowing his biological parents.

Here’s the kicker; Michener’s success raised the ire of one of his adopted-clan kin. This milquetoast individual in a rage of envy, felt compelled to work anonymously behind his back writing poison-pen letters to him & anyone else who’d listen at every milestone of Michener’s career.

This mean-spirited relative wrote after he won the Pulitzer Prize telling him he’d besmirched the family name & had no real right to even use the family name. But the phrase the hate-monger used most often was, “Who in the ----do you think you are, trying to be better than you are?”

The final letter Michener received from his disgruntled relative came in 1976 after President Ford had presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The caustic note said; “Still using a name that isn’t yours. Still a fraud. Still trying to be better than you are.”

Michener said those words were burned into his soul but he turned the accusation into a life challenge. Michener admitted later that he missed the letters after his relative presumably died. He confessed, “I have spent all of my life trying to be better than I was and am brother to all who have the same aspiration. [James A. Michener, The World Is MY Home: A Memoir]

I suppose the truth that comes shining through is we for the most part wish our friends & family well but not that well. That is, the carnal part of us.

When people become successful they wake up quickly to a sad & unexpected truth; it’s lonely at the top. Not that I’ve known much success in my life but in 1978, when I had several songs at the top of the national charts [someone else was singing them] I bought a slightly used Lincoln Continental. It was a dream car, light green with a dark green vinyl top. At the time we were living in a small community & most of our neighbors were Christian friends. Several of these folk never spoke again after we parked that car in our driveway.

Here’s the funny part; not funny ha ha, but nonetheless funny. That car turned out to be the biggest lemon we ever owned or ever even heard of. The engine never exploded but just about everything else on the car did. I would come out in the morning with my heart in my throat, wondering what nasty little surprise my Lincoln had for me that day.

Do you think I’m kidding? I’m not. How about walking up to your car & finding that all the door locks were somehow jammed as if someone had come in the night before & welded them closed? Try this; your key won’t unlock the trunk so a professional car lock guy had to be paid to fix it? How about having your car engine tuned-up by the dealership & then seeing your gas mileage drop from twenty miles a gallon to ten miles a gallon-highway? Folks, that’s dropping to half & we could never find out why.

After a couple of years, 1980, we tried to trade the car & car salesmen would actually stand in front of the dealership office & wave us on by. They didn’t even want us to stop with that big Lincoln/gas hog. If they only knew.

You’re probably way ahead of me on the application here. If the good folk who were jealous of that car we bought had stayed close enough to us, they’d have learned the truth; that big dream Lincoln was the biggest nightmare of our lives.

Isn’t it odd how we’ll ascribe such joy & happiness to the lives of others just assuming they’re living in a rose garden when if the truth were known, they’re hammering away at life each & every day just like we are.

Years ago I read this somewhere; -- “When all is known, all is forgiven.”

Let’s be human for a moment. Don’t your friends need to be able to celebrate their successes without feeling they are intimidating you & to share their failures without your taking satisfaction from them?

Just say, “No one deserved it more than you.” You’ll probably be right. And you’ll certainly be a good friend.

Or you can choose to be envious. But know this; envy will possess you. It will rob you of the ability to enjoy the good things that God has given you. It will snatch away your ability to rejoice with a friend when blessings come his way.

Envy is always so inviting at first. How enjoying it promises to be to sit & brood over the unfairness of life. To sit & cry “foul.” Why should her marriage go so smoothly when mine is falling into shambles? Why should he be getting a raise every six months at that cush job he has, when I have to worry about being laid off?

Why should her children be so mature, bright, intelligent & well-adjusted, when my children are driving me insane?” Why is his hair as thick as southern gravy when mine falls out every time I comb it? How does she stay so trim & athletic when I have the middle-aged spread? Ask yourself if you’re envious of people you don’t even know or like.

Back in the mid-fifties when Elvis Presley exploded on the world’s music scene, overnight many styles of music were suddenly all but over. Many popular country music singers woke up one morning & found themselves demoted to the “salt-mines” of music. Their bookings were becoming few & far between & their records hit the discount bargain-bins.

Many who were firmly entrenched as Stars of Country Music let bitterness & envy eat them alive & a few drank themselves to death. It was hard to take & that’s understandable. Eddy Arnold, who recently died at the age of eighty never let himself become bitter & just kept on singing & performing even though his career took a dip just as others did.

In 1977 Elvis died evidently because of an overdose of drugs & a weak heart. Elvis had only stayed on the scene for approximately twenty-two years & the singers who survived his meteoric rise to fame & were wise enough to roll with the times, lived to perform again & many of them returned to their former popularity.

The same thing happened in the 1970s when singer John Denver rose to fame. But again, in the late 1990s Denver died in a crash of a prototype airplane because he didn’t know how to turn on the auxiliary gas tank. He had “Sunshine on his shoulder” but no gas in his tank. Some of his contemporaries became bitter & envious of his fame feeling he wasn’t really “Country.” Others who kept their eyes on their love for the music they performed & wouldn’t give in to jealousy & envy saw their careers become bigger than ever.

What are some of the off-shoots of envy?


Since we don’t trust the Holy Spirit to deal with the “wrong-doer,” we become “Holy Ghost juniors.”

We must take the job into our hands to deal with the individual we’re envious of.

Three churches struggled to survive. Then one of the churches called a pastor who was extraordinarily gifted. His sermons were relevant & gripping. He had a loving personality coupled with the charisma of Tom Cruise. He could teach in ways that made people hungry for more & began to migrate to his church on Sunday.

Houston, we have a problem. The other two pastors met together & decided that surely God wasn’t in such a flamboyant style of ministry. Obviously this man preached a gospel that was false. Then they remembered a rumor they’d heard. Was there some kind of indiscretion? Who knows? The pastors didn’t stop it. The rumors spread. People began to wonder. The pastor’s family was shamed & in a short time they left town. Envy had found its mark & turned two preachers of the truth into liars & gossips. Envy had made the cross of Christ Jesus hypocrisy.

Envy will turn a heart into a slanderous heart.


Envious eyes rove the stock on other people’s shelves. If I am envious of another preacher, the next thing that happens is I start to think I’m not a very good preacher. Envy will cause me the trash the gifts I have. If God gives an envious person three they won’t be satisfied until they find someone with four. They’re happy in their house until their neighbor builds a better one across the street & the house that used to be their pride & joy now is undesirable.


Envious people have negative dispositions.
We often talk about how dangerous the world is but look what happened when there was only one family on earth & a murder took place. In Genesis chapter four there are only Adam & Eve & their two sons Cain & Able on the earth.

Cain was envious of his brother because God had accepted Abel’s offering but had rejected his offering. God asked Cain why he had such a bad look on his face. People who’re full of envy always have a sour look on their face. Later Cain killed his brother Able & the first murder in the human family is chalked up to envy.

If you saw the movie or play Amadeus you’ll remember Salieri was the court musician in Vienna. He worked hard & he did well writing melodies, choral pieces & instrumental works. As a young man he prayed that God would use him & his music to glorify Him & bless people.

Then along came trouble in the person of child prodigy named Mozart. Music was second nature to young Mozart & complex melodies leaped from his dancing fingertips. Mozart’s music seemed to bring heaven right down to earth.

Here’s the catch though: Mozart was such an obvious sinner, immature, vulgar & obscene. He made off with the ladies every chance he got & Salieri grew green with envy. Why did he have to be born in the same century with this your genius? Salieri was a pious man & had spent his life in tedious work while Mozart dabbled around in a sensual lifestyle & everything came so easy to him.

Mozart dies a mysterious death & the story climaxes with Salieri sitting in an insane asylum where he curses God for not giving him the kind of talent he blessed young Mozart with. When envy plays itself out, death of some kind, be it physical mental or emotional will be the end result.

The Bible even says envy is more dangerous than wrath or anger. Listen to Proverbs 27:4;

Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous, but who is able to stand before envy?


1. We must seek to become more Christ like.

As we become more Christ like we’ll leave behind this & other sins that are deadly to our souls. Envy is born in hate & cured in love. 1 Cor.13:4. If we want to overcome envy we have to use the tools of the Holy Spirit as well as Bible reading, worship & the fellowship of other believers.

2. We must stop looking at others & instead look within ourselves.

We used to sing a little song called, “Count your blessings name them one by one, & it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

That’s what we have to do. Instead of looking at what God has given to other people we ought to look at what He’s done for us. WE must not forget the benefits we enjoy.

3. We must learn to be content with what God has given us.

We need to stay acutely aware of the fact that God has called us to serve joyfully in the place he has put us. Paul said---I have learned to be content…..which presupposes that he didn’t always possess contentment. If Paul learned contentment as he walked with God we can too.

4. We must re-examine our goals & priorities

If you find yourself generating envy, maybe the problem is wrong goals & priorities. The goal of our lives shouldn’t be to see how many things we can acquire but to do the work of God & lay up treasures in heaven. You & I aren’t called to constantly be examining the lives of others, comparing ourselves to them but to live lives of service.

5. We must remember we’re all a part of the same body. My right arm has never been envious of my left foot.

Paul says in Romans 12:15-16 that -----we should weep with those who weep & rejoice with those that rejoice. That leaves no room for envy to operate.

Listen to the Apostle Peter;

Wherefore laying aside all malice & all guile & all hypocrisies & envyings & all evil speakings,

As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word that ye may grow thereby,

If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. –1 Peter 2:1-3



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