Unmasking the Envy
“So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These men who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’ "But he answered one of them, ‘Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’” (Matthew 20:10-15)
Pastor Doug Wilson shared a rather interesting thought experiment recently, “If you had possession of a powerful ‘Red Button’, that if you pushed it, you could instantly give yourself and all those around you exactly double all your resources…but those in the top 10% would receive 10 times their riches… would you do it? Would you push the button? Your answer to that may say a lot about you!
The problem with the day-laborers in the Matthew 20 parable was not that had a real issue with the wages they received, but that they expected MORE for themselves than those who came last! They had their needs met. They weren’t cheated, but they thought themselves better THAN those who received the greatest Grace. They were envious.
Jesus told this parable to explain the “Kingdom of Heaven”, namely, on the very nature of salvation! God’s gift of salvation would be equally bestowed on all who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord, both Jews and Gentiles, but this would be rather difficult to swallow for those who had come FIRST, and saw themselves as the special recipients of God’s Favor! Even though God had told them, through Abraham, “I will make you the father of many nations” (Genesis 17:4), and “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." (Genesis 12:3)
Paul explains all this to those of us who were on the outside, invited last: “Consider Abraham: "He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you." So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” (Galatians 3:6-9)
Though it appeared scandalous to the Jews in Jesus’ day, that God would show this kind of Grace to us who were least deserving (see also the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the “older and younger sons”), that same sin of envy, which drove many away from Jesus, would also be the means by which God would one day draw the Jewish people back to Him! (Romans 10:19 Again I ask: Did Israel not understand? First, Moses says, "I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding." Romans 11:11 Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. 13 I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry 14 in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. 25-26 Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved”!
Now though God can use even humanity’s envy to accomplish His sovereign purposes…but Christians are to have no part of that, knowing that we have “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade— kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4). That being said, having come out of the darkness ourselves, we know of the driving forces of this world, and how others can use other platforms as a disguise to mask envy, and their lusts for power, perversities, possessions, and prestige.
Those who are looting department stores downtown and around our nation aren’t doing it because they need food to feed their families! One might use the trump cards of “Social Justice”, “Racism” and even governmental mandates to exert control and further their own agendas. So it doesn’t matter how blessed and prosperous, or cursed and struggling we become, there is always a place in the sinful human nature for envy! Because we know that justice will come, we can declare to an envious world that Jesus is Lord of it ALL! He owns it all! Acts 17:31 “He has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead."
To quote Doug Wilson again, “Hearing the gospel is like being punched in the mouth”! Every material thing we see around us will be destroyed, but for those who repent and turn to Christ: “We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 5:1 We know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.”
(2 Corinthians 4:18-5:1) Can we, today, gratefully recognize our Gracious God's Generosity, and give Him thanks?