“Let us pursue the things making for peace and the things that build one another up.”—ROM. 14:19.
SONG 113 Our Possession of Peace
1. How did envy affect Joseph’s family?
JACOB loved all his sons, but he had special affection for 17-year-old Joseph. How did Joseph’s brothers react? They became envious of him, and that envy made them bitter. Joseph had done nothing to deserve the hatred his brothers felt toward him. Even so, they sold Joseph into slavery and lied to their father, saying that a wild animal had killed his favorite son. Envy caused them to disrupt the peace of the family and to break their father’s heart.—Gen. 37:3, 4, 27-34.
2. According to Galatians 5:19-21, why is envy so dangerous?
2 In the Scriptures, envy* is listed among the death-dealing “works of the flesh” that can disqualify a person from inheriting God’s Kingdom. (Read Galatians 5:19-21.) Envy is often the root cause of such poisonous fruits as hostility, strife, and fits of anger.
3. What will we discuss in this article?
3 The example of Joseph’s brothers shows how envy can damage relationships and disturb the peace that once existed in a family. Although we would never do what Joseph’s brothers did, we all have an imperfect and treacherous heart. (Jer. 17:9) Little wonder, then, that we may at times struggle with feelings of envy. Let us review some warning examples in the Bible that help us identify reasons why feelings of envy may take root in our heart. We will then consider some practical ways to fight envy and promote peace.
WHAT CAN CAUSE ENVY?
4. Why did the Philistines envy Isaac?
4 Material prosperity. Isaac was a wealthy man, and the Philistines envied Isaac’s prosperity. (Gen. 26:12-14) They even stopped up the wells that Isaac depended on in order to water his flocks and herds. (Gen. 26:15, 16, 27) Like the Philistines, some people today become envious of those who have more material possessions than they do. They not only want the things others have but also want to deprive them of what they have.
5. Why did the religious leaders envy Jesus?
5 Being appreciated. The Jewish religious leaders envied Jesus because he was much appreciated by the common people. (Matt. 7:28, 29) Jesus was God’s representative, and he was teaching the truth. Even so, these religious leaders spread wicked lies and slander to ruin Jesus’ good name. (Mark 15:10; John 11:47, 48; 12:12, 13, 19) What warning lesson can we learn from this account? We must fight any tendency to envy those who have qualities that endear them to the congregation. Instead, we should try to imitate their loving ways.—1 Cor. 11:1; 3 John 11.
6. How did Diotrephes show envy?
6 Theocratic privileges. In the first century, Diotrephes envied those who took the lead in the Christian congregation. He wanted “to have the first place” among congregation members, so he spread malicious talk to discredit the apostle John and other responsible brothers. (3 John 9, 10) Although not going as far as Diotrephes, we too could begin to envy a fellow Christian who receives an assignment that we had hoped to get—especially if we feel that we are just as qualified as he is to care for that responsibility.
7. What effect can envy have on us?
7 Envy is like a poisonous weed. Once the seed of envy takes root in our heart, it can be difficult to destroy. Envy feeds on other negative feelings, such as improper jealousy, pride, and selfishness. Envy can choke the development of good qualities, such as love, compassion, and kindness. As soon as we see envy starting to sprout, we need to uproot it from our heart. How can we fight envy?
CULTIVATE HUMILITY AND CONTENTMENT
8. What qualities can help us to fight envy?
8 We can fight envy by cultivating humility and contentment. When our heart is full of these good qualities, envy will have no room to grow. Humility will help us not to think too highly of ourselves. A humble person does not feel that he deserves more than everyone else. (Gal. 6:3, 4) Someone who is content is satisfied with what he has and does not compare himself with others. (1 Tim. 6:7, 8) When a person who is humble and content sees someone receive something good, he is happy for him.
9 We need the help of God’s holy spirit if we are to avoid the fleshly trait of envy and instead cultivate humility and contentment. (Read Galatians 5:16; Philippians 2:3, 4.) Jehovah’s holy spirit can help us to examine our innermost thoughts and motives. With God’s help, we can replace harmful thoughts and feelings with upbuilding ones. (Ps. 26:2; 51:10) Consider the examples of Moses and Paul, men who successfully fought the tendency to envy.
10. What situation could have tested Moses? (See cover picture.)
10 Moses had a lot of authority over God’s people, but he did not jealously guard that privilege. For example, on one occasion, Jehovah took away some of his holy spirit from Moses and gave it to a group of Israelite elders who were standing near the tent of meeting. Shortly thereafter, Moses heard that two elders who had not gone out to the tent of meeting had also received holy spirit and had begun to behave as prophets. How did he react when Joshua asked him to restrain the two elders? Moses did not become envious of the attention these two men were getting from Jehovah. Instead, he humbly rejoiced with them in their privilege. (Num. 11:24-29) What lesson can we learn from Moses?
11. How can elders imitate Moses?
11 If you are an elder, have you ever been asked to train someone else to care for a privilege in the congregation that you truly love? For example, you might love the privilege of conducting the Watchtower Study each week. But if you are humble like Moses, you will not feel threatened if you are asked to train another brother so that, in time, he will be able to handle this privilege. Instead, you will be happy to help your brother.
12. How are many Christians today showing contentment and humility?
12 Consider another situation that many older brothers are facing. For several decades, they have served as coordinators of the bodies of elders. But when they turn 80, they willingly give up their assignment. Circuit overseers who reach 70 years of age humbly give up that privilege and accept their reassignment to a different form of service. And in recent years, many Bethel family members around the world have begun new assignments in the field. These faithful brothers and sisters do not resent those who may now care for the assignments that they once had.
13. Why might Paul have been tempted to envy the 12 apostles?
13 The apostle Paul is another good example of someone who cultivated contentment and humility. Paul did not allow envy to develop. He worked hard in the ministry, but he humbly said: “I am the least of the apostles, and I am not worthy of being called an apostle.” (1 Cor. 15:9, 10) The 12 apostles followed Jesus during his earthly ministry, but Paul did not become a Christian until after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Although he was eventually appointed to be “an apostle to the nations,” Paul did not qualify for the special privilege of becoming one of the 12 apostles. (Rom. 11:13; Acts 1:21-26) Rather than envying those 12 men and the close association they had enjoyed with Jesus, Paul remained content with what he had.
14. What will we do if we are content and humble?
14 If we are content and humble, we will be like Paul and show respect for the authority that Jehovah has given to others. (Acts 21:20-26) He has arranged for appointed men to take the lead in the Christian congregation. Despite their imperfections, Jehovah considers them “gifts in men.” (Eph. 4:8, 11) When we respect these appointed men and humbly follow their direction, we stay close to Jehovah and enjoy peace with our fellow Christians.
“PURSUE THE THINGS MAKING FOR PEACE”
15. What do we need to do?
15 Peace cannot survive if envy is allowed to thrive. We need to weed out envy from our own heart and avoid planting feelings of envy in others. We must take these important steps if we are to obey Jehovah’s command to “pursue the things making for peace and the things that build one another up.” (Rom. 14:19) What specifically can we do to help others fight envy, and how can we promote peace?
16. How can we help others to fight envy?
16 Our attitude and actions can have a big influence on others. The world wants us to make a “showy display” of the things we own. (1 John 2:16) But that attitude promotes envy. We can avoid nurturing envy in others if we choose not to talk constantly about the things we own or plan to buy. Another way we can avoid promoting envy is by being modest about the privileges we have in the congregation. If we draw attention to the privileges that we have, we create fertile ground in which envy can grow. By contrast, when we show genuine personal interest in others and acknowledge the good that they do, we help them feel content and we promote unity and peace in the congregation.
17. What were Joseph’s brothers able to do, and why?
17 We can win the battle against envy! Consider again the example of Joseph’s brothers. Years after they had mistreated Joseph, they met him in Egypt. Before Joseph revealed his real identity to his brothers, he tested them to find out if they had changed. He arranged a meal at which he gave the youngest brother, Benjamin, significantly more attention than he gave the others. (Gen. 43:33, 34) Yet, there is no indication that his brothers became envious of Benjamin. Instead, they showed genuine concern for their brother and for their father, Jacob. (Gen. 44:30-34) Because Joseph’s brothers had let go of envy, they were able to help restore peace in their family. (Gen. 45:4, 15) Similarly, if we uproot any feelings of envy, we will help to keep our family and our congregation peaceful.
18. According to James 3:17, 18, what will happen if we help to create a peaceful environment?
18 Jehovah wants us to fight envy and to pursue peace. We must work hard to do both of those things. As discussed in this article, we have a tendency to envy. (Jas. 4:5) And we are surrounded by a world that promotes envy. But if we cultivate humility, contentment, and appreciation, we will leave no room for envy. Instead, we will help to create a peaceful environment in which righteous fruit can grow.—Read James 3:17, 18.
SONG 130 Be Forgiving
Jehovah’s organization is peaceful. But this peace can be disturbed if we allow feelings of envy to grow. In this article, we will identify what causes envy. We will also discuss how to fight this harmful trait and how to promote peace.
EXPRESSION EXPLAINED: As described in the Bible, envy can cause a person not only to want something others have but also to deprive them of what they have.
PICTURE DESCRIPTION: During a meeting of the body of elders, an older brother who conducts the Watchtower Study in the congregation is asked to train a younger elder to care for this privilege. Though the older brother loves his assignment, he wholeheartedly supports the elders’ decision by giving the younger brother practical suggestions and heartfelt commendation.