Seven Deadly Sins: Envy
The Kingdom of God is not a zero-sum game in which we compete for limited love and respect. Each member of the Body of Christ is of infinite and unique importance (Rom12:3-8).
Cain, for example, envied his brother Abel. Because they were brothers, and in his mind equal petitioners for God’s favor, Cain presumed that God would treat their offerings the same. Blinded by his envy, he missed his chance to bring forth his best and instead killed his competitor, his brother.
The envious resents the perceived preferential treatment of his peers. Questions fester in his mind, like “Why am I less popular, when I’m just as attractive?” Or “Why don’t people seek me out, ask my advice?” “Why was I laid off, or overlooked for promotion, when I’m a more productive worker?” “Why do I earn less for my work, when I am just as creative and intelligent?”
At its worst, envy strikes others through slander or gossip or actively tries to cause them to fail. Envy brings tension and conflict into families, schools, offices, parishes, and society. Ultimately, envy pits the person against God’s will for his life.
Envy not only draws comparisons but is deeply competitive. Cain, for example, envied his brother Abel. Because they were brothers, and in his mind equal petitioners for God’s favor, Cain presumed that God would treat their offerings the same. Yet he failed to distinguish between his brother’s offering of his choicest fruits and his own offering. Blinded by his envy, he missed his chance to bring forth his best and instead killed his competitor, his brother (Gen 4).
Unfortunately, our culture is deeply implicated in accentuating the habits of comparison and competition. Parents sometimes compare one sibling to another, as though only one set of gifts were worthy. In school, children are taught to measure their worth against that of others. This does not refer to the innocent game of kick ball in the school yard, in which kids take turns at winning and losing, but to the kind of comparison that pegs their worth as persons on a scale of one to ten. As they go through life, people are continually measured by how well they can stand up to the competition and secretly grow to envy those who seem to have had an easier path to success.
St. John’s gospel shares an interesting exchange between the Risen Lord and St. Peter. St. Peter has just reaffirmed his love for Jesus. Jesus calls him to shepherd the Church and tells him what kind of death he will undergo for the glory of God. “Follow me,” He concludes. Instead of immediately saying “Yes,” St. Peter turns, sees St. John, the beloved disciple, and asks Jesus, “Lord, what about him?”
It is unlikely that envy had a place in so generous a soul as St. Peter’s. More likely, the exchange was included for us, the hearers of the Gospel. Jesus answers with a question and a directive. “What if I want him to remain until I come? What concern is it of yours? You follow me.” (John 21:15-23) Oddly enough, this is liberating. We are free to be what God wants us to be, without looking over our shoulders at others.
God’s creation is infinitely diverse, in which all the different parts fit together into a beautiful whole and in which each person has a unique place. Our gifts are like great pearls buried in the homely soil of our own souls. Unearthing them, polishing them and offering them to the Lord and to others is the most joyful adventure imaginable and well worth the effort.
The Kingdom of God is not a zero-sum game in which we compete for limited love and respect. Rather, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, and each member of the Body of Christ is of infinite and unique importance (Rom12:3-8).
The Giver of gifts knows us better than we know ourselves. His gifts are more perfectly suited to us than any we could choose for ourselves. Only when we accept our appointed place in this great chorus of praise to God, will the joy of true fulfillment in Him disperse the clouds of envy from our hearts.
Jeri Holladay writes from Wichita, Kansas, where she has been Director of Adult Education at the Spiritual Life Center of the Diocese of Wichita, Associate Professor of Theology, Chairman of the Theology Department and founding Director of the Bishop Eugene Gerber Institute of Catholic Studies at Newman University. She teaches moral theology and church history and is a contributing writer for Catholic Online.
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for December 2013
General Intention: Victimized Children. That children who are victims of abandonment or violence may find the love and protection they need.
Missionary Intention: Prepare the Savior's Coming. That Christians, enlightened by the Word incarnate, may prepare humanity for the Savior's coming.
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Lent / Easter News
- The Power of the Resurrection in our Lives: Christ Is Risen; Indeed, He Is Risen!
- What a Day! What a Way, the Easter Way, Alleluia!
- The Surprise of Easter
- Easter Vigil Homily of Pope Francis: Let the Risen Jesus Enter Your Life
- HOLY SATURDAY: The Whole Earth Keeps Silence
- The Resurrecting Power of Mercy
- On the Friday We Call Good, the Whole World Stands Still
- Good Friday Reflection on the Logic of the Cross
- Reflection: Let us Apply the Splint of the Cross to our Fractured Freedom
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?
More Easter / Lent
'So it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead' - Luke 24:46
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption. continue reading
Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, an event mentioned in all four canonical Gospels. (Mark 11:1.11, Matthew 21:1.11, Luke 19:28.44, and John 12:12.19) ... continue reading
On Palm Sunday, we celebrate the first joy of the season, as we celebrate Our Lord's triumphant entrance into Jerusalem where he was welcomed by crowds worshiping him and laying down palm leaves before him. It also marks the beginning of Holy Week... continue reading
HOLY THURSDAY is the most complex and profound of all religious observances. It celebrates his last supper with the disciples, a celebration of Passover ... continue reading
On Good Friday, each member of the Church tries to understand at what cost Christ has won our redemption. In the solemn ceremonies of Holy Week we unite ourselves to our Savior, and we contemplate our own death to sin in the Death of our Lord ... continue reading
Easter is the principal feast of the ecclesiastical year. Leo I (Sermo xlvii in Exodum) calls it the greatest feast (festum festorum), and says that Christmas is celebrated only in preparation for Easter. It is the centre of the greater part of the ecclesiastical year ... continue reading
For most people the easiest practice to consistently fulfill will be the traditional one, to abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year. During Lent abstinence from meat on Fridays is obligatory in the United States as elsewhere. Christ Himself said that His disciples would fast once He had departed (Lk. 5:35). continue reading
Everything answered from when does lent end, ashes, giving something up, stations of the cross and blessed palms. The key to understanding the meaning of Lent is simple: Baptism... continue reading
Stations of the Cross refers to the depiction of the final hours (or Passion) of Jesus, and the devotion commemorating the Passion. First Station: Jesus is condemned to death... pray the stations now
What did you give up for Lent?
From the humorous to the bizarre, people have had interesting Lenten experiences. Tell us about what you are going to give up for this Lenten Year.
What others gave up »
F. K. Bartels - Catholic Online, 4/6/2013
There is great cause for belief in the Resurrection. One of the most wonderful tenets of Catholicism and the true Christian religion the Church transmits, is that the Resurrection is a historical ...Continue Reading
Deacon Keith Fournier - Catholic Online, 4/1/2013
Have you have heard the old adage, used often in a disparaging way, He´s so heavenly he is no earthly good. I suggest again that it misses the mark completely. We are Easter people. We are called to ...Continue Reading
Fr. Randy Sly - Catholic Online, 3/31/2013
To make sure that all mankind knows that it is not over but actually just beginning, God has an Easter bombshell. While we may have been able to anticipate the wondrous joy of a day of resurrection, ...Continue Reading
Pope Francis - Catholic Online, 3/31/2013
Our daily problems and worries can wrap us up in ourselves, in sadness and bitterness... and that is where death is. That is not the place to look for the One who is alive! Let the risen Jesus enter ...Continue Reading
On Good Friday, the entire Church fixes her gaze on the Cross at Calvary. Each member of the Church tries to understand at what cost Christ has won our redemption.
In the symbol of the Cross we can see the magnitude of the human tragedy, the ravages of original sin, and the infinite love of God. Learn More
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption.
The ashes are made from the blessed palms used in the Palm Sunday celebration of the previous year. The ashes are christened with Holy Water and are scented by exposure to incense. Learn More
Stations of the Cross refers to the depiction of the final hours (or Passion) of Jesus, and the devotion commemorating the Passion.
ACT OF CONTRITION. O my God, my Redeemer, behold me here at Thy feet. From the bottom of my heart... Pray the Stations
'Christ Himself said that His disciples would fast once He had departed' Lk. 5:35
Abstinence. The law of abstinence requires a Catholic 14 years of age until death to abstain from eating meat on Fridays in honor of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles and shellfish are permitted.
Fasting. The law of fasting requires a Catholic from the 18th Birthday (Canon 97) to the 59th Birthday (i.e. the beginning of the 60th year, a year which will be completed on the 60th birthday) to reduce the amount of food eaten from normal. The Church defines this as one meal a day, and two smaller meals which if added together would not exceed the main meal.
Learn More »