Category Archives: Sin

Three signs that jealousy may be ruining a relationship

Beware the green-eyed menace

Beware the green-eyed menace

Jealousy is such a horrible sin. It drives me crazy and humbles me all at the same time. I find myself  driven by jealousy in the way I read other people’s Facebook posts, evaluate how someone’s weekend went and compare how another’s work life is going versus how mine is doing. Jealousy is really ugly. And it can ruin relationships.

 

Mostly, jealousy shows up in how we choose to respond to people. Do I find myself getting judgmental toward another? One reason may very well be that I envy them. But if I admit that, then I’m admitting I’m not as great (foolish thought, yes), or my life isn’t as great. Always comparing – that’s the jealous way. “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought,” Paul urges in Romans 12:3, “but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”

Jealousy can definitely show up in outward, destructive ways. Think Joseph’s brothers in the Old Testament. However, it seems in “good Christian” culture jealousy can tend to seethe more than it boils. Here’s three ways I’ve seen the green-eyed beast mess with relationships:

1. It makes me very cool or non-communicative toward other people’s successes. If I were to acknowledge that someone was doing better than I, then I would somehow be diminishing my own sense of self. And even if you have trained your mind to tell someone, “Hey, that’s great,” when secretly you’re beside yourself, people can pick it up. We’ve all got pretty good radar when people are genuinely happy for us and when people are negative toward us. If I’m not experiencing true joy about someone else’s wins, I need to humbly face my jealousy and say, “What an ugly beast you are. How I wish you were gone” and ask the Lord for a heart change that allows me to genuinely applaud and enjoy the other person’s victory.  “Rejoice with those who rejoice,” right? (Romans 12:15) I also need to apologize to the Lord for making the world’s view of me more important than what He says.

2. I think “comparing” thoughts when someone tells me something great from their lives. I don’t tend to verbalize such ideas, but I sure do think them. Maybe I hear how someone is getting a chance to write a book. I begin putting them down in my mind. “Obviously, their identity is coming from their work; pretty spiritually weak.” Maybe I hear that a certain cultural perspective, that isn’t biblical, is getting more and more popular. “Well, this country is going down the tubes.” Godly disgust or jealousy that my side is losing? It’s hard for people to come close to me when I’m letting such ideas run all over my head. Even though I may not be voicing these notions, they give off a vibe. And people don’t want to be near that.

3. I find myself competing with people rather than enjoying them. It’s really hard to build a closer relationship with someone if you’re always comparing how you’re doing against how they’re doing. It’s healthier relationally and spiritually if I’m asking questions about other people’s lives, discovering how they came to experience such amazing things, how they came to serve God in such incredible ways, how they got through such difficulties to a stronger, better place in their lives. Learning, learning, learning — this is more humble and builds relationships. And I end up gaining from that person’s journey rather than observing it coolly from a distance and seeing it as a threat to my own wonderfulness.

 

 

 

Would Jesus be friends with my friends?

What would Jesus do? That was a very popular phrase a couple years back. It’s a big question. How would Jesus respond in various situations we find ourselves in? Sometimes I have some sense of that and other times no. I can imagine myself being kind to children in the midst of a throng of adults. I’m a dad so I know how to do that, most days. I’ve never healed anyone, but I can always pray for people that God might heal them. Different I know, but I am counting on the same power source.

How about the people Jesus chose to hang out with? That’s where this can get a big tricky. He did not prefer the company of the religious leaders of his day. In fact Jesus had a reputation for hanging around with the wrong kind of people:

The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.”’ (Luke 7:34, NIV)

So Jesus is accused of gluttony and drunkenness by the self-righteous, who would never have gone to the house of a guy like Zacchaeus, the little guy Jesus called down from the tree in Luke 19. Once again Jesus heard the familiar accusation:

All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’” (v.7)

Zacchaeus was a tax collector and a swindler. He admits it himself in a confession to Jesus:

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” (v.8)

Jesus’ response: “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

Jesus didn’t just plan to have dinner at Zacchaeus’ place but intended to stay the whole day according to Luke 19:5.

It makes me wonder as I consider my “friendships”: would I be accused of picking questionable company to hang out with. Or at least making friends with people who are really different than me. Do people look at some of my friends and wonder, “How did Clem get to be friends with him?” or vice versa, “How did this person become friends with Clem?”

Not that I’m great shakes that’s for sure. I’m got plenty of flaws and made some decisions others scratch their heads about. But it’s just this: as people would see me and my buds they’d realize there’s more of a bond than just sports or playing darts. And it might make them wonder, in a cool and good way, “What’s that about?”

It’s an important question for any of us who are serious about trying to follow the example of Jesus and do what he would do in our place. Are we building friendships on the number one qualifier of all from the Lord’s POV: openness to God and the message about Jesus Christ. If we are looking at friendships that way, we’ll end up in some excellent and unique company.

5 questions to ask yourself when others (apparently) have it better than you

Some people, at least on the surface, appear to have it all. They’re good looking, smart, and athletic. They’re surrounded by loving families, and not just the immediate spouse and children, but the extended family too. There seem to be no missing pieces in their lives. Their homes are larger, backyards more spacious, and the conveniences of life more prevalent. They’re educational opportunities were greater and their children’s opportunities are just as great if not greater. This isn’t right!

As I reflect on my own life, I recognize that I’ve gotten a pretty good deal. I had a 15-minute walk to school, which I enjoyed. I mostly liked my teachers. I did well in school and got good marks. I had a group of friends to hang out with at lunchtime and during recess. I had one best friend, Scott, and we played sports, board games, hung out, and did school projects together. My dad was committed to one vacation every year, and we usually spent that week in Daytona Beach, FL. My whole family got together on major holidays. I went to amusement parks. I was decent if not outstanding at sports. I have not-so-great memories but also a bunch of great memories too. Some would say I hit the lottery.

There were problems too. My dad had a drinking problem and my mom’s health wasn’t that great, but that’s the life I knew. It was a good life in many ways. The kids I went to school with had pretty similar upbringings and family situations. I thought it was a rich life —— not wealthy “rich,” but full and satisfying.

High school was comparable. There were hard times, but good times too. I had a high level of stress some days but I survived and graduated and went on to college.

Some of my college friends were from similar backgrounds to mine. In particular, my best friend in those days, John, came from a middle class suburb in Cleveland. He had two brothers and a sister; his dad was an English teacher at the high school John attended, and his mom was a friendly, doting, funny homemaker.

I had other college friends, some of whom lived in suburbs of Dayton, OH, where I grew up. That’s when I began to notice my rich life was not as rich as I had supposed. Their homes were larger, their backyards more spacious, the conveniences of life were more prevalent and educational opportunities were greater!

For the last 20+ years of my life I’ve been a suburb dweller too. My kids have grown up in this environment. My wife, whose family began in Dayton, moved to a suburb called Kettering. Her parents carved out a simple and good life there. And we’ve been able to provide a decent place to live in a comfortable, safe community with really nice schools.

Since I’ve lived here 20 years, I’ve encountered neighbors and friends who have always lived in this sociological equivalent of a quilted comforter. And that started bugging me a little.

I began to wonder why God set me in a family where I was destined to attend an inner city public school system. Granted, the inner city school system of my era was not the same as today, but it was still inner city. Why are they living in a city where they know everyone from generations back and my classmates from high school are scattered all over the place and not as well connected? Why did their life incubator provide them so much love, support, and material blessing?

OK, so before I indulge any further in this self-absorbed judge-fest, I will acknowledge that just being born in the United States, even if I’m poor by American standards, makes me one of these over-blessed people. “According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the poverty line for an individual in the 48 contiguous states and Washington, D.C., was $10,830 in 2010,” says Courtney Blair at PolicyMic.com. “Someone at the poverty line in the United States is in the top 14% of the global income distribution.”

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Enough hard facts about how great I’ve got it, back to me-absorbed bellyaching.

I’m not the first to wrestle with these blessing disparities. David verbalized it in Psalm 73:

But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills. Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. (v.2-6, NIV)

Of course, I can’t really say the people I envied were evil nor did I ever see them clothe themselves with violence. They seemed clothed in niceness and decentness. Actually, they might even be godly. But they were still blessed more than me. Argh!

So this is the part of the blog where I’m supposed to offer several tightly-edited life nuggets gathered from this journey of self-discovery. But really, I’m led to five questions that won’t tie this down neatly but just provoke more questioning:

1) Can I learn to deal with this? That’s really the question. God has given more to some than to others. The starting point is different but the ending point for Christians is the same. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1, NIV). We each have a race to run. Will we run our race, our way, with Him as the coach? How much ability to run, or how difficult the course, neither is in question in this verse. But will we run to the same finish line? That’s it.

2) Do I really believe God is fair? There’s something to the whole “to whom much is given” warning. Jesus says in Luke 12:48, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” God is a blesser. He’s also fair. His scales are accurate. That should be sobering for me, especially as I consider what I have compared to lots of other people in the world.

3) He’s either able to fulfill Romans 8:28 or he’s not — what will I believe? Familiar passage here: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (NLT). Some people have been given a rough start in life. They were beaten, abandoned, and abused from day one. They don’t know one or more parents. They’ve been shipped around to other people’s homes all their lives. Without minimizing the pain of all that, I must still ask myself: can he make good on Romans 8:28 or not?

4) Do I sincerely believe this life is just a warm-up for eternity when all these differences in gifting, etc. won’t matter anymore? The only question that will matter then will be, “Was I faithful with what I had?” If I can’t get past the apparent disparities of today then my hope is really probably that this life is the end-all and be-all.

5) Can I still be grateful for all He’s done for me that I clearly don’t deserve? I should be thankful, but will I, by faith, choose to be thankful?