Envy and Selfishness

Day 325

Prayer for the day

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow; praise him, all creatures here below; praise him above, you heavenly hosts; praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

Scripture for the day

Ezekiel 16-17, James 3

They’re two sides of the same coin, envy and selfishness. Envy is the desire to possess what belongs to someone else. It is, in its essence, selfishness. Selfishness is putting oneself above anyone else, setting our own desires up as the primary priority.

James discusses what happens when envy and selfish ambition become the core of who we are, or typify our experience. When we give ourselves over to selfish ambition or envy, we sow disorder and evil conduct. This discord and conduct are evil because of the fact that we as humans have a natural (unnatural) inclination toward envy and selfishness. It is within us to want to better ourselves and only ourselves with no thought to the betterment of others, to put ourselves on a pedestal and to want to get exactly what we want to get without thought for others.

God’s disparaging of Israel accuses them of the same thing. The Israelites are compared by Ezekiel to a prostitute, but not even a normal prostitute, who would accept payment for sexual favours. Instead, Israel is painted as the prostituted who chases after lovers, seeking to pay them for the favour she gives. Israel, says God, is not even proud enough to recognizer her worth in this simple way.

The reason for this is mixed selfishness and envy. She envies the practices of her neighbours, envies their “freedom” and lasciviousness, envies their wealth or their stamina or their whatever it is. And her envy manifests in selfishness. She does what she wants. She chases who she wants to chase and reaps the consequences of that chase.

May we be wise in our estimation of ourselves and others. May we seek the opposite of selfishness and envy, that we might sow peace rather than evil.

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