The Lighthouse Keeper

Greetings from Pastor Kerry, former pastor of Spring City UMC. This blog contains my sermon outlines and/or manuscripts from my pastorate among the people of Spring City PA, from 2006 to 2011. Pastor Dennis is now the lighthouse keeper. Come and worship on Sundays at 10:00 a.m.!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

"It's Not Fair": Envy and Love (7DS 3/7)

The third in a series on the Seven Deadly Sins

March 4, 2007
Second Sunday of Lent

from Luke 13:31-35 and Philippians 3:17-4:1

"A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones." – Proverbs 14:30

My sermon outline:

• Recap: Lenten series on 7 deadly sins, somewhat dovetailing with Wednesday series on temptations of Jesus. Goes back to early church fathers (1500 years ago) talking about those sins or attitudes that we gateway sins, that would lead to other and various sins. Seven habitual sins that require serious change of heart to counter.

• Chances are you struggle with or at least identify with a few of these. Hopefully you’re victorious over them. If you do struggle with one or more of them it means you’re human and you’re in the right place. If you don’t then to whom much has been given much is required, and the rest of us are looking to you to help us overcome, and will also rely on your humility. My prayer for us all is that we would allow ourselves to be led by God to examine our lives, our habits and our priorities, and that we would allow God’s spirit to work within us, purifying us of those things in our lives that do not lead to Life, but instead lead to destruction.

• We started 2 weeks ago with gluttony, the sin that makes food or eating god. It’s a sin of excess, of overindulgence, countered by faith and by self-control. I lifted up how God provided for the children of Israel in the wilderness, not only feeding them their daily bread but teaching them to rely on God.

• Last week we talked about sloth, identifying the mantra of the sloth as “I’ll get around to it later,” deadly because as we read, “The sluggard’s craving will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work.” we lifted up the virtue of zeal (attitude plus action)... enthusiasm partnered with discipline and accountability as counters to sloth.

• Today’s deadly sin of focus is envy. Scripture tells us that envy is osteoporosis to the body: A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones (Proverbs 14:30). Deadly sins sap life from the body; Godly living promotes life. Envy’s fruit is decay. Envy is a distortion of truth, it’s improper focus, lack of trust and gratitude. Envy is jealousy taken to another level. The gateway mindset of envy is “It’s not fair.” If you find yourself frequently saying or thinking “It’s not fair,” you may struggle with envy.

• It is said that “All unhappiness comes from comparison.” Envy starts when you see what someone else has and you wish that you had it too. It starts there and it festers, distorting the truth and shifting focus. Radio commercial about a travel service, first guy back from vac, second guy asking about it – as the first guy goes on about the many exotic places they went, the second guy starts to stew about having been stuck in the office. Started out joyful that his friend had had a nice time, but then started distorting the first guy’s happiness into his own unhappiness. He gets jealous. By the end of the commercial, you get the feeling that the second guy not only no longer likes the first guy but you actually wonder if he wishes him harm, like the only thing that would make the second guy happy is if a piano fell on the first guy. The friendship apparently comes to an end because the second fellow envies the good fortune of the first.

• It’s tax season... maybe you find out about someone who got a tax break that you didn’t get, and rather than being grateful that they pay taxes (possibly more than you do) you cultivate bitterness against them because “it’s not fair” that they have gotten this break that you didn’t get.

• Maybe your envy comes in the form of inner satisfaction at the misfortune of another: someone with a fancy car has a car wreck, or their house is broken into or they just got the flu... a business competitor spills mustard on their outfit minutes before a presentation. Wishing for or even enjoying the misfortune of someone else, these are symptoms of the sin of envy. The book of James tells us that “If you harbor envy and selfish ambition in your heart,” that your motivation comes from the devil. “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” (3:16)

• Envy delights in the misfortune of others, it distorts truth, and reveals a fundamental dissatisfaction for what you actually have, an ingratitude for what God has given you. It potentially ignores facts and inflates ego and entitlement: I deserve better than that person because I’m somehow better than they are.” Envy does not give life to the body, but rots the bones.

• I do have to say that there is a positive kind of envy, the kind of thing that motivates a person to work hard and do good, as Paul writes in Romans 11, sharing the gospel with non-Jews, hoping to “arouse some of my own people to envy, and save some of them.” Maybe they’ll be so upset that God is reaching out beyond their clan that they’ll repent and receive God’s grace. But that is not typical envy.

• From today's gospel reading, the Pharisees not warning Jesus in kindness but more giving a veiled threat, envious of Jesus’ authority, angry at how he exposes their hypocrisy. When Jesus stands before Pilate before he’s sentenced to death, the gospels tell us that Pilate knew it was out of envy that the Pharisees had brought Jesus to him.

• And Jesus’ response to those who sought his misfortune: compassion. Love. Not retaliation or revenge, but desire for wholeness and well-being. We read in 1 Corinthians 13 that love is patient and kind, not envious or boastful, proud, rude or self-seeking. This love is the counter-virtue to envy. The love that does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. The love that is charitable, kind, even to those who want to hurt you.

• We read in the book of 1 Peter to “Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation — if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house.”

• We come to God in fellowship and worship, and come to his table today to be built into spiritual houses, fed by his saving food, tasting that the Lord is good.

• God has given us wonderful gifts of love: (hymn 408).

- Pastor Kerry
This Sunday: 75 in worship. Communion Sunday. Luncheon. chilly and windy.


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