Are we envious?


‘Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you.
(Matthew 20:14 NASB)
‘Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’
(Matthew 20:15 NASB)
“So the last shall be first, and the first last.”
(Matthew 20:16 NASB)



So often the religious leaders were the ones who were gathered around Jesus. Maybe they were genuinely curious, or possibly they were simply trying to catch him in some kind of contradiction. They certainly didn't have his best interest in mind, but instead were seeking to make themselves feel better. Jesus begins to talk about the ones who are laborers in the kingdom. At this point I'm sure they began to nod in agreement for certainly they were the ones who had been working from day one. They were the most qualified to be doing the work. They were the most educated. They had the best resumes. They had dressed for the part and they were enthusiastic about getting the work done. But as Jesus continued in the conversation they became disturbed. What was he saying? Was he saying that this rag-tag group of people who followed him around from the Galilee might be considered as great in the kingdom of God as they were? Surely not! How could God not look on them and all that they had done and give them a greater reward. No - the reward would be the same for everyone. Why? Because God doesn't look at those exterior kinds of things, but because God is generous. He loves everyone and doesn't want anyone to miss out on heaven, so much so that the reward is the same for all who give their lives to him, whether early on in their lives, or even near the end. Those who think that they ought to be getting all the rewards need to think twice. Those who are humble and grateful for what God has done for them will be first, and the others will be last. Jesus could see into their hearts. They were envious!



NT Wright wrote in "Simply Christian" that the church has tried to take the Holy Spirit and direct its movement, almost as if we think we've put in a plumbing system and have tried to plumb the presence of God into particular places and institutions. Due to a lack of maintenance the pipes have begun to burst and the Holy Spirit is popping up in all kinds of places. He's popping up in a ministry to drug addicts and alcoholics in Ukraine. He's popping up in a ministry to the LGBT community in the heart of Kansas City. He's popping up in a GBV center in Kenya. He's popping up in the Hope House of Stark County. And the good religious folks are looking around them and they are envious. Didn't we do church right? Haven't we been going to church twice on Sundays all of our lives? Haven't we looked right? Haven't we been going to Sunday School and been Bible Quizzers?

It seems that there are times that we become critical and complain that God is pouring out his Spirit in places where sinners hang out. How could he do that when we've been so good? Are we envious of what God is doing in other places? Maybe we ought to take a little time and examine ourselves. If we are waiting around to get "something" from God, then we don't understand what he is doing. God is our Father, and he is a dear and loving Father who is wanting all of us to be reunited in a relationship with him. That means that he will do everything that he can to draw his children back to him. Aren't we grateful that he is that generous? So, why are we jealous? Because somehow we think that it's what we "do" for him that it's important. That's not the point. He rejoices that we are "in" him -- and when we are "in" him then we will understand what it is that God desires. Remember Jesus kept saying that God desires "mercy, not sacrifice." If we are "in" him then our hearts will be filled with the same passions that fill him and we will desperately want all of the lost to come to know him. We will want him to be as generous as he wants to be -- we will want to see the Holy Spirit being poured out in unusual places and we will go to those places to participate with God in his activity in the world. We won't just sit on our pews and wait for him to come to us. We won't be envious but we will be generous and will rejoice every time a lost one comes to him.

What a blessing that the first will be last and the last will be first! May all envy disappear as we grow in him and love for God and neighbor displaces all things selfish.



Lord, my desire is to join with you today in your activity in this world. May I go with you. Amen.


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