The Problem of Envy

Luke 4:20   And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.  21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?”  23 He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’”  24 And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown.  25 But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land;  26 yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon.  27 There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”  28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage.  29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff.  30 But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.


Jesus had returned home to Nazareth and attended the regular worship service at the synagogue. The people had heard about things that he had done in other places but they wanted him to do his “magic” here at home. This wasn’t “magic” for the sake of doing tricks, but Jesus’ works were about the glorification of the Father. This was of no interest to them, but rather, they felt that they had ownership of him because he was from their own town.

He knew that they would not accept him for who he really was and that they simply wanted to have some personal advantage because they knew him. The problem with envy is that it becomes a barrier to the work of God. They didn’t need to be envious because the reality was that they had raised up the Son of God. They had a lot to be proud of — that he had come from their small town. Instead, they wanted to be able to control and manipulate him and that was not to happen. Instead, Jesus hints that the good news will reach out beyond the borders of Nazareth, and even the Jewish world, and transform those who do not "belong." When barriers of envy obstruct the flow of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit will find an unobstructed path and pour out on Jew and Gentile alike.

Ultimately, problem of envy becomes obstructive to the flow of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The people of Nazareth didn’t understand their own problem and their envy led them to the edge of a cliff, wanting to destroy the very one whom they had raised. The destructive power of envy can drive good people into ugly behaviors as they succumb to the motivations of their heart.

Jesus lived into the life and ministry which the Father had set before him. He could not be troubled by the envy of those from his home town and he could not allow their attitudes to keep him from ministry. The Holy Spirit would eventually flow beyond the barriers of their envy and reach out to all of those who were open to receive what Jesus had provided. He was not to be manipulated.

If we allow envy to grow in our hearts, we will suffer. Just because someone is more “successful” than we are, or more “popular,” or has more stuff is no reason to envy. God has gifted each and every individual in unique ways for the sake of the kingdom. If we are all faithfully serving in the kingdom then there is no need to become envious of another because of their gifting. We should celebrate what God is doing in and through the lives of servants dedicated to the glory of God. If we refuse to respond in this way, we will become an obstruction to the flow of the Holy Spirit in our own lives and we are the ones who will suffer. The people of Nazareth missed out on what Jesus really had to offer because they had their own ideas of what they wanted. Allowing our own ideas of what we want to dominate our lives means we will miss out. The problem of envy is that it can only hurt you.


Lord, please help me to live into the unique life and ministry which you have placed before me. Amen.

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