Some, indeed, preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. –Philippians 1:15
Resolution: Resolved to guard my heart against envy of another servant of Christ by being consciously thankful to God for their ministry, their gifts to the Body, and how God chooses to use them.
In the end, there are two types of preachers. There are those who preach and teach with “good will”, seeking to make Christ known, and there are those who do so for any other reason. Paul mentions the two here, and while the second group is easier to understand, the first group concerns my resolution, rebuking my heart when I feel envy and rivalry, and correcting it back on to the right path. It is interesting that both groups do, outwardly, what Jesus would call us to do, they preach the gospel, maybe even with the same fervor and passion as one another. Yet, outward obedience is the only place their lives agree. Just as both Jesse and Samuel were confused at the choice of David to be king, we must remember God’s sees the heart. We can be taken in by those who preach the gospel from dishonoring motives.
However, and most importantly, I can, if not careful, be grouped with those who preach the gospel from envy and rivalry.
It is an easy thing to do. We may look at someone else’s platform, their notoriety, the size of their church, their social media following, etc. and seek to be like them. We want to be quoted, shared, retweeted, and reblogged just as they are. May God guard my heart against this! There is nothing wrong with desiring to be used by God to make His name known. Yet, how many times have I given voice to this prayer outwardly while really desiring that God make MY name known?
As God builds His house, it is foolish for a hammer to envy the saw, the saw the screwdriver, and the screwdriver the hammer. Yet, how often do I, even secretly, covet and envy another person’s usage?
It is foolish as well because we are ignorant, many times, of what God did to that worker to make them fit for service. The group in Philippians 1:15 may have envied Paul’s platform, but it is doubtful they envied his prison cell. Paul’s name was on many lips in a joyous tone, but did they want the hatred of those who wanted to destroy Paul as well? When we envy another’s position, what we normally miss is the breaking, chiseling, and refining it took to get them there. We simply see the glossy product and want the same. Those who envied Paul envied the name and the prestige he earned amongst the faithful, but not the brokenness that got him there.
Ultimately, even aside from all of this, envy is a distrust of Christ. When I envy the position, prestige, or platform of another, I am screaming in my heart that Christ, though gracious in all His actions towards me, has failed to give me enough. Envy tells me that Christ, who gave His all, to the point of death (even death on a cross!) is withholding something from me now. I cannot truly lead others to worship a God who I feel has not done a good enough job taking care of me as His own. I cannot lead them to worship such a God, and, if I am so displeased with His services, why would I want to recommend Him to someone else?
But I must also guard my heart against rivalry with others who teach and preach Christ. It would seem that rivalry is full grown envy. Envy is rivalry in a passing thought. Rivalry is envy when taken to heart. Once I have meditated enough on my envy of that brother or sister, it “matures” into full blown rivalry. In fact, there is no natural reason for it not to do so. When I envy the platform or success of another, what stops me from desiring more than they have on top of that? Logically, nothing. If envy says, “I want, and I deserve the same,” then rivalry is simply the next step that pits me against them and says, “I deserve bigger, better, and more than them!” And if I deserve more, will something stop me from trying to take what they have? Why would I not seek more than them, even if it means tearing them down in the process? I have already envied the blessing of another. It is no huge leap to seek to take their blessing away.
The only safeguard against this is gratefulness to Christ for any platform, any opportunity He gives. And, when we feel ourselves ready to envy another, we must pray, asking for two things: 1. We must pray that God would forgive us for our sin because envy and covetousness are sins, and, like all sins, worthy of Hell. 2. We must pray for the one we have envied that they would be greatly used by God, and protected from envious and covetous hearts.