Once upon a time in the Glassy-Valleys lived Lucinda, an imaginative schoolgirl with a passion for painting. As she approached the end of her primary school years, Lucinda’s parents were delighted by her enthusiasm for art.
One day, on her way home from school, Lucinda stumbled upon a small creature nestled in the bushes near the playground. With soft fur and captivating green eyes, it reminded her of a squishmallow. She named it Gizmo and brought it home in her backpack.
Gizmo became Lucinda’s constant companion, even sneaking into her backpack for the trip to school. During art class, as Lucinda painted a vibrant landscape of the Glassy-Valleys for a project, Gizmo would perch beside her, observing every brushstroke.
Lucinda became lost in her painting and enjoyed the new skills and techniques she was developing as an artist. As Lucinda put down her brush, content with her final product, Gizmo became restless. Tugging on Lucinda’s sleeve, he redirected her gaze to the work of another classmate. Priscilla’s watercolour of the Glassy-Valleys was a masterpiece. The flowers seemed to sway in the valley breeze, and the play of light and shadow created captivating depth. Envy gnawed at Lucinda. Priscilla’s work was flawless.
How could someone the same age as her create something so extraordinary? Lucinda glared at Priscilla and her painting across the room. Then to Lucinda’s surprise, Gizmo started to expand and grow. His hair became longer and claws grew from his small paws.
Later that day, Lucinda’s mother picked her up from school so she wouldn’t have to walk home with her new painting. As she pulled into the car park, she noticed Lucinda struggling to fit the now larger Gizmo into her backpack. Perplexed by the new furry companion, her mother opened the car door for Lucinda to climb in and asked, ‘Who is your new friend?’ Lucinda sat in the backseat, her arms crossed, staring out the window. Gizmo sat next to her. She had no interest in answering any questions. Gizmo looked at Lucinda’s mother and shrugged.
Concerned, her mother asked, ‘Where’s your new painting, Lucinda?’
Lucinda replied, ‘I threw it in the trash.’
Her mother’s heart sank, and the car ride home was very quiet. Lucinda couldn’t stop thinking about Priscilla’s watercolor masterpiece. She could never be as good as Priscilla. Meanwhile, Gizmo continued to grow larger and larger.
I tell this story as a warning to watch out for these green-eyed monsters. They begin life small, cute, and easy to hide but can grow into giant beasts with raging appetites. As a primary school Pastor, I do what I can to pluck these little creatures out by the tufts of their hair before they cause too much damage. Many friendship problems at school start out thanks to these furry creatures. They feed on the displeasure you feel at other people’s blessings, gifts, talents, wealth, or good looks. While children and adults alike grow easily attached to these creatures, they do not make pleasant companions.
The green-eyed monster is Shakespeare’s idiom for envy which ‘mocks the meat it feeds on.’
Envy is distress over something someone else possesses. Often the things we become most envious of are things we already possess to some measure. If you think of yourself as the life of the party, and someone else proves more charismatic than you are, you might be tempted to envy them. Maybe you notice the appearance of another and despise them for their looks. Maybe your talent feels threatened by the talent of someone else. As author Harold G. Coffin puts it, ‘Envy is the art of counting other people’s blessings instead of your own.’
We aren’t all given the same number of gifts, talents, advantages, and appealing qualities. Someone will always be more attractive than you, smarter than you, and funnier than you. Some people seem to be good at everything. And that’s not fair. But God seems less concerned with fairness than we are.
In the parable of the talents, the master entrusts an uneven amount of property to each of his servants based on their individual abilities.
In the parable about the workers in the vineyard, the master offers the same pay for unequal amounts of work.
It’s not fair. And yet God is okay with it. Paul, an Apostle of Christ, says he delights in disadvantages. For when we are weak God is strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Likewise in 1
Corinthians 1:27, Paul writes that God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. God chose weak things to shame the strong.
‘Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other’ (Galatians 5:26). Instead, we ought to live by the Spirit. If we become obsessed with counting others’ blessings, then we miss out on our own blessings and the unique ways God could be working through our lives in love.
The best way to avoid green-eyed monsters is to consider others as more important than yourself. A simple exercise to practice is thanking God for the qualities and gifts we perceive in other people. Gratitude for others’ qualities builds friendships and strengthens relationships rather than
tearing them down. As God’s image bearers, our individual glory is only a reflection of God’s glory. Author Tilly Dillehay calls this ‘borrowed glory’. Our glory never originates from within ourselves. It is a reflection of God’s glory entrusted to us by Him for His purposes.
In the tale of Lucinda and Gizmo, we witnessed the destructive power of envy and how it can tarnish our hearts and relationships. Envy, the green-eyed monster, lurks within us, tempting us to compare, resent, and diminish the blessings of others. But we should not succumb to its grasp.
To combat envy, we must shift our focus from counting other people’s blessings to appreciating our own, even if they are less by comparison. Let us recognise that we are each uniquely gifted and called to fulfill a purpose that is distinct from others. Embracing gratitude for the qualities
and gifts we perceive in others allows us to build friendships, strengthen relationships, and cultivate contentment.
Remember, our individual glory is not self-originated, but a reflection of God’s glory entrusted to us. As we live by the Spirit and consider others as more important than ourselves, we tap into a deeper understanding of our purpose. We become partakers in a grander narrative, where God works through our lives in love, regardless of how our gifts compare to others.
So let us be mindful of the green-eyed monster within, plucking it out and replacing it with gratitude. Let us celebrate the successes and talents of others, knowing that their light does not diminish our own, but serves to further glorify God.
Nathan Wilson, Primary Pastor