Scripture Reading: 1 Samuel 18:1-30, 1 Samuel 19:1-24, Psalm 59:1-17
It all started with pride and a hankering for toast.
With a freshly ironed shirt and crisp college degree, I walked through the doors of my new job and stepped into a schedule full of meetings and a to-do list of fires to put out. Literally.
Soon after becoming acquainted with the office kitchen and its various coffee creamers and water bottles, I found myself staring into a tiny toaster smelling very burnt toast. The piece of bread was mine, of course, but its transformation into unrecognizable burnt crumbles made me feel as if I had no business being near baked goods of any kind, ever. I looked around the empty room, wondering when the toast’s lunatic owner, ahem, would rescue it from the smoke-producing heat.
I regularly find myself feeling neglectful like this in the kitchen, but I can also be careless with my thought life too. Envy starts a fire in my heart, causing my feelings to combust from the inside out. From seemingly nowhere, jealousy rears its ugly head, just in time for me to realize these terrible thoughts are unfortunately, actually mine (all mine!)—unlike my friend’s new engagement ring, vacation plans, promotion, or instagram attention, which caused my emotions to boil over in the first place. I truly want to celebrate these things for my friend (I do!), but turning away from my good intentions for even five seconds leaves these feelings to roast unattended over an open flame.
Envy might be the only sin that never feels good, not even for a moment. Other sins give us fleeting pleasure or empty promises, but envy hands us a box of matches and permission to light the fire. And before we know it, we’re in a room full of smoke.
In 1 Samuel 18, there’s a friendly celebration happening, the kind we intend to give the people we love as a way to congratulate them. Saul is great! David is great! We all have tambourines! But envy creeps into Saul’s heart when he hears, “Saul has killed his thousands, but David his tens of thousands” (v.7, emphasis mine).
The matches are lit, and Saul is off to kill David. That escalated quickly, didn’t it? I’m not sure Saul even knows how he got there, but then I remember my own failed attempts to rescue bread from the kitchen toaster. (I grabbed a paper towel to smother the flames, which of course, actually made them worse.) So, I can understand why Saul would want to get rid of any evidence pointing directly to his failures.
I’ll bet Saul had one word ringing in his head that may sound familiar to you and me: mine. He wanted to claim it all as his—the glory, the credit, the recognition, the love. (Can anyone else relate?)
Although David seemed to have it all together, he only had one quality worth envying: the presence of the One who actually does hold it all together. In these two chapters, we see the phrase “God with David” four times. This is what sets David apart. This is what Saul wants. This is what we all want. Our cries may say “Mine!,” but all we ever really want is for Someone to choose us, to adopt us as their own.
The glory, the credit, the recognition, the love—they’re all the Lord’s. And friends, so are we. He smothers the flames of envy by showing us we already belong. After all, it all started with love and a hankering for home.
“You are my strength, I sing praise to you;
you, God, are my fortress,
my God on whom I can rely.”
- Psalm 59:17