A number of years ago, I sat in an Applebee’s with a fellow minister in our area. It was a typical pastor-lunch-share what’s going on kind of thing. Both of us were considered, “up and comers.” We were close in age and even among well-meaning men who love the Lord, competition can crop up subtly. His preaching/teaching gifts were ahead of my own, but our church was growing faster than theirs.
All of this was just enough pomp and circumstance to play with the heads of two young guys who, while we loved the Lord, coveted a bit of God’s blessing shown to one another. In hindsight, we were playing with fire when we envied one another. It wasn’t the kind of envy that burns inside. It was the seasonal variety…the kind we feel when a classmate or teammate beats us out by a nose for something. It always made our interactions slightly awkward. This day was no different.
And then, he took the initiative I lacked the courage to take at the time—and confessed his envy of our church and the difficulty their church had growing in comparison to ours. All of this was so humbling—especially given my own envy of him. I then did the same with regards to his preaching/teaching gifts. It changed things not only between us, but I believe it changed our ministries for the better. Why? Because it broke the back of envy in our ministries. Satan hated that lunch. He loves jealousy and hates humility. He loathes confession but cheers for pride.
Over the course of our lunch, our confessions metabolized envy into respect. By the time the lunch was over, we were committed to one another’s success in ministry, and we’ve continued a vibrant friendship to this day.
Pastoral envy is scourge. It took me a while to learn what damage it can do—how it can make blessing taste bland, make God’s activity in your life and church seem small by comparison. To the extent we allow jealousy to take root, we are hurting ourselves and our churches. Sometimes we are too prideful to admit we envy someone else. May God humble us.
If you are envious of another church or pastor…confess it—even to them if possible. It’s the quickest, best way to repent and receive God’s healing. Don’t let envy take root in your heart. It will make your ministry less effective and less pleasing to God. It will also create a joy leak in your heart.
I wonder sometimes what our friendship would be like if he had never taken the initiative that day. I’d like to think we would have grown out of our sophomoric envy of one another. But, I don’t know. We might still be a little awkward around one another—and have missed out on the friendship we’ve enjoyed since lunch that day. I’m thankful he had the courage to take the initiative—and I pray this morning maybe you’ll do the same if Satan has sown seeds of envy in your ministry.
Life’s too short to envy others. Ministry is too important to envy others. Our relationship with the Lord is too valuable to sour it with even a mist of envy. Let the Holy Spirit begin to turn envy into respect—and restore your heart.