According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, envy is “painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage.”
Perhaps you are familiar with the story of Daniel in the den of lions as recorded in the Bible. The King of Persia established a new law, but Daniel remained faithful to his God and refused to obey the new law. In short, Daniel broke the law, pled guilty, and was sentenced to death. Not by lethal injection, the firing squad, or the electric chair, but by being fed to hungry lions. I imagine this form of punishment was a very effective deterrent. God dramatically saved Daniel’s life by sending his angel to close the mouths of the lions. Wow! This story of Daniel in the den of lions as recorded in Daniel Chapter 6 is one that many of us heard as children. But within this story is another important lesson for kids and grown-ups, too.
According to the text, Daniel distinguished himself as the best governor in the entire Persian empire. He was a man of exceptional qualities. “He was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent,” so King Darius planned to promote Daniel to second in command over the entire Persian empire. What would the other governors think? How would they respond to this news?
They should have been grateful that the most qualified person was being promoted to a position that would have a positive impact on the entire empire. Daniel’s impeccable character and amazing administrative skill would certainly bring stability and blessing to the citizens of this nation and to the governors as well. This should have been a time of celebration!
But instead of expressing gratitude for Daniel’s promotion, they were driven by envy. To the governors, Daniel’s promotion was a problem; while Daniel was in this position, they could never be. So, they devised a scheme to take Daniel out, to trip him up. They advised the king to write a new law which they knew Daniel could not obey. That’s how Daniel ended up in the den of lions.
How do you feel when the new and more talented kid shows up at school and takes your spot (or your kid’s spot) in the starting lineup? How do you respond when you’ve worked faithfully at the company for many years, yet your employer chooses to hire an outsider instead of you to bring their skills and new vision to the company? Can you celebrate when your neighbor has a green tractor and you’re stuck with a red one? (I’m revealing my biases.)
The irony of this story is that those who tried to destroy Daniel ended up destroying themselves. The envious governors in this story became lion food. Envy has this destructive power. When you feel envy creeping into your thoughts, ask God to replace it with an attitude of gratitude. Do you sincerely celebrate the successes and joys of others? If not, don’t be surprised if you hear the growl of hungry lions.
Pastor Van Holloway is the Staff Elder at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Xenia and guest columnist.