Envy: The Quiet Malignancy
The Old Testament book of I Kings, chapter 21, records an episode from the life of the wicked Samaritan king, Ahab. There were numerous outbreaks of appalling wickedness in the reign of Ahab, wickedness which has been too often duplicated in human history. However, the events in chapter 21 present an evil that has become virtually the cornerstone of American life entering the 21st century, the evil of envy.
The account concerns King Ahab, in all his wealth and prestige as king, becoming distraught because an ordinary citizen named Naboth possessed a vineyard which he desired but could not obtain. Ahab sought to negotiate a deal with Naboth for the vineyard, but was refused because it was part of Naboth's family inheritance. The passage indicates that Ahab owned vineyards, some of which were apparently superior to Naboth's. Nonetheless, Ahab wanted Naboth's vineyard and became emotionally distraught because he could not have it. Finally, under the counsel of his treacherous wife, Jezebel, Ahab authorized a scheme whereby Naboth was framed for a capitol offense and executed, allowing Ahab to confiscate the vineyard for himself.
Please understand Naboth neither wronged nor deprived Ahab of anything rightfully his by owning and refusing to sell his family vineyard. Ahab had vineyards and grapes enough. Yet, Ahab felt very much wronged and injured because Naboth possessed something he did not.
Today we are told that our society is marked by a terrible evil, an evil which must be corrected by government. That evil being too great a difference between the wealthy and the average citizen. The commonly held assumption is that everyone ought to have basically the same amount of property. Thus, policies must be enacted to create greater equality in society, particularly the policy of unequal taxation for those whose possessions are greater. What is the moral basis of such thinking? Where is the evil in some possessing greater wealth than others, even than others can ever achieve? If a man owns a $10,000,000 house, has he deprived me of such a house? What right do I have to lay claim upon any portion of his wealth?
The prejudice against the wealthy and the attempts to force equality of wealth have but one explanation: envy and covetousness. These evils are the cause of much of the frustration and violence in our society. There is a pervasive suspicion, even hostility, toward those whose condition of life is superior to the majority. Why? The answer - envious hearts.
Yet, even more at the core of this attitude is the refusal to acknowledge the sovereignty of God in establishing the bounds of every person's habitation (Acts 17:26). It is grossly unjust for any society to create conditions which deny any racial or ethnic group the opportunity to advance through the appointed means of wise industry. However, God possesses the right to do as He pleases with His own creatures. And God has not equally endowed each human being with equal measures of intelligence, talent, strength, health, or opportunity. One indispensable factor to personal peace as well as societal order is to bow submissively before the sovereign dispensations of Providence while trusting Christ for the grace to be wise and good stewards of all that He has entrusted to us individually. Remember, everyone will be judged by what he has been given not by what has been withheld.