We have all seen and experienced vanity too many times. The more vain we are, the easier it is to see. What is harder to decipher is envy. Vanity often sticks out all over. Envy cloaks itself in kind words, mimicry, apparent validation of others, etc.
What Stott has alluded to in how the Pharisees treated Jesus is an interesting connection to both terms. They are a two sided coin of unrestrained self centeredness.
I wonder, which comes first, vanity then envy, or because envy is less obvious, does envy come first? And, is one instrumental to the other. Down inside of me I am envious of people, circumstances, opportunities, so my vanity increases. Or, do I nurture vanity therefore I am envious of anything and everything?
Whatever, my years tell me that both are an epidemic among church leaders. Too many want to be big and famous. Of course, we cloak this in appropriate spiritual vocabulary. But, underneath, we do not like being “insignificant.” “You appear to be loved by so many! How can I be like you?!”
Such thinking easily plays into the hands of our flesh. And, when Satan sees it, he loves to throw gasoline onto the fire. Unless we allow the Spirit of God to sometimes “ruthlessly” turn the thoughts and intentions of our minds, and, the desires of our hearts under the gaze of God, we miss the signs of our own slide into vanity with the result that we envy what we don’t have.
I think that this is the correct way to look at envy. It is not so much that I want something someone else has or is. It is more that don’t like what I have. What I think that I deserve!
Whatever, the source of all such envy is egos out of control. And, we can’t, maybe better said, don’t want to see it. We think of ourselves, the roles that we see ourselves playing for God, with corrupted and distorted lenses.
We are after all, only servants! In Luke 17:10 reminds us. “So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”
A better grip on our creation after the image of God and our re-creation after the image of Jesus Christ, would regularly remind us that we belong to another. We are created beings under the sovereignty of Another. In Jesus, we are invited into relationship and given the privilege to represent Him.
What have I to envy? What is in me that I should hold so vainly? We, all of us, stand together at the foot of a cross. A cross that equally paid the price for our envy and vanity. Our being, joy and meaning are in Him!