Luke 22:24-27 (NRSV)
24 A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 But he said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. 27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.
I remember (many years ago now) eating lunch with Taylor at her school during National School Lunch Week. Taylor was in the second grade at the time. We lined up with her class and walked to the cafeteria in a single file line to receive our tacos and burritos on school lunch plates sitting atop the brightly colored cafeteria trays. Beverly and I sat in tiny little chairs with our knees bumping the bottom of the tables. There's nothing like eating in an acoustically live room with a bunch of second and third graders!
After the meal, we lined up to dispose of our leftovers and trash. Paper products went into one can and leftover food went into another. We handed over our silverware and compartmentalized plate to be scrubbed, washed, and disinfected by a giant stainless steel commercial dishwasher. We then lined up single file again to be led back to the classroom where the parents were dismissed.
While standing in line one of Taylor's classmates looked at me and asked, "Are you Taylor's dad?" "Yes I am," I replied. "Were you there when Taylor got stitches in her knee?" (Taylor had fallen at a church choir picnic requiring stitches). "Did she cry?" "No she didn't," I said. "Did you buy her a present?" "Why do you ask?" I inquired. "Well, you're supposed to buy us presents when we're good."
And the disciples being envious of one another and desiring a position of power asked Jesus, "What is our award for being faithful disciples? Who among us will sit on your right and who will sit on the left?" Unfortunately, our lives are often shaped by envy and the expectation of reward. As disciples of Jesus, our lives are better shaped by wanting what we need-the grace of God in Jesus Christ. There is no joy or benefit in envy. As William Arthur Ward once said, "Blessed is he who has learned to admire but not envy, to follow but not imitate, to praise but not flatter, and to lead but not manipulate."
As Bishop Willimon says in his book, Sinning like a Christian,
Envy is the child of hate, by implication, to Envy our neighbors goods is not only to despise ourselves but also to despise God. To regard our lives as diminished, in comparison with our neighbor's life, is to despise the God who gave us our lives as they are. It is to say that God made a mistake in making us as we are, in giving us the gifts that we have been given, and by implication, in making our neighbor and giving our neighbor the gifts that have been given.
Be grateful for who you are as a child of God. Be grateful for your friends and neighbors and the gifts they have. Will you sell your soul to envy or fill your life with gratitude for all that God has done for you? Think about it.