Wednesday, August 21, 2013

No Need for Envy

Memorial of Saint Pius X, Pope

By Colleen O'Sullivan

When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage.  So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage.  And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’  He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you.  Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?  Take what is yours and go.  What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?  Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?  Are you envious because I am generous?’  (Matthew 20:8-16)


Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
(from “Count Your Blessings,” by Johnson Oatman, Jr., 1897)


As I was reading this parable of the workers in the vineyard, the words and music to the old-time gospel hymn “Count Your Blessings” played in my head.  We’d all be better off spending more time tallying up our own blessings and less time envying what we think others have unfairly received.  Truthfully, if we appreciated, even to a small degree, the infinite nature of God’s love for us, we’d be brimming over with gratitude.  There’d be no room left in the day to be jealous of what anyone else has or when they got it.  We’d be so full of joy, we’d want others to experience that same bliss, and we’d rejoice when they did!

It all gets back to how thankful we are.  Even just a bit of ingratitude creates an opening where envy can wiggle in.  Envy is ugly.  Envy leads to resentment and bitterness.  Not a pretty picture at all.

Matthew was writing to a Christian community that wasn’t so sure about all the johnny-come-lately Gentile converts.  After all, the Jews had thousands of years’ history being God’s people.  They envied the ease with which these “undeserving” new kids on the block received God’s love, mercy and forgiveness.  The irony of that is that none of us deserve or can earn God’s love.  We are each recipients of all of God’s compassionate love, because God is generous beyond measure.  Those early Jewish Christians already had what they were envying in their newer brothers and sisters.  Maybe they had stopped seeing it as a gift and forgotten to be grateful for it.


Every day, when you pray, take a few moments to reflect on the ways in which God has blessed you.  They may be small things, but if you make this a daily practice, it will gradually transform you.  You will find that you no longer envy others, because you have in abundance all you need from God – love, mercy and forgiveness.  You might even find it easier to rejoice in others’ good fortune, because you are so loved yourself. 

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