March 18, 2011

Lenten Study: 7 Deadly Sins—Envy #2: Brotherly Envy






     The following study is a journey through Lent, the forty-day pre-Easter season (which excludes Sundays).  Easter’s date, determined by the time of the first full moon after the Spring equinox, is very late this year.

     Traditionally, many Christians use Lent for self-examination and a renewal of their commitment to their faith.

     This year I  chose to do a devotional study on aspects of the Seven Deadly Sins, sins identified by very early Christians as key behaviors separating man from God and God’s will. The seven sins are not listed together in the Bible—each is, however, spoken about in various Scripture sites.




#1 Breaking the Mosaic Law

#2 Defying God or rebelling against God

#3 Acts of violence to others

#4 Failing to make proper sacrifices or worship

#5 Not living up to or reflecting God’s glory (not living as one created in God’s image)

 ENVY #2:


SCRIPTURE:  21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. 25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ 28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ 31 “ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ” (Luke 15:21-32)

DEVOTION: Jesus tells the parable of the Prodigal Son, whose return is good news. However, the response of his older brother is a key part of the story.

     Father and sons here are allegories of God and humans. The first son fails and successfully seeks the forgiveness of the father (and God). He is even is given a party. The older son becomes envious, disrupting the relationship not only with his brother but also with his father (and God).   

     Envy is the culprit—I am not being treated fairly. God reminds the older brother that God has been with him all the time and he has had all he needed.


     Bertrand Russell said envy was one of the most potent causes of unhappiness. It is a universal and most unfortunate aspect of human nature because not only is the envious person rendered unhappy by his envy, but he also wishes to inflict misfortune on others.

     The Bible story of Joseph and his brothers finds Joseph left for dead by his brothers because they envied the good treatment Joseph received from his father, Jacob. And yet over the years Joseph forgave his brothers, and loved them so much that he fed them in a time of drought.

     The antidote to envy is genuine love. The most powerful positive emotion, love, is our way through envy, even envy between siblings.

PRAYER: Loving God, make us willing to cast aside thoughts of envy and replace them with love and excitement with attainments of others. Fill our minds with thoughts of the benefits you provide us day by day. Amen.


To read the previous devotion, Lenten Study: 7 Deadly Sins—Greed #2: Neighborly Dog, click on:

To read the following devotion, click on: Lenten Study: 7 Deadly Sins—Anger #2: Anger With God



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Coffee Hour at “Echoes on the Lake”

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