Escaping Envy’s Destruction
This morning this passage is going to present to us something I think significant for the Christian life. And let me just give you two reasons why. One is because of the purpose for which our church exists and any church in the name of the Lord should exist. And that is simply to glorify God and allow the Lord to conform us into His image. We live for His purpose and passion. We want to know Jesus.
If there’s anything that I want you to know about ABC as you’re here, if you’re here for the first time, if you’re here for the thousandth time that we’ve gathered, that our desire as a church is to know Jesus and to cling to Jesus and pursue Jesus and make much of Jesus, because we understand the reason which we were created for as people is to know God. God made us as worship beings to find our delight and purpose for our existence in knowing Him and making Him known in this world, right? You were created for relationship and that relationship is ultimately finding God, God made you for His purpose.
Something that really destroys the soul from living that purpose for which God has called us to in Him is this idea of envy. Sometimes we like to couple the thought of envy with jealousy as if they’re interchangeable and to some degree they are, I’ll talk a little bit about that. But what we’re finding in 1 Samuel 18 is that Saul is fighting with this idea of envy. And what you see in the context of this passage is that envy leads to the destruction of really King Saul. And so we’re going to look at the destruction that takes place and the idea of envy and how we escape it as God’s people.
And in 1 Samuel 18 this is where it starts. It begins to share with us this idea of Saul’s destruction through envy. Proverbs 14:30 it says this was, “A heart at peace gives life to the body but envy rots the bones.” And so our pursuit to look in this passage is to not follow that path that Saul is walking down. So how do we understand envy? Because I think that’s important. I said a little bit ago that we sometimes use the word envy and jealousy as interchangeable terms but they’re not entirely the same type of word.
And there’s a reason why we have two words here, they’re not always interchangeable. When you think about the idea of envy and jealousy, jealousy has to do with taking ownership of something that you already possess and that could be an unhealthy thing. For the most part it usually is, if you find yourself walking in jealousy is because you possess something and you become possessive over this here, jealous over, right?
There are a few Bible passages that actually talk about jealousy in a godly way. In 2 Corinthians 11:2 Paul talks about the church being jealous over the church because they have been a spouse to Christ and he wants to present them as a pure virgin to Jesus. So he’s jealous over the church in a godly way because his desire for the church is for them to know Jesus, to remain pure in their walk with Jesus. So jealousy isn’t always a bad word but for the most part it generally is.
Envy a little bit different than that. Jealousy, being jealous over something you already possess and it’s sometimes toxic to our life, there’s things that we’re jealous over. Envy is wanting something that you don’t possess, right? Someone else has this and you see it as this obstacle and so you desire that thing that you see someone else with as if it belongs to you and so you become envious of that.
And when we look at this passage, we really have both playing in the life of Saul because Saul is the King so he’s trying to hold on to what he feels belongs to him though God doesn’t want him to have it, that’s the kingship. So he’s jealous in that way but also he’s envious of David in other ways because they’re praising him for things that Saul himself hasn’t been able to accomplish. You see both playing out here, but I’m going to highlight the idea of envy as we look to this passage because I think regardless as we address one of them we’ll find a solution to both of those that we wrestle with as human beings.
As to what we find in these verses, in 1 Samuel 18:6-7, without even having to say Saul is going to become envious or even lay out the story beyond verse seven. What you start to see in these first couple of verses is definitely laying the groundwork for someone to get frustrated. I mean, in this first couple of verses what you see is David returning from battle with the Philistines. And David was successful in defeating many Philistines and so they write a song for him.
Remember verse six and seven, it goes like this. “It happened as they were coming when David returned from killing the Philistines that the women came out of all the cities of Israel singing and dancing to meet King Saul with tambourines, with joy and with musical instruments. And the women saying as they played and said, “Saul has slain his thousands and David his ten thousands.” And so you begin to see already this idea of acknowledging something that David has that Saul hasn’t been able to accomplish. And so the groundwork is being laid for this idea of Saul becoming envious. And then in verse eight you see it grow in Saul.
Then Saul became very angry for this saying displeased him. And he said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands but to me they have ascribed thousands? Now what more can he have but the kingdom?” So what is this envy? How do we begin to understand this thing called envy? When we look at this beginning passage of scripture what we find is that envy starts with comparing. Envy starts with comparing. David has his 10 thousands but Saul only has his thousands. I mean we can stop right there, I could probably just say that statement and then make an entire sermon over the danger of just that thought. Envy always starts with comparison. I can tell you real quick for a believer to get their eyes off of what Jesus wants them to do is to start worrying about what everyone else is doing.
You start looking at what other people have, you start becoming jealous and envious of wanting that for you too and you start asking the question, “Okay, God, how have you created me? God, what is it you called me to?” And you start saying, “If I were just more like… Then God. Then I could do the things that would really honor you.” And so we take our eyes off of the things that the Lord wants for us in our lives and the type of life that He’s called us for and we start looking towards other people as if that’s where the solution is at.
But let me just say this for us guys, God doesn’t call you to be like your neighbor down the street. God doesn’t call a church to be like the church down the road. The quickest way to get off the path for which God has created you for is to start comparing yourself to other people. God created you to fix your eyes on Him. And what you see in the life of Saul is he starts to comparing and comparing, he doesn’t appreciate what God has done and where he is in his own journey with the Lord. There’s no more rejoicing, there’s no more thankfulness in his life because he’s become so fixated on the other thing that he thinks he needs in order to find the joy that he thinks he deserves.
And Saul’s heart just walks in emptiness because he can’t find a hold because he’s focused on something other than what God’s call is for him. And so envy is about comparing and then envy becomes about desire. And this is what you see in Saul, he starts comparing and then he begins to desire. And then verse nine it says this, “Saul looked at David with suspicion from that day on.” And what he’s saying is Saul has a jealous eye. From that day forward everything that Saul was about was this comparison to David as to whether or not he was better than King David.
Not so much about, “What does Jesus think about me?” But rather, “What does other people think about me? Do they see me as better than David because all I really want in life is to be better than David? The reason God created me is to be better than David, am I better than David?” From that day on Saul had this desire, this jealous eye. And then the result of that envy produces this idea of resentment or vexation, animosity, hatred, frustration. You’re you can put all kinds of adjectives in the blank in our notes but this envy produces this resentment that you see a person as the enemy. No longer is it about an issue anymore it’s become personal. It’s not just about the idea it’s now about the person that’s stopping you from reaching this idea. You see someone else and what they have is they don’t deserve it. I deserve it.
We got to be careful in our lives because in envy we tend to mask our vexation in envy. We justify how we behave. Meaning if someone does something that you don’t think that they deserve but you deserve it because you know better what to do with it and you become angry of it, you can justify your behavior, after all you’re more righteous. And so it doesn’t matter what you do from that point forward because of them and so you become envious to the point that it becomes resentful.
And here’s the problem guys. If someone’s behavior is in the right or in the wrong, we as God’s people for us that doesn’t lead to the point that we need to diminish the beauty of someone else as an individual, does that make sense? Meaning just because someone has something and you don’t think that they deserve it, maybe even more envious of it and we want to justify in our anger as if it’s a righteous anger. Maliciously tearing someone else down is never what we’re called to as people even if what someone else is doing is in the wrong because what God is always interested in is the heart.
God is interested in reaching people. And if we’re not careful in those positions we start to justify this jealousy or envy. If we start maligning someone else or attacking someone else we have put a distance between the work that God might desire to do in someone else’s heart. The kind of things that we get envious for about, we get envious over possessions, we get envious over power, lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life, all of those things we become envious over.
I think as I relate to the idea of where we are today in our own culture right now, you turn on the news, you know we’re in a political season I’m not going to make this real specific to politics but I’m going to use this as an example for just a minute. Sometimes we don’t like what someone else does in a position of power. And so maybe we wouldn’t call it envious because they’re dominating over that but we desire to respond by getting power ourselves, so we’ll tear the other person down to have their position so that we can have power so that we can tell them what’s right or wrong.
And what ultimately happens in that type of attitude you alienate yourself from other people. If I gave it to you a specific example like today I know there’s all kinds of hot button topics but I know as a church one of the things that we stand for, we’re people that believe in the sanctity of life. Unless just for a moment you get all the power in the world to declare to the world that if you’re only here for the preservation of life and everything that’s against that’s illegal. And let’s say you win the day or something like that. Even though you may win the day and a position like that and I think the preservation of life is important, you can do so at the expense of losing the heart of others. Does that make sense?
Well, what I’m saying for us is this, as believers guys when I think about the example of Jesus in this world, Jesus was a leader of influence not because He became flesh and demanded power, Jesus became flesh and lived as a servant. And Jesus influenced the world not by holding political position and I think all of those things have a place in life. But look just because come November 4th and vote however you want or whatever day is or November 3rd this year and you vote however you want, in the end it doesn’t mean that you want a heart. I mean, four years from now things could change.
So it’s not this facade of, “If I just get power and I dominate and I’ll show everybody what’s right.” It’s this idea of checking a heart to determine why it’s sad, it’s not about maligning people. You see here with King Saul that King Saul has come to the point that he’s attacking David. And attacking David what does it do? It divides the kingdom and it never unites hearts, it’s always against them. And maybe they do have two different positions here, maybe they don’t agree with one another but they’re never going to win the day and what God wants to accomplish unless they work together.
And here’s what I mean for us. Don’t end what God’s called you to do in this world simply by going somewhere and casting a vote or sharing a political position as if it’s the only platform to live on. Man, God has called us to something greater in this world, it’s about influencing hearts for His kingdom. And there’s something that will stop us from living the purpose of which God has called us to and that’s what it’s saying in 1 Samuel 18 is envy. It’s jealousy in the heart. You get so fixated on what everyone else is doing and how everyone else is doing is wrong and this anger builds within us that we stop living for the purpose of which Jesus has called us to influence the life of others to make a difference.
But even if you’re on the other side of the fence to still see that someone’s created sacredly in Christ and needs to know Christ and the reason they’re living in such destruction in this world is because they don’t know Him, and the more I’ma align myself against them, the less likely I’m able to reach them for what God has called them to in this world, to know Him and to delight in Him for the same reason He’s called me. And so this passage of scripture is saying, “Look, envy leads to destruction.” And so the question is, how do we escape it?
Looking a little further in this passage of scripture we need to understand what envy does, right? In verse 10, let me read this. “The next day an evil spirit from God came forcefully on Saul. He was prophesying in his house while David was playing the lyre as he usually did.” What happens to Saul here? Well now in this state of envy he’s got this evil spirit and here’s what it’s saying to us, “A life of envy will rob you joy.” That’s what you see with David. A life of envy will rob you joy. In Hebrews 11:25 it says something interesting. It says, “Sin is fun for a season.” If you don’t love Jesus know this, if you just go out and decide to sin, at least you’re going to have fun for a season, right? But when it comes to envy, envy seems to be that one sin that as soon as your life is fixed on it you’re never going to be happy.
You always keep searching. “If I just had this,” you’re never content where you’re at. It’s always the next thing and the next thing and the next thing and it robs you joy. It robs you joy and you see this with Saul, it robs his joy. And not only does it rob his joy, the further thought to that is it destroys his soul. It destroys his soul from the goodness for which God has created in him. And then what we find is that his envy hurts others. In verse 10, the last part of verse 10, and it says, “And the spear was in Saul’s hand.” In verse 11, “And Saul hurled the spear for he thought, ‘I will pin David to the wall.’ But David escaped from his presence twice.” That jealousy, that envy in Saul not only did it tear him apart but it made him a toxic individual to be around.
Could you imagine without a heart aligned to God? Say I was in charge or you were in charge and really you’re the only person that stood in your way to anything that you wanted because you’re the ruler of the land, anything that your heart desired, what kind of individual would you be? And this is where King Saul is, right? Anytime his heart gets off course of the things of the Lord, whatever it is that he wants he can become destructive to get it. And you see that in that type of attitude not only does this envy affect him but it makes him toxic to all relationships around him.
He’s just a bitter person and a hateful person and a destructive person to the point that he’s pursuing life. And so the question then becomes for us, and when you look at what envy is, what envy can produce, how it can rob our joy. How do we not be that kind of person where we’re toxic, we’re against the things that God desires, we’re living for our own kingdom purpose and really it hurts everyone around? How do we escape envy? How do we find that life and joy?
Well, in 1 Samuel 18:1-4, really before it begins to tell us about King Saul, it describes to us another character. And this character is one that pursues the good things of God and really what we find in his life is how to escape the things of enemy and it’s through the character named Jonathan. In 1 Samuel 18:1-4, I’m going to read these verses I want you to just follow along with me here. It says, “Now it came about when he had finished speaking to Saul,” talking about David, “That the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David and Jonathan loved him as himself. And Saul took him that day and did not let him return to his father’s house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. And Jonathan stripped himself of the royal robe that was on him and gave it to David with his armor, including his sword and his bow and his belt.”
A totally juxtaposed position from King Saul. King Saul, anger, resentment, I want that, destroy you to get it. But David, Saul’s own son life, goodness, relationship, peace. How did Jonathan find that? Well, the answer I’m going to show us just point to a couple of verses here. If you look in verse four, if we look at what Jonathan did. Verse four Jonathan does something very interesting, something that most would consider this out of the norm, not typical response especially in a man of his position. But in verse four it tells us that he stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David with his armor, including his sword and his bow and his belt.
Here in this passage what Jonathan begins to recognize is the anointing that’s on David. That God wants to work through David, that the will of the Lord right now is moving through David and Jonathan wants to join in the cause for which God desires to accomplish in this world. And so in order to join in the way that God is moving what did Jonathon do? He strips off his royal robe, his armor, his sword, and he hands it to David.
Now, just reading over this, this may not look like a big deal. We think who cares? He’s the king son, he’s probably got a million robes but the symbolism of this is important because what it’s acknowledging is that Jonathan is stripping off his royal position and he’s handing it to someone else and not only that, he’s giving him his sword. And maybe you’ve seen acts like this in the movies where there’s someone who would just offer this before another. And Jonathan is leaving himself without any arms of defense. And David in these moments could just see Jonathan as what’s standing in his way to take the throne and take the sword and cut off his head and then he rolls, right?
But Jonathan is trusting in David in the way that God is moving and ultimately he’s trusting in the Lord. So much so that Jonathan is willing to step off his throne that should be rightfully his through his father in order to hand it over to the way that the Lord is moving in the life around. The second thing that Jonathan does. It says in end at the end of verse one, the very last few words of verse one, “Jonathan loved David as himself.” Now not only is Jonathan willing to surrender to what the Lord’s doing, but Jonathan is also willing to love those that are even in opposition to his position.
I mean if God wants you to take this position in order to do what He’s calling us to as a people in this world, then I’ll allow you to have this position in order to do that and I will love you through it all. And so John Jonathan is teaching us something about biblical love, Jonathan loved David. So you think about this in terms of your own family. Parents if we were to say, “Do you want your kids to be more successful than you?” I mean, that’s what Jonathan’s doing with David here. “Do you want your children to be more successful than you in life?” I think most of us, hopefully all of us will be like, “Yeah, I want my kids to be more successful.”
And why would you want to do that? Because you love them. Because you love them, right? Now we could describe a little bit about what we think success means. Sometimes our idea of success is a little different. Let me just say when you get to heaven or when your kids get to heaven, if you want to see them successful as parents, when your kids get to heaven I seriously doubt God’s going to be there saying, “What was your GPA in life? How many degrees did you have? What was your income? Did you play on any sports teams? You’re not good enough.” There’s a way that God judges success that sometimes is a lot different than the way that we do here in the world.
I don’t know why as parents sometimes we’re better teaching our young people to keep their eye on the ball than we are keeping our eye on Jesus. When we talk about biblical love we’re not talking about a worldly love, we’re talking about an unconditional, sacrificial love. A love that’s willing to lay down your life that someone else may succeed for the benefit of others according to what God describes as success. And this is where Jonathan’s heart is. It’s not about his power to dominate and tell other people what he wants, it’s not about him.
That’s what Saul wants. “I want to be in charge to rule this world, I want to be in charge to get what I want.” What if you get what you want and no hearts to reach? What if you get what you want and lives aren’t transformed? Is that what the Lord wants? Who cares if you get power and lose the world? I think it’s why God’s people have historically done better when we’ve always been sort of the outcast and persecuted people. God doesn’t call us to be people of power in that worldly sense but people of servants strong in Him.
And so you see this is Jonathan’s way of not diving into the envy because his interest is more in what God’s doing than what he desires to the point that he’s even willing to surrender himself and his position to follow the Lord’s leading and to really care about the people around him. And so Jonathan teaches us about biblical love. When you read about love in 1 Corinthians 13, you know that famous passage? In 1 Corinthians 13 and verse four, listen to this. It says this to us, “Love does not envy.” It’s impossible to love the way that God calls you to love and carry envy because envy in and of itself is to think very much about you and love and of itself is to think less of you and more of others.
And this is where Jonathan’s heart is in this passage, leading us to understand that in order to make a difference in this world it’s this kind of heart that sees that piece for which God has called us to in Him. The question is do you love in this way? When things in this world frustrate you do you attach a person to that and have your hatred towards that person? It’s worth checking, is there envy in your heart? Is there something that they have that you’re really seeking after to the point that you’ve made them an enemy and you’re maligning their image, them bearing the image of God?
Why did Jonathan do this? Well, his life ultimately is aligned in the Lord. And when you think about the story of Jonathan here’s what he becomes for us, he becomes for us a picture of what it means to follow Jesus, right? I mean, you think about in the biblical scope of things where else have you seen one who sits on his throne, who humbles himself to the point of becoming a servant for the benefit of others? That’s Jesus, right? That’s what Jesus was about. Sitting on His throne ruling, King of Kings, Lord of Lords humbles Himself as the servant of servants so that you might find life in Him and be blessed because of it. It’s exactly what Paul says in Philippians 2:3, “Don’t do this out of vainglory and this empty deceit, instead take on the image of Christ in your life who became the servant of servants to the point that He died on the cross for you and for me.”
In Jonathan comes for us a picture of Jesus. So what is the lesson we learn? The lesson that we learn is the freedom we find in surrender. We think about the idea of envy, envy is all me focused. When we think about the idea of what Jonathan demonstrates here it’s all Jesus focus, it’s focus on the Lord and what He desires. And what Jonathan finds in this is the freedom of surrender and the freedom in surrender.
When we talk about surrendering as a believer we’re not talking about just simply giving up. So I surrender I’m done with this world, forget it. When we talk about surrender as a believer it’s the say this, that in surrendering to God now you find a totally different purpose for what you can live in this world. It’s not measured by the kingdoms of this earth but it’s measured by a King that transcends this earth. It’s about finding the purpose for which you exist not in about you but in Him and allowing your life to live for that reason.
Jonathan knew the only way he would see God work is to get off his throne. That’s of one the most powerful things to prevent you from walking with Jesus in this world in a way that brings peace and joy with Him and love and beauty in your relationship with others, just get off your throne. It’s to see the destruction of envy. Envy is the quickest way to get so fixated on everything else that our eyes simply stop asking the question, “But Lord, what do you desire from me?” But like Jonathan it’s when we’re willing to get off the throne and stop comparing ourselves to other people but simply ask Lord, “What is it that you desire?” That we’re able to see the Lord work and move in our lives in ways honestly that we may not even have dreamed.
I love what Paul says in Philippians 4:12 and I’m with these verses. He says this, “I know what it is to be in need and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” And then he gives this famous verse. “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
I know sometimes… I think today the NFL starts, right? One day I’ll start watching sports again but the NFL starts I think today. And in Philippians 4:13 we often see athletes though, they’re getting in the end zone and they’ll quote Philippians 4:13. They hit a home run and quote Philippians 4:13. It’s like you use Jesus like this magic wand and any anything great you do it’s, “I can do all things. Christ makes us do all these wonderful things in life.” And Paul is saying, “No, no, not really. That’s not really what it’s about.” When you hit a home run, yeah, Jesus allows us to experience things like that.
But Philippians 4:13 isn’t just about all these great things that happen in life. Paul is looking at his life going through difficult times and great things. And he’s saying, “Regardless of what happens in life I’ve learned the secret to finding a sustaining power and all of it, and that is depending on the one who supplies what I need in those moments. I can go through any circumstance by the one who gives me strength.” He’s saying to us he’s learned to measure his life not by the things in this world because they come and go but rather he’s learned to measure his life by finding his joy for which it was created to be found in which is in Jesus. So he lays aside the envious things of this world and he gives his heart fully to God.
Because I want to be honest and say for us as people and maybe as American citizens, the idea of keeping up with the Joneses has robbed God’s people, God’s church long enough from really finding a satisfaction and the ultimate joy for which we were created to in Jesus. And there were places in my heart I know it’s got to be in our heart, not just me but we struggle with the idea of keeping our eyes fixed on Christ because we think sometimes in the the mystery of this world that there’s something out there that can fill me apart from Him. The solution to whether we know Jesus today or not is always to die to self that Christ may fill us up in Him and trust in the goodness of who He is that He can lead us forward.