What Comes of Envy

[Aaron and Miriam] said, “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” And the Lord heard it. -Numbers 12:2  

Dear members and friends, 

Moses had two siblings, Aaron and Miriam. Both were older than Moses. Aaron was the God-appointed spokesperson for Moses, and Miriam was described as the prophet in Exodus 15:20. In a way, it seems that the siblings were chosen to be there for Moses in his great task of leading and guiding the Israelites to the promised land. However, in Numbers 12 Aaron and Miriam went against Moses saying, “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” Tellingly, the translators of the Bible titled Numbers 12 as “Aaron and Miriam jealous of Moses.” But what was the cause of such negative and destructive feelings? 

In literature, we often find that jealousy ruins relationships and brings complete destruction to all matters. The English definition for jealous is “feeling or showing envy of someone or their achievements and advantages.” The word envy, then, is defined as “desire to have a quality, possession, or other desirable attribute belonging to (someone else).” The word envy originates from the Latin word invidere, which itself is a combination of in- (into) + videre (to see), meaning “regard maliciously, grudge.” This definition seems to include ancient people’s acknowledgement that the act of gazing longingly upon others’ possessions often has only one meaning: they desire to have what belongs to others. This desire is problematic for two reasons: 1. Often, the object of the desire is not attainable to the one who desires it; 2. When it is acknowledged that it is not possible to acquire what others possess, a very strong feeling of jealousy might arise in one’s heart. This tendency of ours is described in the Bible as early as Genesis 3, wherein the snake deceived the hesitant woman by saying, “you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” This was the initiation of the Fall of humanity. Thus, envy and jealousy are, according to the Bible, the root cause of what ruins relationships, and to a degree the quality of our life itself. 

My brothers and sisters in God, let us take a moment of contemplation. Let us acknowledge the truth that desiring what others possess is not only unhealthy, but also destructive for our relationship. Let us learn to be content with what we have and be grateful for what is already given to us. Happiness can only be found in the content heart. 

Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee