The Grass is always Greener on the Other Side – Nov. 3, 2019

In 1991, Tonya Harding was one of the most prominent figure skaters to emerge and excel on the ice. Having won the US figure skating Championship, she set her sights on the 1992 Winter Olympics in France.

Tonya was prone to bouts of asthma and illness and even though she was a powerful skater, she often felt inferior to others. In the 1992 Winter Olympics, Tonya Harding finished in a disappointing fourth place.

Even though she was the first woman to complete a triple axel in a short program, was the first woman to complete 2 triple axels in a single competition and was the first woman to ever complete a triple axel combination with a double toe loop, she was never able to perform them at the Olympics.

Then in 1994, Nancy Kerrigan emerged as the United States best female figure skater and a favorite for the Gold. Nancy was tall, beautiful and graceful, everything that Tonya wanted and admired but was not.

On January 6, 1994, skater Nancy Kerrigan was attacked by a metal-baton-wielding assailant as she left practice in Detroit. Highly favored and expected to win big ‘at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway’; she was forced to the sidelines to recover.

In her absence, Tonya Harding captured the spotlight. She won the US title and a spot on the Olympic team. Kerrigan would recover in time to compete in the Olympics and would receive a Silver metal. Harding placed a distant 8th.

Later on, the details of the attack became public. Tonya Harding and her husband had hired a hitman to attack Nancy, so she would have a better chance at the gold medal.

Tonya ‘revealed to the man she hired’ that she wanted Nancy Kerrigan eliminated from the competition because she was envious of her looks and skill.

In 1994, Tonya Harding pled guilty to hindering the prosecution in the attack on Nancy Kerrigan. She received 3-years’ probation, 500 hours of community service and a $160 thousand dollar fine. She was then banned for life from the US Figure skating Championships and from all world-wide competitions.

Tonya Harding had great promise but her insecurities, envy and jealousy; took her down the path of ruin. While she was still a talented athlete in many ways, her name will forever be marred in scandal and disgrace.

Envy is defined as wanting what someone else has and resenting them for having it. Envy turned inward leads to jealousy, slander, bitterness and a desire to see others suffer.

To envy is highly selfish and can be self-defeating.

An old Greek saying goes, “As rust corrupts iron, so envy corrupts man.” Over time, envy steals your joy because it leaves you focused on what you do not have, instead of being thankful for what you do have.

Proverbs 14:30 reads, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones”.

In Mark 7:20-22, Jesus said, “What comes out of a man is what makes him unclean. For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.”

Envy and a desire to know what God knows got Adam and Eve kicked out of the Garden of Eden. Cain envied Abel’s sacrifice and God’s blessing upon him, that’s why he killed him.

Aaron and Miriam were envious of the position God gave to their brother Moses. Jacob envied Esau, his older brother, and it led him to steal his brothers blessing. Saul was envious of David which led him to pursue and attempt to kill him. Leah was envious of Rachel’s beauty and her husband’s love.

The apostle Peter was envious of John, the disciple Jesus loved. Martha was envious of Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus. Mordecai was jealous of Haman which led to his death on the gallows.

And finally, Lucifer was jealous of God which led to his downfall from heaven and that only scratches the surface of the stories in the Bible.

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the story of Joseph. Joseph was the youngest son of Israel (also known as Jacob) and his father loved him more than his other 11 sons. Clearly, we already have a dilemma. 

Jacob loved Joseph so much, that he had someone make a richly ornamented coat of many colors for his son. Joseph was already arrogant, proud and a dreamer. His fancy coat just pushed the others over the edge they envied it and the love their father showered on him.

Soon, their griping turned to scheming, which lead to anger and hate and to action. They ridiculed him, stole his coat, roughed him up and threw him into a dry cistern. Several of the brothers wanted to kill him, but Reuben forbid it. So instead, they sold him off as a slave. Then they rejoiced at his misfortune.

English crime novelist Dorothy Sayers said, “Envy begins by asking, “Why should I not enjoy what others enjoy? And it ends by demanding, “Why should others enjoy what I may not”.

Envy is a deep resentment that turns friends into enemies, teammates into bitter competitors and lovers into jealous stalkers. As a rule, we envy those most who are like us but seem to have an advantage.

Musicians envy musicians (think Amadeus), parents envy other parents (with or without kids), professors envy other professors (especially when the get published) and Pastors envy other famous pastors.

I must admit, I was a little envious and jealous of Cindy some years ago. When I was working to get ordained, Cindy came to Indiana and was grand-fathered into the system and ordained before me. She was also able to go to the Holy Land. When I was ordained, they no longer did that for new pastors.

Yet, I was very happy for her – and glad she was able to have that opportunity. Envy can lead to rejoicing but also to resentment. It can turn others into rivals and enemies of we allow it to.

What is your response when someone else gets and flaunts what you want? How do you feel when another employee gets the raise or promotion, that you believe you deserve? Or when someone gets pregnant easily after you tried but failed over several years?

On the surface envy doesn’t seem that bad. It is simply a misguided desire. It might make us work harder to get ahead. Yet for most, envy is just the tip of a deeper iceberg of trouble. It is like a skin cancer, by the time you see it on the surface, it has already run deep and wide.

And envy touches every generation. Elderly folks’ envy and resent those who retire early. Heavy folks sometimes envy those who are thin. Single women envy happily married women and married men and women envy the single. Even the child with a room full of toys envies the one toy’ that another child has that he does not.

            Envy even crosses over to the animal kingdom. Researchers at the National Primate Research Center in Atlanta noted the monkeys were perfectly happy with cucumber slices, until someone started giving out grapes to a preferred monkey, then all heck broke lose.

The Bible warns us in proverbs 23 and 24; not to envy sinners or the wicked because they seem to get away with so much. Envy leads to many others sins when we decide to take what we believe we deserve; for instance, another’s property or spouse.

Envy destroys relationships, hurts innocent people, leaves lives in ruin, judge’s other people’s motives, leads to needless anxiety, and diminishes our happiness and joy.

In essence, it is breaking the 10th commandment.

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house, wife, servant, ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor,” that’s from Exodus 20:17.

No one is immune from envy, but we can learn to lessen its hold ‘by focusing on thankfulness, encouragement and contentment’. We spend way too much time comparing ourselves to others, and advertisers play on our desires.

Are you content and happy in your life?

It is easier to love others when we are worried less about what they have then who they are. 1 Corinthians 13:4 reminds us ‘Love does not envy’.

Proverbs 19:23 reads, “The fear of the Lord leads to life; When one rests content, untouched by trouble.”

And Paul writes in his letter to the Philippians chapter 4:12, “I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances. 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 in want. I can do anything through God, who gives me strength.”

Have you ever driven by a field and seen a horse with his head through the fence, eating grass on the other side? Chances are, it isn’t that much better, but he thinks it is! Don’t allow yourself to be deceived.

Enjoy what God gives you to the fullest and give him thanks. Believe me, there an awful lot of things ‘we are blessed not to have’ in our lives!

I have known many people, who thought they wanted something that they couldn’t have, and when they got it, they wished they could go back. Don’t let your blessings slip away. Stop giving the devil ammunition!

Enjoy your blessings, count them daily and be kind when others around you get blessed. This one small change, letting go of envy, can brighten your world and help you truly love others.

Your assignment is…Make a list of all the things that you think you really want. Then, give it to God and let it go. Trust in God’s will for your life. Be glad for what you do have and know that he is looking out for what is best for you.

Amen.