Now Adam had sexual relations with his wife, Eve, and she became pregnant. When she gave birth to Cain, she said, “With the Lord’s help, I have produced a man!” Later she gave birth to his brother and named him Abel.
When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground. When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.
“Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”
One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him. (NLT)
It is so easy to get envious when someone else succeeds as we fail. We ask ourselves why others get all the breaks, why their families are tension free, why their medical diagnoses are positive, why life seems to give them an easy ride.
Such envy leads to some problems. The extreme result is indicated in our passage today. We do away with the one we envy out of sheer spiteful anger. Most of us won’t get to that point, but we can end up despising or resenting someone who seems to be doing better than we are.
Of course we may be mistaken, which is the other problem. The people we are busily envying may be envying us. Appearances can be deceiving. Those we assume are sailing merrily along in life may be encountering stormy waters but are keeping them well hidden.
And envy prevents us from being thankful. When we are preoccupied with what we don’t have, we tend to forget what we do have. Jealousy kills gratitude. It keeps us from seeing those sometimes subtle green shoots of grace in the midst of the desert. It may well be that the grass is greener in another person’s life, but that doesn’t mean there is no green grass in our own life.
By seeking to grasp what others have, we risk neglecting the grace that has been given to us.