3 Reminders to Combat Envy
I’ve struggled with envy all my life. When I was growing up, I envied kids with the coolest shoes or clothes. Then as I got older, I envied those with more athletic prowess and popularity. That evolved into envy of others who had significant others or spouses. Nowadays I find myself envying those in different ministry positions. For me, and maybe for the rest of us as well, do you find yourself looking to other Youth Ministries wishing that could be you? Perhaps wanting the position at a larger Church or envying the gifts and skills of a prominent youth leader? Do you envy their success, spiritual growth, or attendance? The programs? The leadership and influence? How about all of the above?!
I’m not sure exactly when I bought into the lie that God somehow loves other youth groups and leaders more than He loves me and my group. I hope you haven’t bought into that lie! But here’s a few thoughts on what I (we) need to do to stop the comparison battle which leads to envy (Which is a sin! There’s a reason why “do not covet” is one of the commandments).
To Minister Is To Suffer
I think this first one I forget all too often. When I make a ministry about me and my “talents” as something to be judged by others, my thoughts turn over to “wouldn’t it be nice if I had a ministry that appreciated this about me…” or “I bet if only I had a bigger budget, more students, then….” Instead, I need to realize God calls us to empty ourselves, as Jesus emptied himself of his glories in heaven and served humbly on this earth (Philippians 2). Am I just out for my status, success, and ego? Or will I take up my cross and suffer well, regardless of whatever season of ministry I am currently in? When I compare and envy others, I’m making it more about my comforts rather than suffering joyfully with Christ.
Bigger Doesn’t Mean Better (Conversely, Smaller Doesn’t Mean Holier)
My brain can easily slip into the “man, if my youth group were this big, and I had this much staff and volunteers, then I would have made it into the major leagues of youth pastoring” mode of thought. But there are things that a bigger ministry might not be able to do that I take for granted at a smaller youth group. Conversely, we can malign bigger Churches out of sheer jealousy and think “man, I’m being so faithful-I bet the mega church across the street is not doing ministry intentionally like me.” Either way, we can fall into the comparison trap and envy other group’s programs and their fruit. When this type of thinking begins to creep in, I know I need to pray to reprogram my mind so I can remember God has called me to love whatever youth He has in front of me, whether that be 2 youth or 200 youth. Neither is better, and neither ministry belongs to me, both belong to God.
God’s Plans Over Your Plans
There’s a great quote by Paul Tripp’s book, Instruments in the Redeemers Hands, “We want to be used of God to move people from being joyful because it seems as though God is fulfilling their plans to the place where they have forsaken their personal dreams for the greater joys of participating in what God has for them.” We as youth pastors are trying to help people see this reality. But not only that, we need to humbly submit to this. It’s not about my plans of being a certain type of youth pastor in a certain church in a certain location. It’s about what God wants from me and you, flaws and all, and using us for His purposes. Much easier said than done!
In this area of envy and ministry comparison, my wife has often prayed for and with me,“God, kill this sin in me!” What a powerful prayer. To actually put to death that which hinders me!
“God, may you kill this sin of envy and comparison in me and in other youth leaders who struggle with this. In our world that celebrates success far too much and makes idols of created things, keep us humble. Whether in small or in big ministries, God give us courage to be content, and to find our identities not in our attendance, job status, or title, but to find security in your love, your promises, and your good and faithful grace. Amen.”
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