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Doing Less, Loving More
Most of us live very complex lives that move too fast, deliver too little, and demand too much. We often succumb to the push and pull of all the demands. We lack time for God, relationships, or ourselves. We know we need to change our pattern of life, but we either put it off or just don't know how to get started. In the end, there's a key question we need to ask and answer: What do we want to be known for? It is possible to break free from the high speed, high pressure, high demand, guilt-producing disease of our lives. The answer is counter-intuitive and it's found in 1 Corinthians 13. Discover what is needed to enjoy Spiritual Simplicity in today's fast paced lifestyles.More from this series
This is what we’re going after. This is the jugular. You want to become more loving in real time? Here’s the issue: comparison always leads to carnality.
The moment you ever compare yourself with another person, it always produces carnality. And if you’re wondering what carnality is, it’s just sin. You’re not loving. Because the moment you compare, there’s only two directions to go. You start comparing and you go, Hmm, I think that person’s up here and I’m here. That’s a lot nicer car. They have more visible gifts. I’m single and they’re married and I wish I was married.
Or it goes the other way. You know what? That person’s not very important. That’s an old dumpy thing. I wonder why they act like that. I wonder why they dress like that. And you know what? You don’t verbalize it, but you feel superior. You feel better than. And when you envy people you don’t treat them in loving ways or if you think you’re better than them, you don’t treat them in loving ways.
And so, here’s what I want you to see. We are going to go to war on the issue of comparison. And comparison, as one guy said – I love it. Comparison is like a mafia boss. Mafia bosses – they don’t ever commit murders. They have hit men. They never get their hands dirty. And so what happens is, comparison is really what we want to go after, but there’s two hit men. One is envy. And the other is arrogance.
Envy compares upward and produces jealousy, anger, resentment, and bitterness. And the text here, this is: “The foot says to the hand.”
The foot says to the hand, the foot says to the hand: this isn’t fair! I don’t like what you’ve got! I mean, I’m down here on the ground and there’s dust and my feet are dirty and then, and then later, people put socks on me. People can’t even see me. And then you have to wear these shoes and they kind of hurt my feet.
And look at you. You’re hands. They put rings on yours. You paint your nails. I mean, your hands do surgery, your hands play instruments. You’re important and I’m a nobody.
You see, envy always compares upward and then it produces jealousy and anger and resentment.
The word here in Hebrew means something that has connotations of something that’s red-hot. It’s this emotion that, when you begin to envy someone, something burns inside.
It goes something like this. You’re single and you have a desire to be married and you’re now with your third roommate and your first two roommates came home after a date and they said something like, “I’ve got some exciting news! I’m engaged!”
And your response is, “Oh! That’s wonderful,” on the outside. And on the inside, there’s this burning, “I can’t get it. I mean, I’ll tell you what. I’ve been doing it God’s way. I’m sexually pure, I’m trying really hard, I go to church. She’s a once-a-monther. God, what’s the deal? How come she’s,” right?
Or you’re in a Bible study and people don’t know it but they ask often, “You’ve been married six, seven years, you don’t have any kids?” “Oh, well, we’re just kind of…”
And you’ve spent all kinds of money and you can’t have children. And then you’re in one of these Bible studies and this group says, “Well, we were thinking about having kids but it’s been nine months, eleven months, and we still can’t.”
And then they come to a Bible study or a life group, they go, “We’re pregnant!” And like everyone else you go, “Oh, that’s wonderful!” And your insides go, God, I mean, we spent thousands of dollars. We’ve done this, this. Why do they get that?
See, by definition, envy is you looking at what someone else has or what someone else is, and you think if you had it or were it, then you would matter. Then your soul, then your heart, then your life would be complete. And, underneath of it, It’s not fair, God. If You really loved me, I wouldn’t be single. If You really loved me, we would have kids. If You really loved me, I’d be the top salesperson. If You really loved me, after I gave all that money, how could you let this happen when the recession hit?
And so, rooted in a belief system that God isn’t really good, you compare upward, and you envy. And the envious person has some feelings and attitudes that go something like this: I don’t belong. You don’t need me.
The feelings move onto a pattern inside the heart. And inside the heart it’s like: well, I feel less than them. You both went to school together. You both had careers together. Seems like their career is here and yours is there and when you’re with them, and you used to be great friends. But they talk about this world that you feel like, “Why don’t I have that?” And now, you feel less than.
And then the second step is you don’t want to be around them. Because we don’t like to be around people who make us feel less than.
And then after we move from feelings of less than, to not being around them, then we resent them. Subtle little, “My sister and her husband, how come they got the new car?” “That guy, that woman, that person at work…”
And by the way, these aren’t things we usually – they’re so delicate, and often, when you look at them and get them out, they’re pretty ugly. These are not, like, prayer requests. “Could you help me?” When was the last time someone said, “Excuse me, I have a prayer request. I’m a very envious person, do you think you could help me with my jealousy?” I’ve not heard a lot of those prayer requests.
The word literally means, in Greek, “to eagerly desire.” And often, the way we try and solve this is very unhealthy. I guess I shouldn’t want to be married. Why do I have the desire? I shouldn’t feel that way. And you just beat yourself up. That doesn’t work.
The word means to eagerly desire. In chapter 12, verse 31, it’s used positively. In chapter 14 verse 1, it’s used positively. In chapter 14 verse 39, the exact same word: eagerly desire.
Here’s the deal. It can either mean to be jealous or it can mean to be zealous. And the only issue is the focus of your want. He says, “I want you to eagerly desire spiritual gifts. I want you to eagerly desire to prophesy or use your gifts to honor and build up people.”
So, here’s what I want you to get on envy. It’s this thing called this eager desire for something. And let’s say that you have an eager desire. You have a desire in your heart for a bigger home.
And your motivation is – you have the gift of hospitality – and you’re not comparing with other people. But if you had more room, you could serve and love more people. That’s called zealous desire to honor God.
But let’s say you have a desire for a bigger house. And the desire for a bigger house is, everyone you know is getting bigger houses. And you are sick and tired of inviting them into your condo or your smaller house. And down deep, you feel like you will demonstrate that you have arrived when you have a bigger house. That’s called envy or jealousy.
If the desire is to try and matter more: jealousy. If the desire is, God, I want this to minister more deeply, it’s zealous, God-honoring desire.
You need to redirect your desires, not try to kill them. There’s nothing wrong with the desire, if you’re single, to be married. There’s nothing wrong with the desire, if you don’t have kids, and want to have kids. There’s nothing wrong with the desire to be up on the sales force to earn a better living. There’s nothing wrong with the…
Those are honest desires. But the moment you compare, you stop loving. You stop loving. This would be the time in my notes where I should write down, “Chip, pregnant pause. Give them time to think about the specific person that they envy.”
Have you got it? Him. Her. Fellow worker? Someone in the church? Sometimes it happens inside families.
Well, that’s one side of the coin. Who’s the culprit? The culprit is not your desire, it’s comparison. Well, let’s attack the other hit man. The other hit man is arrogance. Arrogance compares downward and produces pride, boasting, rudeness, and independence. All of which this passage say is unloving.
This is the eye saying to the hand, “I don’t need you. I see where we’re going. I mean, has anyone ever heard of a hand to hand conversation? It’s eye to eye. I mean, the eye is the lamp of the body. I mean, the eye is what’s important. The eye is what really matters. The eye is way better than the hand.”
You see the comparison? And by the way, it can be the exact same. Here’s what’s so ironic about this envy and arrogance. You can be in one room and the single people see this couple and they get married and the single people are going, God I just don’t understand. There’s envy and resentment in my heart, and she used to be my best friend then she got married. Now they’ve got a little baby, they all seem so happy and I’m so lonely.
And then you have the married couple with two kids or maybe three, and they thought they were done. They wanted to be done. They planned to be done. They’re not done. And out of the blue comes number three or number four.
And they’re looking at these single people, “What are you doing this summer?” “Well, I’m going to go on a mission trip, and then I thought I’d spend a week in Italy with a couple friends. And, you know, so how’s your week going?” “Oh, it’s really good. I had coffee over there, had a latte with my friends, a couple from work,” and the married couple is going, “We’ve been in diapers eleven years!”
And they envy their singleness and their mobility. See, it’s not the what. It’s not the what. And we compare upward or downward. The meaning of the word “arrogance” literally means to be puffed up, inflated, overvalued.
If the emotional color for envy is red-hot, arrogance is cool blue. Above. It’s like the blowfish.
And I learned, a fellow who owns a fish store, or used to, he said, “Actually, they fill with anything.” He says, “If you pull them out of water, they fill with air.”
I said, “That’s a good illustration,” because isn’t that what we do? Isn’t that what we do? Whatever our, you know, if it’s a ministry setting, ooh! If it’s a financial setting, ooh! If it’s a relational setting, we just – when you’re arrogant, you just fill up to try and project you matter more, you’re more important.
And there’s something that makes you feel secure by putting people down this direction. And we all do it. It’s rooted in comparison.
I almost hesitate to share this, but it’s probably beneficial. This is a social science experiment I’d like you to do. Go to a coffee shop this week, and you can say this is your ministry, at least, application.
At Starbucks, wherever. And then I want you to have a book that you pretend that you read, and get whatever your favorite – chai or coffee. And just sit there for fifteen or twenty minutes, not purposefully to eavesdrop, but just to hear. Conversation here. Conversation here. Conversation here. Conversation here.
And I’ll make a prediction. Four out of five conversations are two people sitting there talking about someone else who’s not there. And they’re either talking about what they didn’t do, what they should have done, and how they don’t measure up. And this group is superior or they’re talking about someone where this person makes them feel less than.
And there’s something horrendously, sadistically, and sinfully satisfying about venting, talking about someone else and how I feel better because now we’re saying that about her or about him. Comparison is the archenemy of love when you look at differences.
The arrogant, puffed up person has a motto or a mindset as well. And basically: I don’t need you. You don’t matter. By the way – the more gift, the more talent, the more blessing, the more position that for whatever reason God may give you, the greater the temptation.
This book is filled with people that started out very, very humble and, God, could you ever use me? And then they become king and they become famous and then the hubris kicks in.
Because after the attitude of: “I don’t need you and you don’t matter. I’m indispensable,” comes feelings like, “I’m superior. I really am more important.” I mean, they talk about other people as though they’re less intellectual, their feelings don’t matter as much. “What they do is important, I mean, for those kind of people. You know, obviously.”
And then there’s this entitlement mindset. You’re special. The action steps of arrogance is when you’re arrogant, you automatically become independent. You don’t need as many people. I mean, you are, you’re what matters. You’re the go-to person. You’re the center of attention.
And so, the more blessing, the more money, the more position, the more power, you actually don’t need people, and then the step after independence, arrogant people are independent and beyond being independent, it moves to the next one. Then they’re not accountable.
These rules about money and how to use it, these rules about sexual purity and what you can and cannot do. Well, that’s for other people but, I mean, my schedule and my demands, there’s a different set of rules for me. That’s usually well on the journey to their downfall.
And after the independence and the lack of accountability, then they become indifferent to the needs of others. And, it’s not often just from the words – it’s a look, it’s a glance, it’s a body language. But when you’re around them, they almost don’t have to say it, you feel or are tempted to made to feel less than.
Now, I’m going to suggest that we all struggle with both envy and arrogance but we tend to habitually fall into one camp more than the other. My personal camp is arrogance. I’ve struggled with arrogance all my life. Part of it is your personality, part of it is your giftedness, part of it is your family of origin.
I mean, can you imagine having a dad – when I was three years old, before I walked out of the house, there was this easel and he was teaching me to read and then he was teaching me to spell long words so he could impress his friends.
I’d go to the swimming pool that he managed in the summer and he was a teacher and a coach. And, “Chip, tell them. Intercontinental ballistic missile.” A three-year-old! Trrrrrr, boom!
And then he would say, “Chip,” this is true, I mean, “this country’s going to need a good president someday.” Can you imagine this? “And I think,” and so, the good side, you talk about a kid that grew up with confidence. But you talk about a guy that had a warped, arrogant view that God has been cutting through for years.
So, we all will lean one way or another. Often people that have had difficult pasts feel like they never quite measure up, struggle with envy. Why did God make her so pretty? Why did he get that job? You know, I’m tired of batting eighth in the lineup. That guy’s a jerk, and he bats third and he plays shortstop, and now he just went IPO in his company. That is so sickening. Right?
Well, let me give you a remedy, a very specific love step to attack comparison if you compare upwardly. It says: the envious must believe that God is good and has sovereignly and wisely given them what is best for them and best to fulfill His purpose. You might circle that in your notes.
Notice it doesn’t say: the envious must try harder not to envy. Trying harder not to envy doesn’t work, you’ve got to think differently. God is good. He’s in control. You are who you are, you’re where you’re at, and He wants to work in your life, and He’s for you, and He’s good. And every person in every season, everything doesn’t look great, He cares for you and who He made you is what matters, and embracing that.
I have really, honestly not had much struggle with envy in my life because of my warped arrogance.
There’s a particular friend of mine in another state – he’s a teaching pastor, he’s written books, we’re friends. We’ve had breakfasts and coffee, and we’re a very similar age – and in about a six or eight week period – to make the long story short, everywhere I went, his books are here. Or I look at a conference and he’s speaking here. And then a couple friends, “Oh, I’ve got to tell you, this is the most helpful thing ever and ever.”
And normally, it was like, “Great! Man, he’s my friend, the kingdom’s growing.” And then even my son was telling me, “Dad, I’ve got to tell you. I just, this guy. This is the best thing in the whole world.” And a little something inside went…
“Son, are you aware I kind of do some of the same stuff? I mean, I’m your dad.” You know? And then it’s like it hit me, hit me, hit me. And then I walked into a bookstore and his books are faced forward like in a Barnes and Noble or someplace.
And my normal reaction would be, Oh great! Man, someone solid, this is really super. Instead – this is so embarrassing – so instead it was like, I wonder how my books are doing? Okay, Christian Living, let’s see. H, H, H, H, H, I…J. Must be sold out. No, not there. Don’t even carry it.
And I remember, then I read something. And, I mean, this guy has really helped me, he’s a friend. I love him. But I felt less than. My less than was followed by, kind of didn’t want to be around that. And I felt resentful. And it was like, oh, this is so ugly. And so, I did very specific steps that God led me to, that I want to give you that will help you with your person.
Number one, I faced the desire, my jealously. See, I called it all kinds of other things, but I kept having this uneasiness. It really helped to say: I’m envious. I’m jealous.
The second thing is I didn’t try and squash the desire. So, what do I want to say? God, I never want You to use my books? God, I never want You to use my life? No! I redirect it and said, God I really want You to use my life, but I want to be Your man, Your spot, used at whatever level to promote ministry and kingdom. Not compared to anything or anyone else. And so I repent of that. But I long for You to use my life.
Third is, I meditated on God’s goodness. See, at the end of the day it was like, when you start comparing, it’s like, Well, if God was really good, He would have given me a mate by now. If God was really good, He would have, kind of, healed my body like he did this other person’s body. If God was really good, He would have…
When we compare, we begin to believe the lie that God isn’t good. The very first sin in the Bible, Eve was deceived because she believed God was holding out. Eve. I mean, you understand what this will do for you? And she believed that God was holding out, that He wasn’t good. And so, you meditate on that.
The fourth specific thing you need to do to overcome envy is choose gratitude and give thanks. So I began to thank God for, and I began to thank God for this guy. Thank God for his books. Thank God, my lands, my son is listening and reading this person. And it’s helping him and encouraging him. Thank you, Lord!
And then I began to thank God. And then I willfully decided, I just made a little thing, I said, You know something? I’m not going to compare, so I just have a new little rule. I’m not going to go into bookstores and see where I’m not or where I am or care either way. And I just decided, You know what? That little practice just sets me up for doing and having bad comparative thoughts.
You can be jealous or you can be grateful but those two won’t live in the same heart. You start thanking God for this person. Thanking God for His blessing. Thank Him for what He’s done. And then start thanking Him for what He has done, either you will envy what others have or you’ll thank God for what you do have. And you start doing that, I will tell you what, the envy will dissipate.
And then finally, connect with that person, if it’s appropriate, and serve them. Now, this person lives in a whole other state – so I just, I remember as an application, I’ve been praying for him. “Hey,” his name, “I just want to let you know, everywhere I’ve turned around in the last three or four weeks, God is using you in amazing ways. Thank you for your impact in my life and I just want to encourage you, keep pressing ahead and hang in there. Chip.”
You know, a few hours later, “Thanks, Chip.” And you know what? I was free. And now, we’re both, we’re in the kingdom of God boat and we’re both rowing together toward what God wants. Aren’t we going the same direction? And so I want to rejoice in that.
For the arrogant, you must admit our need and choose to be vulnerable in order to receive the goodness of God in their daily experience. Arrogant people don’t have people close to them. They keep getting separated, separated – more and more independent. And everyone sees them as powerful.
In fact, I worked with one group of guys recently. And I said, “Do you know why most of you don’t have any close friendships?” And they all happened to be in a room and they all owned their own business.
I said, “Because you can either fire them or disinherit them. And that’s why you get very little truth in your life. Because they’re intimidated by you.” And do you know what they don’t understand? They don’t understand how lonely it is to be, quote, as influential and affluent as you are. They don’t understand the issues in your marriage that other people don’t understand. They don’t understand that when you start having a relationship, in the back of your mind, you’re always wondering, Is this person trying to get into my wallet, my portfolio, or my rolodex?
And so you become an untrusting person, you become more and more independent. You will gravitate toward this very dangerous place of not being accountable. And then you’ll start using people because, pretty soon, affirmation is all you get. You don’t get a lot of real love. And so, you have to make more and more impact, and do and do more, and earn and earn more. And then so you use people to get things done and that’s called manipulation. And your soul dries up when that occurs.
Arrogant people need to choose to be vulnerable, so you need a safe place to do that, in order to receive the goodness of God in their daily life. And I will tell you that there’s three or four things you can do that will give you some real help here.
One is, remember that everything you have is from God. In chapter 4 of this book, Paul says, “What do you have that you haven’t received?” The brains you have, the opportunity you have, the family that you have, the money that you have, the gifts that you have, the talent that you have – they’re from God. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” You don’t own anything. You are not the blowfish. You’re just a fish.
And God can fill you up and I’ll tell you what, He can take you down. And you just need to understand, it’s a stewardship. God, I’m not sure why You gave me this position, I don’t know why You gave me these gifts, I don’t know why You’ve given me this family, I don’t know why You’ve allowed me to be single and free. I don’t know why You’ve given me this money, I don’t know why people look to me. But what I know is, it’s a sacred stewardship.
Second thing. Remember your roots. Remember your roots. You’ve got to remember where you came from. I remember Kaufman, Texas. Thirty-five people.
And I have a friend – this is a third one. Hang out with some people that know your roots. That, no matter what is ever written about you or what people say about you, no matter how many zeros get at the end of your name or how many letters. There’s some people who know you and, you know what? They are totally unimpressed.
I played golf two weeks ago with a guy that I spent eighteen, twenty years with as friends and ministry and he just, he has the gift of bluntness and I so love him for it. And I mean, it’s just, he loves – here’s the other thing. He loves me for me. Because he loved me when we were in ministry together with, well, he came on when we were surging. We were up to sixty people, or a hundred, you know? And he just loves me.
I have another friend who’s on our board that I’ve known for twenty-eight years and
he’ll bring up the past. And I know what he’s doing and I so love him for it. You know what he’s saying? “Hey, Chip, remember when you and I were painting your bathroom in that very first church? Remember the house with all the cracks in the foundation? And, remember when you did that silly, stupid thing?” “Yeah.” “Remember when you…?”
You know what he’s doing? He’s saying, “I love you, but I’ll tell you what, it’s God. You’re just a steward. You’re just a piece of flesh. And He’s filled you with opportunity and some gift and you’ll stand before Him on it. I just want to remind you.”
And see, the thing about envy and arrogance, remember? They’re just the hit man. The core is comparison. That’s what we we’ve got to eliminate. I’m giving you specific ways for you to say: I either lean toward arrogance or lean toward envy and how do I address it? And I want to encourage you here, that fourth is, admit your needs and invite people into your life if you’re arrogant. Admit your needs.
I didn’t want to do this. In fact, I came to last night’s service and I didn’t have this. And as we were singing one of the songs just the Spirit of God whispered, You need to share this.
I like to say this is from ten or twenty years ago when I used to be an arrogant jerk. But it’s from August of this year when I acted like an arrogant jerk.
A verse came to my mind at the end of a day. I’d traveled, and I had the privilege of having dinner with my older sister that I rarely see. It says, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately wicked. Who can understand it?”
That verse came to my mind from Jeremiah. And then this is what I wrote in my journal. “As I finished up my day of travel yesterday and enjoyed a rare evening with my sister, Jeanie, I realized how true that verse is above. They were all little things throughout the day or so I thought. And one by one, the Holy Spirit brought them to mind as I walked back to the hotel.
“I remember ignoring the man in the wheelchair going through security, caring more about my place in line than demonstrating servanthood or concern. I even secretly thought, He doesn’t need that chair, he’s just doing this to dish everybody.” Yeah, I’m sure you’ve never had those thoughts.
“Second, being so consumed with my work on the plane, I ignored the man next to me named Michael. Then, when he asked, ‘What do you do?’ I postured something about being an author and returning to the local church as a pastor. But fundamentally, I was just seeking to please men. I didn’t want to be viewed as just a pastor. I wanted to be important and significant, because of my miles I got bumped up to first class and I wanted to impress.”
God brought Galatians 1:10 and Luke 16:15 to mind as I recalled those events.
“Later that night, I had dinner with my sister and realized that I took away one of the few opportunities my sister could have to be my big sister and take care of me, and give to me and be blessed – and I insisted I had to pay for the dinner. Pride in its many insidious forms is so ugly. All of this insensitivity, self-focus, self-absorption. All the while, while I was writing a new introduction for the book, The Genius of Generosity. How ironic and sad. Father, where would I be apart from Your great mercy and steadfast, loyal love and forgiveness? Thank You for applying the work of your Son Jesus to my sin and forgiving and cleansing me last night after I became aware of it. Help me today to please You not people. Help me today to be a man whose life and motives are highly esteemed in Your eyes, not seeking to be highly esteemed in the eyes of men. Help me today to love people and not impress them. Help me today to not compare myself with anyone in any way, or judge or evaluate others based on their outward appearance, wealth, position, or perceived value to me or our ministry. Help me from any and all false humility or posturing that communicates that I’m more than I am. Finally, Lord, help me today to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with You.”
Now, that’s ugly. But it was in comparing myself with others that – my arrogance. And therefore, I was unloving to my sister. I was unloving to a man who God may have wanted to hear the gospel. I was unloving, because in my comparison, I compared downward and me and mine, and what I had to do was here, instead of considering others more important than myself.
Where are you on the journey? What if this week you said, God, I am going to attack the hit man of either arrogance or envy? I want to maximize my love so I can minimize the urgent and the demanding that is masquerading and causing my life to be so complex.