Winthrop Congregational Church, United Church of Christ
No matter who you are. No matter where you are on life's journey. You are welcome here.
Sept 19: James 3:13 - 4:3, 7-8a
Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.
Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
Who here has heard the word “envy” before? Does anyone know what the word “envy” means? If you are on zoom, write the definition in the chat box if you know what it means. If you are in person, you can raise your hand. Who has a definition of envy you’d like to share? …. Yes. Those are all great definitions. We can all learn better when we help each other that way. When I hear the word “envy,” I think about being jealous. To envy someone is to be jealous of them. Has anyone here ever been jealous before? Yeah. Me, too. What are some things that someone might be jealous about?
· Getting to play on a sports team
· Getting to play a particular instrument
· Someone getting treated better that you
· Getting invited to play or hang out
· Earning good grades
· Wanting to be friends
Yeah, those are definitely things people are sometimes jealous about!! My friend Kristy told me that she used to get jealous when her cousin kept winning a game called Trivial Pursuit. The cousin won every time they played. Trivial Pursuit is a game where you answer questions from different categories and whomever answers questions from all the categories first wins. It turns out that Kristy’s cousin would read and memorize the questions in her spare time, so, when they would play, the cousin would already know the answers! There was no way that Kristy could win! I would have been jealous, too!
What is the face you might make if you are feeling envy or jealousy? I think you might cry, too. I think it’s hard to feel jealous. At least I don’t like it when I feel jealous. I get kind of sad and mad and want things that either I can’t have or don’t have the same as someone else. I know that it’s normal to feel jealous sometimes and that almost everyone feels jealous sometimes, but I want to make sure I don’t let envy make me too sad about the stuff I can do and the friends I do have or make me be mean to the people that I’m jealous of. Being mean to someone because I am envious never fixed anything.
Did you know that people in the Bible got jealous? Can anyone remember some people who were jealous? David, Isaac, God, Sarah, Jesus’ friend, the disciples? The part of the Bible that Rebecca shared with us today is part of a letter that someone wrote to a church to help the people in the church when they felt jealous. The person who wrote the letter was sure that God could help people when they felt envious of someone else. The writer also thought that people who want to follow Jesus shouldn’t be mean to people because they were jealous. God directs us to love our neighbors, not hurt them. When we are following Jesus, and feel jealous, we can pay attention to that feeling but not let our feeling envy make us hurt our neighbor.
So, what are some things we can do if we are feeling envious or jealous? I read some things that I found very helpful to keep jealousy from taking our brains over. I thought I’d share some of them.
· First, we figure out that we are jealous. Maybe we feel our faces scrunch into jealous faces. Or, maybe we can feel our hearts be kind of sad and mad together.
· Second, we tell someone that we feel jealous. Maybe we pray to God “I feel jealous right now.” Maybe we tell a grown-up we trust. Sarah, is it ok if I tell you when I’m feeling jealous?
· If someone tells us that they feel jealous, we can say to them, “It’s OK to feel jealous, angry, or sad. They are all normal emotions.” And, we’ll say thank you for telling us.
· Then, we can talk with the safe person to try to figure out what might help us feel less jealous. Maybe, if we are sad we weren’t invited to a party, we can do something else fun we enjoy instead.
· If we feel know that someone is feeling jealous about not getting special attention, we can remember the times when that person got special attention in the past and also make sure to set up a special time to be together in the future.
· If we are feeling jealous because someone has something we don’t have, we can make a list of 3 things we are really glad we have and say, out loud, I am grateful that I have XYZ.
· If we are feeling jealous because someone got a better grade than us, we can remember how hard we worked and how much we have been learning. Even if we didn’t get the highest grade, learning new things is always important and we can be proud of that.
· If someone feels left out, maybe we can work together to find something that person can do to be a part of the event. Or, help make a special event just with them later.
· Anybody have any other ideas?
I don’t think we can make envy just poof and go away. I don’t think the person who wrote this part of the letter of James did either. He knew that envy is something that just bubbles up sometimes. But, he did think that you can, when you practice love and mercy like Jesus did, learn to not let envy take over your whole heart. You just have to keep practicing finding ways look closely at why you feel jealous, make sure you have the things you need to feel safe, and build relationships with other people who can help you learn to manage envy with it comes. We have to find the wise people who can help us when we can feel jealous. It might be your teachers or your parents or your siblings or maybe someone at church. This week, let’s pray that if we feel envy, we can talk with God and people we love to help us feel better.
Resources consulted while writing this sermon:
Margaret Aymer: https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/revised-common-lectionary/ordinary-25-2/commentary-on-james-313-18-41-3-7-8-3
Carolyn Brown: http://worshipingwithchildren.blogspot.com/2015/08/year-b-proper-20-25th-sunday-in.html
Arnelle at Teaching Thinking Minds: https://teachingthinkingminds.com/2018/08/19/helping-children-overcome-envy/
Meri Wallace: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/how-raise-happy-cooperative-child/201904/handling-your-child-s-jealousy
Pastor Chrissy is a native of East Tennessee. She and her wife moved to Maine from Illinois. She is a graduate of the Divinity School at Wake Forest University and Chicago Theological Seminary.