The Danger of The Green Eyed Monster

When I was a kid I wondered why we said someone could be “Green with envy.” Why not say someone was “orange with envy?” Back then, I thought it had to do with money. Money was green and that seemed to be what most people envied. If we search the history of the envy’s association with green, we find it goes way back to Shakespeare. Pick up Othello, The Merchant of Venice, or Anthony and Cleopatra and you’ll find the “green-eyed monster” in some form. That’s around 500 years of English speaking tradition right there.

Maybe, the association with green comes from the Greeks. For the Greeks, green (or paleness) was the color of sickness. Envy is a sickness, after all. It can eat away at a man’s soul like cancer. I’ve seen it destroy the life of a few people. It affects our vision of others and ourselves, our speech, and our actions. The funny thing that I’ve observed about envy is that when someone is consumed with it they can’t see the danger. In fact, with the examples I’ve seen, they think everyone else has a problem—not them.

We don’t hear a lot of warnings in sermons about envy today. We have warnings about sexual immorality, sharing our faith, or how to be the church—but hardly about envy. Maybe it is because I am a protestant and an evangelical protestant at that. We emphasize missions and the gospel (both good things) rather than individual, albeit dangerous, sins. Though often overlooked, envy is a big sin—it made the list of the seven deadliest for the Catholic church.

Clement of Rome saw the danger in envy. In his First Epistle he warns his readers against it. According to Clement Cain murdered Abel because of envy. He says, “Ye see, brethren, how envy and jealousy led to the murder of a brother. Through envy, also, our father Jacob fled from the face of Esau, his brother. Envy made Joseph be persecuted unto death, and to come into bondage.” (Ch. 4) The list of those charged with envy by Clement stretches from Moses to David. You may find Clement’s reading of the text exegetically flawed, but something is at work there. Was it just sin nature that caused Cain to murder his brother? Or, can we name that sin as envy? It isn’t that much of a stretch, even if envy isn’t mentioned in the passage.

Clement goes on to say, “Envy had alienated wives from their husbands, and changed that saying of our father Adam, ‘This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh.’ Envy and strife have overthrow great cities and rooter up mighty nations.” (Ch. 6) Envy divides. It erodes the created order of human relationships. Even the most intimate of relationships are broken because of envy. It is sickness that says, “I am the important one here! Not You!”

There is a cure for envy though.  It is the gospel (protestants rejoice!)

“Wherefore let us give up vain and fruitless cares,” says Clement, “and approach to the glorious and venerable rule of our holy calling. Let us attend to what is good, pleasing, and acceptable in the sight of Him who formed us. Let us look steadfastly to the blood of Christ, and see how precious that blood is to God, which having been shed for our salvation, has set the grace of repentance before the whole world.” (Ch. 7)

Dare we suggest that those “vain and fruitless cares” that Clement mentions might include “envy?” I don’t think it is a stretch. Envy plays a prominent part in the previous paragraphs leading up to this quote and would be in the back of the reader’s mind.

So, the cure of envy is simple (if we depend on Christ). Look to Christ and his gospel. Remember the wealth of love that we have in Him. Place our hope in Him not in material wealth or recognition.

My First Semester Back

negativespace-4I have been busy with school and I have not had a lot of chances to post here. This semester I’ve written close to 150 pages, and read over 4,000. This has been the busiest semester that I have ever had in all of my schooling…and I loved it.

Looking back it is a blur. But, there are a few lessons that I took from this semester.

  1. Prayer is key: Because most of the heavy reading was front loaded I had to read a lot of pages some days. For about four weeks straight I was knocking out 150 pages a day. Some days I wanted to quite (just for the day). Other days I couldn’t focus. I turned to prayer for help. My strength was renewed, I learned more, and most importantly, I felt closer to God in the process. There is a fear that studies will cause us to dry up spiritually. But, if you approach it as worship towards God and look to him for help, study can be one of the most fruitful spiritual disciplines you practice. It was for me this semester.
  2. Review my reading: Speed reading is great. I found that I could knock out 150 pages a day because I had developed speed reading skills. The problem…retention. When I arrived at class I found it took me a few minutes to remember everything about the books I had read. I had underlined well (usually whenever the professor said, “Did you guys get his main point here…” it was something I had underlined as a main point), but my mind had not processed everything together. I need to find a good way to review in order to get a grasp for the author’s work.
  3. My writing/researching system works: I wrote  around 150 pages this semester. That is the most I have ever written in a semester. Not all of it was research laden. Some of it was just personal reflection. But, half of it was based on research. This would have crushed me previously. But now, I have a method and it works. My writings may not show it this semester, but, I tested my method and I can see that it is a good one for me (I didn’t get to edit as much as I would have liked and one of my arguments needed to mature before I wrote it, but the deadline was looming). It isn’t perfect, but my method helped me write quickly.
  4. Focus more on my writing: I use too many words that have no funciton….in fact, I wanted to write, “I use way too many words…” I have to trim it down. I also have to state my argument clearly.I don’t feel confident in my arguments, and I worry about how I will appear to my audience. Zinsser, in his book, On Writing Well encourages writers to do the opposite. I think he had people like me in mind.

Therefore, a fundamental rule is: be yourself No rule, however, is harder to follow. It requires the writer to do two things which by his metabolism are impossible. He must relax and he must have confidence. (21)

 

The God Who is There (The Schaeffer Trilogy): Books That Changed My Life Part 3

This series is contextual in nature. I’m not writing this to highlight my five favorite books. I’m not even sure that any of these would make that list anyways. But, these are five books have affected my life significantly enough over the last several years. Situations in my life magnified their impact. They come in no particular order of importance.

I was at a spiritual crossroads in 2007. I had a reaction to a set of beliefs that I saw in current evangelicalism that bothered me. Whether it was an accurate understanding of the evangelical culture at large or a misunderstanding you will have to be the judge. I was having a reaction against what I thought was normative Christianity. As everything else in life goes…when you are reacting to something you see it everywhere and in everything–sometimes when it may not be there fully.

Either way, I had a bone to pick with modern evangelicalism (popular evangelicalism….not textbook). It was the idea that our faith was somehow separate from the real world. Science could prove our faith wrong, but it wouldn’t shake our faith. I took issue with this because I thought that if God existed then he was the best explanation for our world. If science “disproved God” (good luck!) then I would have to abandon the faith.

This idea that our faith was something that could not be proved in this world was irksome to me. Not only was this concept’s relation to the real world bothersome, but also the way it played out in decision making. From private interpretations of scripture (a big problem for the early church fathers) or divine calls and secret wills; God was used and abused by people right before my eyes. All the while God seemed like a chameleon changing his will as if with the seasons. Basically, people could do whatever they wanted as long as they had their secret knowledge of God’s will. Gnostics! Diviners! Bleh!

I had one foot out the door moving away from Christianity (or at least the evangelical church) when a friend grabbed me and recommended reading Francis Schaeffer. I began with Escape From Reason (not realizing it was the second book in the trilogy) and then moved to The God Who is There. In these books I would find another Christian who believed as I did (as I thought scripture taught) that the belief in God was the best explanation of the world we live in. And just like Michael Corleone, I was pulled back in….though still standing by the door, perhaps.

Since then, I have found I am not alone in my understanding of the evangelical world. And, I probably don’t agree with Schaeffer’s interpretation of philosophy anymore (especially his views on Aquinas). But as I said at the beginning of this series: This isn’t about the books that are my favorite. It is about the books that changed my life. Hats of to Schaeffer for keeping me a Christian, at least in name.

A Pure Heart- Excerpt from the Shepherd of Hermas

Again, this excerpt is from, Day by Day with the Early Church Fathers. This one comes from The Shepherd of Hermas. Given my last couple of months, this is a fitting excerpt.

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. (Heb. 13:16)

Be humble and innocent, and you will be like the children who don’t know the wickedness that ruins men’s lives.

First, then, speak evil of no one, nor listen with pleasure to anyone who speaks evil of another. But if you listen and believe the slander which you hear, you will participate in the sin of him who speaks evil. For believing it, you will also have something to say against your brother.

Therefore, you will be guilty of the sin of him who slanders. Slander is evil and an unsteady demon. It never abides in peace, but always remains in conflict. Keep yourself from it, and you will always be at peace with everyone. Put on a holiness that will not offend with wickedness, but whose actions are all steady and joyful. Practice goodness; and from your profit…give to all, for God wants His gifts to be shared among everyone…He, then, who gives is guiltless. For as he received from the Lord, so has he innocently completed his service by not debating to whom he should give and to whom he should not give. This service, then, if completed in humility, is glorious to God. He, therefore, who ministers with humility, will live to God. Therefore keep these commandments as I have given them to you so that your repentance and the repentance of your house may be found innocent and your heart may be pure and stainless. (page 9, no citation given in the book–however, we may assume it is from the work, The Shepherd of Hermas)

Hebrew Tutoring to be Offered

Taking Hebrew this semester and just now realizing it is not English? Well, I might be able to help you.

I’m offering some Hebrew tutoring. I’ve had over 30hrs (College, Seminary, and Beyond) of Hebrew and I read from my Hebrew Bible daily (about 3 pages a day). I’ve taught for professors before and I’ve even tutored.

If you are interested, hit me up. I am thinking of charging (to make a little money) but I’m willing to meet for an hour for say $10-$15 an hour. That is if one person shows up or four (four is the limit). So, it is something you may consider.
There is a discount for people in my small group. Completely free.

 

 

I’m Baaaaack

I have had one busy summer! I have moved into a house (my first), had my first vacation in years, and I have been growing a ton in particular areas of my faith. The main purpose of this post is just to let you know I’m back. I have a bit of a writing schedule now that will only grow the more I get settled into my new digs. I am looking forward to plodding away for about an hour or more a day on writing projects (I have a few, none for publishing….yet).

Sad news does come your way with this post (yes, all the imaginary people that read my blog will be quite sad). I just don’t feel it with the Christian scholarship posts anymore so they will be tabled for now. I do not want to encourage the idea to write when you feel inspiration. But for me, I’ve kind of beat the dead horse. But who knows, when I write great promises like, “I will finish this series,” I never do finish the series. Perhaps this time I will finish because now I am saying that I won’t. Perhaps I just jinxed that too. I have been thinking a great deal on the subject of the missio dei (mission of God) lately and that has taken my attention away from Christian scholarship. I am sure that the missio dei  will begin find its ways into my blog somewhere as I begin to wrestle with certain aspects of that subject.

I will not try to hold myself to a weekly blog post like I have done in the past. I will write when I can and when I am ready to let the world know my thoughts on whatever subject I am studying (because you are all dying to know them!) But I do not want to subject myself to such deadlines when sometimes the thoughts are just not mature enough to be out there. Though someone keeps screaming at me, “Write that down!”

Until then, peace out!