Last week my small group got on the topic of envy and jealousy. I actually can’t remember how; I think it had to do with one of the verses we were discussing. And someone asked what the difference between the two was. Do you know that not one of us really had an answer to that question? It’s not like they are deep theological concepts or Hebrew words! They are plain and simple English words but we couldn’t tell you the difference between them. We all admitted that we use them mostly interchangeably. So one person suggested that it might be a good idea to do a word study on envy and jealousy.
AHA! And that’s when I got excited! If you don’t know me, there’s nothing I like better than studying God’s Word and discussing it (calmly) with others! So I went home last week and did a word study. If you don’t know what that is, it basically just involves looking up each verse that has the word (or a related word) in it and reading it in context to get an idea of the meaning. It involves research and a lot of cross-referencing and I love it. By the time I was done I had four pages of notes on envy and jealousy.
You can bet I was READY for Sunday night. I was real close to bringing a couple books I have that talked about envy and jealousy but decided to make notes from the sections and just take my notebook. Better not OVERDO it. 🙂 But I know something about myself: I have this bad habit where I’m super excited to discuss something and no one else cares….so since this wasn’t actually our main study, I decided I was not going to bring it up. I would let someone else bring it up and if no one did, that just means our focus was on our book study. But since I figured everyone must be eager to discuss it too, it would probably come up, right?
Nope. We went the whole night and not one word on envy or jealousy. We had a great discussion on our book, but everyone seemed to have forgotten about the previous week.
When I got home that night, I suddenly remembered a quote that I recently heard from J.I. Packer in his book Knowing God:
“The fact we have to face is this: that if we pursue theological knowledge for its own sake, it is bound to go bad on us. It will make us proud and conceited. The very greatness of the subject-matter will intoxicate us, and we shall come to think of ourselves as a cut above other Christians because of our interest in it and grasp of it; and we shall look down on those whose theological ideas seem to us crude and inadequate, and dismiss them as very poor specimens. For, as Paul told the conceited Corinthians, ‘knowledge puffeth up… if any man thinketh that he knoweth anything, he knoweth not yet as he ought to know’ (1Cor. 8:1 f. RV). To be preoccupied with getting theological knowledge as an end in itself, to approach Bible study with no higher a motive than a desire to know all the answers, is the direct route to a state of self-satisfied self-deception. We need to guard our hearts against such an attitude, and pray to be kept from it. As we saw earlier, there can be no spiritual health without doctrinal knowledge; but it is equally true that there can be no spiritual health with it, if it is sought for the wrong purpose and valued by the wrong standard. In this way, doctrinal study really can become a danger to spiritual life, and we today, no less than the Corinthians of old, need to be on our guard here.“
To say I was convicted would be the understatement of the century. I should probably print that out and stick it on every wall of my house. I think a lot of my life has been pursuing theological knowledge just for the sake of it. Although I would never tell you that at the time. I always feel like my motives are in the right place but most often they are rooted in pride, instead of a love for my Savior, a desire to know him more, and to live practically for him.
Was that word study worth the time and effort? You better believe it. Because NOW I can see areas of envy and jealousy in my own life that I need to work on. Instead of it just being about the knowledge, it’s actually about the application of God’s Word; to God himself, to the world around me, and to my own life.
“If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.”
1 Corinthians 8:2-3