My wife and I are thrifty people. (Well, in all honesty, she wouldn’t exactly use that word to describe me.) Still, we try to save for the future and spend money sensibly.
We always try to purchase generic products unless we find their quality inferior to the “name brands.” Once I learned that most generics were manufactured in the same plants that produce the more expensive products, that made sense.
Nevertheless, as the illustration suggests, there are some places where it just doesn’t pay to settle for potentially inferior goods. Take, for instance, medical care and your children’s educations. We all want the best we can get. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
No, the “wrong” enters in when we begin to envy those who possess something we think we would like to have. It might be a nicer home, a newer car, or a larger television screen.
Envy is a deceptive thing. It lies to us. It beckons to us, saying, “if only you possessed that one thing . . . then you’d truly be happy.” Envy usually whispers, but it makes up for its lack of volume with its persistence. Once we open the door to our heart and mind, envy suggests—over and over—that if we don’t secure the object we desire, that happiness will elude us.
Envy does more than nag us. It distracts us from all of God’s blessings. With eyes focused on our presumed “needs,” we forfeit the joy that would otherwise flow naturally from contentment with our genuine needs. “Give us this day our daily bread” is not, after all, a request for more of this world’s “treasures.”
Another quality of envy is that it promises what it cannot—due to its very nature—deliver. Envy has a relentless appetite; it is incapable of being appeased. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “Envy is insatiable. The more you concede to it the more it will demand.” (“Democratic Education”).
Envy is so ravenous that it is used by Lewis to illustrate part of the torment of Hell. The following comes from his Preface to The Screwtape Letters.
We must picture Hell as a state where everyone is perpetually concerned about his own dignity and advancement, where everyone has a grievance, and where everyone lives the deadly serious passions of envy, self-importance, and resentment.
It’s probably no accident God included repeated prohibitions against coveting in the Ten Commandments.
In light of the demands levied by envy, I choose to reject it whenever I recognize its whisper. I opt instead for giving thanks for the innumerable blessings I’ve received. And, I ponder the responsibility that comes with God’s generosity . . . not least of which is the duty to remain thrifty, so that I have more of those blessings available to share with others.