ENVY over a neighbor's prosperity or a colleague's advancement can lead to bitterness. Even nations can go to war over jealousy-- triggered, perhaps, by the richness of another country's mineral resources or the fertility of the land.
Indulging envy--at the personal or national level--can lead to hardships for more people than just ourselves. But its most destructive effect may be that it keeps us from seeing the good God is giving us because we're so busy looking at someone else's life instead of our own. Such feelings deprive us of the joy, love, peace, and satisfaction that are actually available to all of us through our relationship to God.
The bleak view of life that envy brings--the one that says everyone else has more than we do--is based on the belief that we are merely material beings in stiff competition with those around us. The struggle for jobs, money, homes, or other resources can seem desperate or even futile. As James, a follower of Christ Jesus, explains in the Bible, ``Where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work'' (3:16).
Jealousy confuses us because it keeps us from knowing how much God loves us. Instead of understanding that we are God's spiritual ideas, fully endowed with whatever good we need for abundant living, we mistakenly believe that we need to take from others in order to find happiness. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, tells us that turning to God for our joy is a more permanent answer. She writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, ``Soul has infinite resources with which to bless mankind, and happiness would be more readily attained and would be more secure in our keeping, if sought in Soul'' (p. 60).
How do we look for happiness in God, Soul, instead of in comparing ourselves to our neighbors? We can begin by accepting the message of Christ Jesus that man is actually spiritual and is beloved of God. Within this spiritual context, ``confusion and every evil work'' are quickly driven out because we know that real value is found in the spiritual qualities we each express. Love, intelligence, purity, and truth are examples of Soul's resources, and these never run out. Nor can they be taken from us, because they are actually the substance of our nature.
Such a change in thought brings about a substantially new outlook. As James puts it, ``The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy'' (3:17). In other words, we can expect a natural outpouring of God's love for us in a way that will meet our every need. Such a peaceful outlook does require something of us, however. We can't indulge in any form of envy or jealousy.
In prayer, we can ask that our eyes be opened to the specific good that God is giving us right at this very moment. And we can be grateful for that good, even if it seems like a small thing. Affirming our spiritual nature as ideas of Love, we set ourselves free from the belief that we are locked in materialism's strife.
God doesn't forget to love any of His children. If, however, we forget that His love and His good are always with us, ``the wisdom that is from above'' can help us turn from envying and strife. This wisdom reminds us that we don't have to get what we need by taking from others; nor do we need to fear that we can be deprived of good. The good God gives us can never be taken away. It is--and always will be--ours right now.