Gratitude – the remedy for envy

When we’re tempted to covet someone’s possessions or talents, gratitude for what God has already given us can guide us back to joy and satisfaction. 

Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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On my morning walk one day, I noticed that my neighbor had a new mailbox. The granite and redwood it was made of were exquisite. As I admired it, I thought of my own serviceable but plain mailbox and a twinge of envy rose up in me. And just the day before, I had read an address on a spiritual subject, and instead of feeling inspired, I felt jealous. My spiritual understanding and eloquence, by comparison, felt paltry.

I realized that the habit of coveting had been playing out in me for a while, and that I was breaking the Tenth Commandment: “Thou shalt not covet” (Exodus 20:17). This brought me up short and made me feel uncomfortable, so I began to do something I always find helpful: pray for inspiration.

Obedience to the Commandments could seem like a restrictive way to live. And yet, I could see that they were actually safeguards – like the channel markers in the river near where I live that keep boats from getting mired in the marshes along the shore. They act as spiritual boundaries that guide us and keep us from drifting off into quagmires of difficulties.

So what was the one about being envious keeping me safe from? I realized that if we’re feeling envy, we’re not feeling gratitude for what God has given us.

The Bible assures us, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17). Christian Science helps us understand that because these gifts, or qualities, come from divine Spirit, they are not material, but spiritual and indestructible and ours forever. Qualities such as benevolence, gratitude, humility, generosity, and tenderness are gifts God bestows upon all His children. God is pure goodness, and as Christ Jesus taught, “It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).

Envy clouds our view of the bounty that God freely and generously gives each of His children, without measure. So in a way, the commandment not to covet is like a directive not to forget to be grateful. This statement by the discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” is thought-provoking: “Are we really grateful for the good already received? Then we shall avail ourselves of the blessings we have, and thus be fitted to receive more” (p. 3).

These ideas brought the value of this commandment to life for me. God’s children cannot be made to feel deprived, discontented, or dissatisfied, because in truth God has bestowed unlimited goodness on each of us. And in turn, gratitude for this spiritual fact makes us feel God’s gifts even more tangibly. It was as if God was telling me, “Don’t focus on what you don’t have. Open your eyes and your heart to what I am pouring forth to you.”

Science and Health explains, “Love is impartial and universal in its adaptation and bestowals” (p. 13). God, divine Love, has given all of us gifts to use and share, blessing not only ourselves but others too. Each quality, lived and loved, is essential, representing the completeness of God’s creation.

What a healing realization this was! I began to take note of the gifts God had given me. By the time I finished my walk, gratitude, instead of discontent and dissatisfaction, was welling up in my heart. And it’s been a lasting lesson on the power of genuine gratitude to displace discontent and jealousy.

I’m learning that it’s vital to remember our God-given gifts daily. This Thanksgiving and every day, we can treasure the opportunity to gratefully acknowledge God’s abundant love and care for all, which sets us on a productive and joyous path.

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