Overcoming Envy

August 18, 2021
Wednesday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today


Going out about five o’clock, he found others standing around, and said to them, “Why do you stand here idle all day?” They answered, “Because no one has hired us.” He said to them, “You too go into my vineyard.” Matthew 20:6–7

These are very generous words spoken by the landowner. As the parable explains, this landowner hired workers for his vineyard early in the morning, and then again at nine o’clock, noon, three o’clock and finally at five o’clock. But at the end of the day, he paid them all the same daily wage as if they had all been working since early morning. The ones hired first were upset thinking it was unfair that those who worked just an hour were paid the same wage as they were. But the landowner concludes, “What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?” God, in His mercy, is generous beyond comprehension. But we, as fallen humans, are constantly examining whether we are getting our fair share and comparing ourselves to others. We tend to want more and more and easily become envious when we see others succeed or receive blessings that we do not have. For example, if someone is more popular than us on social media, or drives a nicer car, or has a bigger home, or goes on an expensive vacation, we often tend to notice with a sort of sorrow that we do not have what they do. And that is envy.

The cure for envy is wholehearted generosity. Not just generosity with our money but generosity with our affections and our ability to rejoice in the blessings that others receive. For example, if someone were to tell you that they were going on a nice vacation next month to a place you always wanted to go, how would you react? You might jokingly say, “Wow, I’m jealous!” Jealousy can quickly turn into envy, which is a form of sorrow over the blessings another has that you do not. And that sorrow over the blessings of another can subsequently turn to anger.

These workers in the vineyard who worked all day and received the same amount as those who worked only one hour could have responded by congratulating the later workers and could have even jokingly said, “Lucky you, I wish I would have shown up at five o’clock!” But instead, they grumbled and tried to interfere with the generosity of the landowner saying, “These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.” Again, this is envy, in that their sorrow over the generosity of the landowner led them to try to interfere with the blessing the others received.

Whenever you notice this form of unholy sorrow within you, take notice. It means that you lack a selfless generosity toward others. And if you see God blessing another in spiritual riches, try to generously rejoice in that. Offer praise and thanks to God for His goodness. Don’t dwell on yourself and dismiss every temptation to compare. In many ways, everyone of us is represented by those who worked only one hour and received the full daily wage. This is because we could never earn the grace of salvation. The one and only reason we are able to receive the gift of eternal salvation and every other grace given to us by God is because God is infinitely generous. Therefore, the goodness and generosity of God must be our constant focus, and we must rejoice in that generosity when it is given to us and when it is also given to others.

Reflect, today, upon any tendency you have toward envy. Think about the blessings that others have been given that you have not. Sincerely look at your interior reaction to that and pray that God will grant you the gift of being able to be generous in your rejoicing in those blessings. Every blessing given by God must be the cause of our joy, no matter if those blessings are bestowed upon us or upon others.

My most generous Lord, You bestow Your blessings upon all in superabundance. When I witness the ways that others are blessed by You, help me to foster a sincere gratitude for all that they have received. Help me truly rejoice in the many ways You bless all Your people. Free me from envy, dear Lord, so that I am not burdened down by that ugly sin. Jesus, I trust in You.

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Featured image above: Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard By Johann Christian Brand, via Web Gallery of Art