At the outset, I want to make clear that this is not a sermon. This is not going to be a writing where I have already reached a conclusion, and I’m trying to convince you to reach that same conclusion. I’m simply letting you in on some thoughts that have been going through my mind as I wrestle with this topic. I invite you to reflect on the following things and add your own input to the discussion.
Through the warmer months of the year various articles on modesty will make the rounds, inspiring discussion and debate. The discussion usually involves some tension between the responsibility of individuals to control their own eyes and thoughts vs. the responsibility of other individuals to avoid causing unnecessary temptation by wearing sexy, revealing clothing. Love of God and our fellow man would seem to offer constraint on both sides of that equation. The beholder certainly must take responsibility for him/herself, and will answer accordingly. Also, a godly person surely does not want to be the occasion of another’s sin. In fact, Jesus seems to take this very seriously as he says in Luke 17:1-2, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin”(ESV).
Now please don’t be sidetracked by the preceding paragraph. It was meant to be illustrative of a point rather than the point itself. This article is not about lust, but rather about a very similar sinful desire – envy. One site defines envy as “a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck.” It occurs to me that there is a very similar tension. The beholder is responsible for their own thoughts and attitudes, however a godly person would not want to be the occasion of another’s sin.
The question that I’m really getting at is, “How do the things that I present (ex: through social media) contribute to tempting my brother or sister to envy?” For the sake of discussion, let’s put aside the question of whether it is sinful to cause someone else’s temptation. Let’s just assume that you (the reader) don’t WANT to cause others to sin, and are interested in avoiding setting out unnecessary stumbling blocks.
Here is where I’m asking real questions that I don’t necessarily have the answers to. I just want you to think about it with me. Should I post a picture to brag about my new car or my new house, knowing that there is a real possibility that it will tempt my friend to envy? Should I photo-chronicle my amazing vacation, knowing it is likely to tempt my friend to envy?
Of course, a person can take that line of thinking to an unreasonable extent. It would be possible for someone in a certain circumstance to envy almost anything we post. But let’s not be silly about this. I’m talking about trying to determine what we can reasonably do to avoid tempting our friend in an unnecessary way. Maybe a helpful guideline would be to ask ourselves “Is this post bragging?” If so (and be honest), then we probably should skip it. Is bragging about the new car the purpose of the post, or is it incidentally in the background?
ATTITUDES TOWARD ENVY
A part of the problem might be our attitude toward envy. Maybe we DO want to inspire that feeling in others. Imagine we were given the opportunity to take an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime dream vacation, but the caveat was that we couldn’t post anything about it. Would that dampen our enjoyment? Would it drive us crazy to not be able to share? Do we need the “ooh’s” and “ah’s” of our friends to validify how great the experience is?
On the other hand, it is fun to be able to rejoice with our friends over their good fortune sometimes. However, that is easier if their good fortune doesn’t happen to be exactly what our own dream would be. Much like with lust, what is tempting to one person might not be to another.
Perhaps people take envy too lightly. If they thought it to be a legitimate sin, then surely they would not want to arouse it in others. At least godly people wouldn’t. In Mark 7:21-23, envy is listed among the things that defile a person. In Galatians 5:20-21, envy is listed as a work of the flesh that will keep a person out of heaven. Romans 13:13, exhorts us, “Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.” It seems clear that envy is a soul-condemning sin according to the Bible. Regardless of how socially acceptable it might be, a godly person must take it seriously. We would not post porn designed to cause our friend to lust, so why would we post things designed to cause our friend to envy?
There are fine lines here and lots of gray areas. I’m not judging any of you on your past posts. I’ve done nearly everything that I’ve mentioned in this post. I simply want to start you thinking about the subject.
So what are your thoughts? How conscious should we be about trying not to cause others to envy? What about areas other than social media? How/When should we share good news with friends to cause rejoicing, but not in a way that is likely to cause envy?