Provoking & Envying

Moon_13 “Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.“ - Galatians 5:26

Lining Up:

I have always been the kind of person that enjoys the outdoors, however, sports have never really been my thing.  Not because I did not try, but because I was not very good. In fact, I remember trying out for the soccer team in high school.  There were about 20 available positions and maybe 23 who tried out (small school). I thought my odds were pretty good. Sure, I knew that I would not start but at least I could wear the cool uniform and get all of the money, fame, and respect that went with playing on a small team in a small town. I was wrong.  A few days after tryouts, the results were posted on the bulletin board for all to see. Twenty-three names, and one bold black line separating the successful from those doomed to the high school equivalent of exile. My name was number 21. Although I was under the temptation to despair, one fact consoled my heart during this whole debacle . . . I was better than 2 other people.


Fake Self-worth:

In Galatians 5 after urging the believers to keep in step with the Spirit of God, Paul communicates that walking in the Spirit changes our relationships. Therefore he says do not be “desirous of vain glory.” This phrase comes from the Greek word that means, “conceited” or “falsely proud.” A person who is conceited is characterized with a false or fake feeling of self-respect or self-worth.  A conceited person is coincidentally very insecure; therefore they feel the need to prove their worth, or seek validation. It could be described as a strong desire to be honored, which results in constantly comparing themselves to other people. When they are better than someone, they feel great. When they feel inferior, they are devastated. One commentator on Galatians said that this is a description of the natural state of our heart without the gospel.

The gospel says that I am loved and accepted by the only one whose opinion matters. When I sway into a desire to be honored, because I want proof of my worthiness, I reject the gospel of God’s acceptance toward me.

Superiority and Inferiority:

When we are conceited like Paul described in this verse, we will be “provoking” and “envying one another.”  These are two different ways to relate to the people in your life.  “Provoking” is the way a person who is confident in their superiority treats others. “Envying” is the response of the person who feels inferior.

To refer to the story I started with, I have seen this pattern over and over again in my life. I envy those whose names are written above mine on the list (a list that I have created in my own mind), and I provoke those who I view as below me.  Both stem from a desire to get glory for myself, both are from a heart that is not secure in the love of God.


Because the gospel creates a right self-image, our response is one of humility. One pastor said it this way, “Rather than comparing ourselves with those ‘above’ or ‘below,’ we look only at our own responsibility to take what we have and are, and offer it to God as a sacrifice of gratitude for what Christ has done.” It is not my role to prove myself to God or others! God loves me. Therefore what I am and what I have is a gift from God and therefore I can love and serve others instead of using them in my little validation game.

C. S. Lewis said “humility is not thinking less of yourself: it is thinking of yourself less.”  As the Spirit of God through the Word of God began to reveal my conceited heart, I was impressed to really pray for the ones that I was most prone to envy and provoke.

Our team took Philippians 1:9-11 as a model prayer to pray for others earlier this year.  I also used this as the model for my prayer in this season.

"And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ. Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God."

Would you pray this for those you envy or provoke?

- John Moon

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