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Miranda Writes: The Ugly Green Monster, Part 2




by Omar Miranda



Last week I began our time together e-mail discussing the topics of pride, jealousy, and covetousness. I answered a 14-year-old who, in a nutshell, was upset because his friend continues to flaunt all his money and stuff in his face. “Angry” didn’t have the money to buy all this stuff, and became so frustrated and mad that he took something of his friend’s and later returned it after feeling guilty and promptly apologized. But then he felt a strong temptation to steal something from a store, but didn’t do it. Two questions came up:

• If your friend is so nice, how come he seems so prideful and keeps on taunting you with all his new stuff?

• How can you stop being jealous and wanting all his stuff to the point where you’re thinking about it all the time and wanting to steal it, and learn to be content with the stuff you have?

I encouraged this teen to continue connecting with God on a daily basis—even though he didn’t feel like it was doing any good—and to speak with his mother and with other adults.

This week I want to finish our time together looking at what the Bible has to say about what’s behind emotions such as pride, jealousy, and covetousness, how we can battle them with godly contentment, what can happen to us when we let our emotions control us, and how we can control these emotions in a godly way.

The Bible has a lot to say about pride and why we always seem to want stuff and it’s never enough. If you read the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon, the author, makes it crystal clear that you can search the world over to try to get stuff in order to be happy and contented, but without God, everything is meaningless. (He had actually tried it.)

But where does our pride and selfishness come from? Well, the Bible tells us that we have it because we’re born with it. We’re evil, nasty, selfish little sinners. I know this viewpoint of human beings is not very popular in our politically correct, postmodern culture, but the truth is the truth. Let me share two scriptures with you. The first one is Jesus telling us clearly where our thoughts, words, and actions come from: “But the words that come out of your mouth come from your heart. And they are what make you unfit to worship God. Out of your heart come evil thoughts, murder, unfaithfulness in marriage, vulgar deeds, stealing, telling lies, and insulting others” (Matthew 15:18, 19).¹ That’s pretty clear, but the apostle Paul, who used to be like this list before he let Jesus change him, details the problem even further. It’s found in Galatians 5:16-21: “If you are guided by the Spirit, you won’t obey your selfish desires. The Spirit and your desires are enemies of each other. They are always fighting each other and keeping you from doing what you feel you should. But if you obey the Spirit, the Law of Moses has no control over you. People’s desires make them give in to immoral ways, filthy thoughts, and shameful deeds. They worship idols, practice witchcraft, hate others, and are hard to get along with. People become jealous, angry, and selfish. They not only argue and cause trouble, but they are envious. They get drunk, carry on at wild parties, and do other evil things as well. I told you before, and I am telling you again: No one who does these things will share in the blessings of God’s kingdom.”

We also have to be careful that we don’t blame God when we’re being tempted by pride, jealousy, or covetousness. James 1:13, 14 says: “Don’t blame God when you are tempted! God cannot be tempted by evil, and he doesn’t use evil to tempt others. We are tempted by our own desires that drag us off and trap us.” The Bible tells us that we’re our own worst enemies. 

God makes it very clear in Exodus 20:15, 17: “Do not steal,” and “Do not want anything that belongs to someone else [covetousness]. Don’t want anyone’s house, wife or husband, slaves, oxen, donkeys or anything else.” In other words, when we decide to focus on getting what others have and are jealous of them instead of truly happy for them, we sin! I find it interesting that God tells us we shouldn’t steal (a physical action), and then wisely follows up with addressing the core attitude (coveting) that leads us to feel a negative emotion (jealousy) that can tempt us to steal.

So how do we deal with someone who is boasting and flaunting all the things they have in our face? I mean, this naturally highlights the fact that we don’t have those things! Well, the Bible tells us that we should rejoice with those who are rejoicing. But if they’re doing those things in order to make us jealous or because they’re trying to show off how much money or stuff they have—just because—we should kindly remind them and ourselves that they are being prideful and that God actively opposes that type of attitude (Matthew 23:12), because it is similar to the attitude of Satan (see Isaiah 14:12-14) and it is opposite of the attitude of gratitude and humility that God wants us to have. If a prideful heart isn’t corrected—either by us or by God—the end result will be the same: an evil, unthankful, complaining, critical, cynical, mean, selfish, snippy, distrustful, dried-up, prune of a person. EEEHHHWWW!

Also, I’ve found it to be the case that many people who feel empty and alone on the inside like to be prideful and boast about lots of things so they can put the focus on themselves and how great they are. But again, God tells us that if we must boast, then it’s appropriate for us to boast only that we know God and that He’s great and we’re not. Did you catch that? As Christians, we can boast so that God gets the focus, the spotlight, and all the glory (1 Corinthians 10:17; Jeremiah 9:23, 24).
The apostle John pulls back the curtain and lets us know where someone’s heart is who focuses on goods instead of on God. In 1 John 2:15-17 he writes: “Don’t love the world or anything that belongs to the world. If you love the world, you cannot love the Father. Our foolish pride comes from this world, and so do our selfish desires and our desire to have everything we see. None of this comes from the Father. The world and the desires it causes are disappearing. But if we obey God, we will live forever.”

So now that we know why it’s so easy for us to act the way we do and focus more on getting more and more, what do we do to solve the problem? Well, we’ve got to change our focus from goods to God. Jesus, when He was talking to His disciples about what unbelievers focus on and worry about, said: “Don’t store up treasures on earth! Moths and rust can destroy them, and thieves can break in and steal them. Instead, store up your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy them, and thieves cannot break in and steal them. Your heart will always be where your treasure is” (Matthew 6:19-21). “You cannot be the slave of two masters! You will like one more than the other or be more loyal to one than the other” (verse 24). “But more than anything else, put God’s work first and do what he wants. Then the other things will be yours as well” (verse 33).

Last, the apostle Paul—writing from prison, mind you—tells us the secret to being content: “I am not complaining about having too little. I have learned to be satisfied with whatever I have. I know what it is to be poor or to have plenty, and I have lived under all kinds of conditions. I know what it means to be full or to be hungry, to have too much or too little. Christ gives me the strength to face anything” (Philippians 4:11-13). Many of us don’t have tons of money to just keep getting and getting and getting, and even if we did, we would never be satisfied (remember Solomon and Ecclesiastes?). Look at what the Bible says about this:

• “It’s healthy to be content, but envy can eat you up” (Proverbs 14:30).

• “The poor have a hard life, but being content is as good as an endless feast” (Proverbs 15:15).

• “Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth” (1 Timothy 6:6, NLT).²
Well, I hope that through our time together you’ve learned the importance of being truly happy for the blessings that somebody else has, and being thankful and content for all the blessings you have, and why it’s important to focus your attention on the Blesser and not the blessings. There’s nothing wrong with wanting stuff, but we’ve got to be OK even if we haven’t got any of it, because, after all, we’ve got the best blessing of all: salvation!

Until next time, remember these things: God’s way is always the best way. Life is full of decisions, so make yours good ones. Put God first in your life, and you can’t go wrong.

Feel free to contact me: you can e-mail me at omarmiranda@earthlink.net; or you can keep up with me on Facebook; or you can read more of my stuff on Miranda Writes, at www.insightmagazine.org; or you can check me out or send me a message at my Web site, thriveatlife.org; or you can reach me via snail mail (slow!) at the address printed below.

In Christ,
Omar Miranda, certified Christian counselor

Abundant Life Ministries
155 Earl Street
Plainville, GA 30733
Phone: 1-770-354-2912

¹Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations in this article are from the Contemporary English Version. Copyright © American Bible Society 1991, 1995. Used by permission.
²Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Omar Miranda is a Christian counselor with 20 years’ experience working with youth in public and private middle and high schools. He’s married and has two kids. He enjoys teaching the youth at his church, reading, writing, gardening, and camping. He’s a recovering knucklehead who spent a lot of time in the past doing stupid stuff away from God. He’s been back with God for years now and is eager to share what he’s learned from his experiences by answering any questions you may have about life, the Christian life, Jesus, spiritual matters, and relationships in his column, Miranda Writes.

 





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