Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s. — Exodus 20:17
In our self-worshiping age, it is very easy to be resentful of someone getting an honor you do not have, and to feel neglected and disrespected when someone else is honored for what they have done. It is easy to resent someone who has done you no harm because they have something you do not have. I have been tempted to this wickedness myself, and looking back I wish I could talk to my younger self – or more accurately, to slap him across the face.
Here is an example. A couple weeks ago on Twitter, someone asked this about my church: “Rather than Mother’s Day celebrations, they give carnations to Child free or Never Married / Divorced?” (sic)
I found the “rather than” line extremely instructive and helpful, as well as a rebuke to my own wickedness over the years. Was the person actually advocating that women who are not mothers be honored instead of mothers on Mother’s Day? Granted, Twitter is 140 characters at a time, so there’s no way to know that. But people who actually have that attitude display a bitterness that is not healthy or helpful. It does not in any way dishonor single women or childless married women to honor mothers on Mother’s Day, any more than it dishonors single men or childless married men to honor fathers on Father’s Day. We can honor and respect both, and there is nothing wrong with two days a year to honor our mothers and fathers. (Of course, we should do that every day.)
I understand bitterness, because it has been a temptation for me my whole life. For many years, I resented Valentine’s Day because I did not have a wife or girlfriend. I even resented others for having a happy birthday, if my own birthday the previous year was a bad day. When I was a teenager, I even resented someone getting an award I did not get, but would have gotten had I made a few different choices. It is easy for people with an absent father to begrudge someone who has an active father, and it is easy for someone without children to begrudge someone who does. But it is wicked and shameful to begrudge the happiness of someone else if you are not currently enjoying that thing.
As wicked men and women oppressed by sin, we are hard-wired to be self-centered. It takes effort to be anything other than that. But the only way to truly kill that sin is through the cross of Jesus Christ and the sanctification of the Holy Spirit. The blood of Christ will wash away that sin so that God sees His Son’s righteousness. But because we are sinners by nature and by choice, we may still struggle with envy and resentment. We may still begrudge those who have something we do not. This is where sanctification comes in, and we must pray for that power.