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These bones will sing

Envy stems from ingratitude.

These bones will sing

Some kids are happy with a handful of raisins.

Some kids are happy with a handful of raisins, until –

Until they think a friend’s pile looks BIGGER than mine!

And ask for more raisins.

Or steal.

Perspective depends on whether you have a mindset of scarcity or abundance.

Is that innate, circumstantial or learned? I’m not sure, but I’ve been around kids enough to notice that the scarcity principle seems to be hardwired more into some of us than others.

Two new studies classify human behaviour in terms of envy. In the first, a computer algorithm sorted people into four groups: Optimists, who make choices in the best interest of everyone; Pessimists, who frame decision making as the lesser of two evils; the Trusting, who tend to collaborate and don’t mind if they win or lose; and the Envious, who don’t care what they achieve as long as it’s better than everyone else. More people qualified as Envious than anything else, at 30 percent of participants. Maybe this is because modern life, and much of social media, drives our need to compete – to check on the raisin piles of everyone else.

Facebook, Facebook, feed and wall;

Who’s the Fairest of them all?

Even when it’s not a motivating factor, envy is a familiar emotion. In the second study, 80 percent of women and 74 percent of men reported experiencing envy in the last year. Young people envy looks, romance and social success, whereas older people covet the monetary and occupational success of others.

Some schools of thought differentiate between malicious and benign envy, which hinges on how you handle it. It’s malicious when it drives us to level the playing field by cutting an opponent down (stealing the raisin). It’s benign if it spurs you on to do better yourself (ask for more). Three thousand years ago, Solomon saw the same trends in human nature. But he doesn’t make an exception for the “usefulness” of envy; he is typically direct – “Envy rots the bones” (Prov. 14:30). We break the tenth commandment in private, bones like lace unseen.

Envy stems from ingratitude, as writer Ann Voskamp emphasizes. There has to be a better way! What gives life to the body? A heart at peace, according to Solomon (14:30a). A thanks-giving habit, Voskamp beautifully and repeatedly says. In other words, count your own raisins rather than your neighbour’s. So many good things surround us.

Joy in a child’s expression.

The smell of homemade soup.

Sunrise over a bean field.

The peace of a job well done.

Taking note of these blessings – not only on Thanksgiving but regularly – reduces stress and increases happiness, scientists and Solomon and James Schaap agree (“Into fields of joy,” page 1 of this issue).

Does that still work during times of suffering? After death stole two loved ones away, Krista Dam-VandeKuyt faced that question. She shares her story in “A Disciple of Gratitude” on page 10, using Voskamp to conclude that “as long as thanks is possible, then joy is always possible.”

Not everyone needs to prune envy from their mind’s inner landscape. 

Thank the Lord! Some kids are just happy with a handful of raisins.

And some kids are happy until –

Until they think a friend’s pile looks SMALLER than mine!

And ask for more raisins.

And share.

Envy isn’t even on their radar – equality is. These kids are born with a heart for others. They’ll find the new kid at recess and ask if he wants to play soccer. In a few years they’ll be the teenagers in your church collecting winter boots for the local shelter. They're volunteering in the nursery. They’ll be 20 and asking you for money because the low-income dental clinic they set up in Quetzaltenango needs surgical gauze.

These wonderful, generous people don’t waste any time totting up their own raisins.

These bones will sing!

They’re busy making sure that justice rolls on like a river, crest with blessings.

About the Author
These bones will sing

Angela Reitsma Bick, Editor-in-chief

Angela Reitsma Bick began writing for Christian Courier in 2002 as a freelancer. After finishing an MA in English Lit from Queen’s University, she taught English at Redeemer University College as an Adjunct professor and served as Director of its Writing Centre for three years. She became Editor of Christian Courier in 2009, having learned English grammar in Moscow, research skills in grad school and everything else on the fly. Her vision is for Christian Courier to give body to a Reformed perspective by exploring what it means to follow Jesus today in our homes, churches and schools; in our neighbourhoods and across this country. She hopes that the shared stories of God at work in the world inspire each reader to participate in the ongoing task of renewing his creation. Angela lives in Newcastle, Ontario with her husband, Allan, and three young children