I hate to admit a feeling I had when I went to a restaurant recently. It was a relatively small restaurant so we could see all the customers come in and look at where they were seated. We had a very nice waitress helping us with our order and began to wait for our meal. I noticed someone else arrive about 10 minutes after we did and I saw the same waitress who had waited on us come to their table and proceeded to take their order when they were ready. I didn’t think anything about this chronological timeline until something surfaced that caused this feeling to grab me.
The couple that I mentioned got their food and we were still waiting. Imagine that. They came 10 minutes after us, ordered after us, and got their food before us, and began to eat. The feeling of envy took over my mind. Envy has been defined by a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another’s advantage. The couple got their food before Nadine and I and envy took over. All kinds of thoughts pressed against the walls of my skull. How dare they be served before us? We were there before them. Didn’t our waitress turn in our food requests? This isn’t fair. Do I need to talk with a manager? Envy set in. I had some choices to make about this travesty. Didn’t the restaurant know that I was hungrier then that couple. Hadn’t they looked at the security tape to see that we were there before this couple? How dare someone get out of line, or cut in front of us. None of these thoughts were good and none of them needed to come out to the waitress who couldn’t do anything about them. But envy surfaced and I needed to process this ugly feeling and remove it from my brain, or it would ruin the time that Nadine were having.
I later ran across a passage in Matthew that had a similar message I needed to hear when the ugly feeling of envy surfaces. Jesus tells a parable of the kingdom of heaven by saying, ““For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. “He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. “He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing.
“About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. he asked them, “Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’ “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. “He said to them,’You also go and work in my vineyard.’ “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them for their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’ “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. “These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.'”
“But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.””
Matthew 20:1-16 NIV
This is a long story, but I see myself in the lives of those workers that came in the morning expecting to get a day’s wages and then becoming envious of others who worked much less and got the same wage. Envy. Jealous. Covetousness. You name it, I very easily could see myself having these feelings. I experienced those feelings when we were in the restaurant and were served after a couple came in after us. Jesus calls a spade a spade. “Are you envious because I am generous?” In this life we can go down the road with all kinds of ugly thoughts and feelings, but it only takes our thoughts to places that cause our lives to wilt and not blossom.
On this journey, it’s my choice where I put my focus. If I focus on the positive times I am having with Nadine, none of the external things that happen around me will affect me or cause my day to turn gray. Choose wisely.