Bread – Resentment

June 16, 2010

Readings for Wednesday, June 16th
    designated by the Book of Common Prayer:
    Num. 11:24-35; Rom. 1:28-2:11; Matt. 18:1-9
    Psalms 81, 82, 119:97-120

In Numbers today, Moses gathers seventy elders in front of the Tent of Meeting and God gives them the Holy Spirit and they prophesy.  Two of the elders, however, did not attend because they were either lazy or had something else to do.  However, God blesses them with the Holy Spirit as well, and they also prophesy.  This upsets the elders who showed up and followed directions.

In Romans today, Paul is lecturing people who pass judgment, noting that the judges are guilty of the very sins and trespasses of the law they accuse the wrongdoers of.  Both groups are equal wrongdoers.

In Matthew today, Jesus warns those who would cause His children, the children of God, to cater to their old selves, to sin.  He pronounces woe upon those who cause others to sin.

We have in today’s lessons examples of (1) complainers, (2) judges, and (3) little devils (I call them "little devils" because they hover around you, suggesting all kinds of ways of sinning – you know the type).

What do all these have in common?  I would suggest that the common factor in all three types of people is that they are full of resentment, they resent what the other person has.

How does this show itself?  Well, the complainer complains because he or she feels that someone has received a blessing from God they do not deserve.  These blessed people have not worked as hard as I have for what they get.  They just seem to show up (or don’t show up at all), and without any effort get all the blessings (money, honor, power, etc.).  They have all the talent.  They have the good looks.  They have the position (undeserved, of course).  They are promoted even though they are lazy, stupid, obnoxious (and so forth).  You know them and you hate them!

The judge judges (the condemner condemns) because he or she thinks that, in order for him or her to feel good, the other party needs to be brought down a peg or two (I am not talking about Godly discipline of errant believers; I am talking about condemnation of others for the very things we do on a regular basis).  We make ourselves feel better by making others feel worse. I know I must be a good person because that other person is so bad.  We compare ourselves to others and find that they come up short.  Our resentment of others can be "fixed" by making sure that they are condemned for their sins while we are honored for ours.  We are made greater by them being made lesser.  How can we resent these moral inferiors?  Of course we can’t resent them, we must pity them – so our resentment is calmed and our day is complete.

And we act as little devils, encouraging the weak or the less mature or the less knowledgeable to leave the path of good works or the path of virtue and join us in our embrace of the world and its values.  If they don’t drink with us, we encourage them to drink.  If they don’t eat as much as we do, we encourage them to "eat up."  If they don’t think stealing is OK, we encourage them to go ahead and take the company pen home, saying "It’s OK, they will never miss it."  If they want to go to church and worship, we resist, saying how much better it would be to "sleep in" on Sunday.  Why do we do this, because we resent the fact that they do these things and we don’t and we attribute to them a superior attitude, which we can knock off by just having them join us in our "fun."  Our actions as little devils are not much different than our actions as judges – both are designed to satisfy our jealousy and resentment by bringing people down to our level or, preferably, below our level.

Does this sound mean?  I challenge you to monitor your speech and actions today and just see how often you fall into one of these three roles.  The reason we can read the examples I have given and laugh about it (sort of) is that we know these examples are truth – they come from our own experience, our own lives.

So what is the cure?  I suggest we counter our natural jealousy, our natural envy, and our natural resentment with two heaping teaspoons of (a) gratitude and (b) love.  Gratitude because God has shown us mercy and grace in such measure that, whatever other people have, it pales to the value of what we have been given by Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection, and by what we have been given by the Holy Spirit (belief, wisdom, self-control, discernment, strength, perseverance, etc.).  Love because we understand where people are because we are there too.  Love because we can, because God first loved us by giving us Himself in His revelation of word (Scripture), creation, relationship (Jesus Christ), and wisdom (Holy Spirit).

When we realize what we have been given, how can we be jealous of anyone else?  When we know how sinful we are, when we know how dead to life we were before God rescued us, how can we condemn others of their sin?  When we appreciate how easily we have been fooled by the world and Satan, how can we join in the delusion by encouraging others to sin?

As you walk through life today, being tempted in every way to complain, to condemn, and to tempt others, my prescription is to raise up a barrier of memory, memory of Calvary and memory of who you once were.

That memory will stop resentment dead in its tracks.  And instead of words of complaint, condemnation, or temptation will come words of thanksgiving and praise.



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