THE WORLD'S SECOND SIN
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From the beginning, mankind has been burdened with the attractive temptations of the world: lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life. “For all that [is] in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 John 2:16-17). Eve was deceived by a concentration of these enticing elements from the Tree by the Devil, and yielding, led Adam into the net of sin. The Devil tried to allure Jesus, as the son of man, into each such traps as Jesus prepared to begin His public ministry (Matthew 4). The devil dangled a perversion of nature for His fleshly appetite instead of nourishment of the spirit from the Word of God (lust of the flesh); he urged Jesus to test God's love by jumping from the pinnacle of the Temple (pride of life), and he displayed magnificent beauty of earth's dominions if Jesus would serve him (lust of the eyes). Yet though Jesus is the Son of God, He learned obedience by rejecting the same thing that brought down Adam and Eve and us their children (Hebrews 5:8,9).
Although we do not walk in the wilderness forty days nor walk in Eden's paradise, yet the Devil attracts us to sin in similar ways. This is true especially for the second sin mentioned in the Bible.
The Devil's temptation of Cain is used against the members of Christ's church. And what was Cain's initial sin that brought the fruition of murder? Was it not competing with his brother for God's grace? Was it not the sin of envy? And was it not the imposing sin of the first century Corinthian church when Paul wrote to them? “For ye are yet carnal: for whereas [there is] among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (1 Corinthians 3:3).
If Paul's letter corrected this sin, it did not last long. According to the ancient writer Clementi fifty years later, the church in Corinth had regressed with envy. Has this not been so from creation? The Devil may leave for a while but does he not return? “Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7); but later, the Devil returns, even as he did with our Lord Jesus. “And when the devil had ended all the temptation [to Jesus in the wilderness], he departed from him for a season” (Luke 4:13).
From ancient times then, envy has governed men's hearts to their hurt. Jacob had to flee from the face of his brother Esau. Envy made Joseph to be persecuted almost unto death, and eventual it brought bondage (Genesis 37). Envy compelled Moses to flee from the face of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, when he heard these words from his brethren, “Who made you a judge or ruler over us? Will you kill me, as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?” (Exodus 2:14).
On account of envy, Aaron and Miriam had to make their abode without the camp (Numbers 12:14-15). Envy brought down Dathan and Abiram to Hades, through their sedition which was against God's servant Moses (Numbers 16:33). Because of envy, David not only suffered the hatred of foreigners, but was persecuted by his fellow, Saul, the king of Israel.
The Lord Jesus was crucified because of envy, for Pilate “knew that for envy they had delivered him” (Matthew 27:18). Records from the first century talk of martyrs who were victims of envy. As Clement's manuscript reads, “We should set our eyes upon the apostles, who through envy and jealousy had been persecuted and put to death. For example, Peter, who through envy, endured multiple labors until he suffered martyrdom. Also, owing to envy, Paul seven times was thrown into captivity, compelled to flee, was stoned, and eventually suffered martyrdom under the prefects. All of which can be traced to the sin of envy.”
Envy has not only separated brethren. It separates family members. Clement also wrote, “Envy has alienated wives from their husbands. Envy has changed the saying of father Adam, 'This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh' (Genesis 2:23).”ii I would add, that envy has alienated husbands from wives as well. In summarizing, envy and strife have overthrown great cities and rooted up mighty nations.
Cain did not love his brother. Through the lack of love, competition for favors have always caused trouble in families and in the church. Competition is good if we direct it to ourselves in order to better ourselves. We can do better, physically and morally. “I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring [it] into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Corinthians 9:26,27).
Rather than competing with our fellows in the church, the apostle admonishes, “in honour preferring one another” (Romans 12:10). The Apostolic Bible Polyglot says, “in the honor, for one another giving preference.”
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:4-6).
I do not mean to minimize the good of team sports that teach us to work together. Currently “good sportmanship” also teaches us to respect one another. But competition is bad if it gives cause for the heart to envy.
Do not be a Cain. Rather, work, worship and concentrate on oneself's pleasing God; on the other hand, be grateful for and give honor to our brethern Abels for their successes.
“Throw Out the Lifeline”
iLetter to the Corinthians I. Clement of Rome. c. 95 A.D. from Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 9. Translated by John Keith, etc.