I spent the weekend with my oldest daughter and six other fourth-grade girls at Worlds of Fun, our local amusement park. The theme for the weekend was respect, and we spent time learning the 10 commandments. As we were talking about the 10 commandments, I realized that most of the girls in my group did not know what the word envy meant. As soon as I described it, one of the girls piped up and said "That's like when I got some colored pencils and my friend had to go out and get a box that had even more in it." It didn't take long for the other girls to chime in with their own examples.
This morning I ran across Proverbs 14:30, "A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones." I love the visual that this verse gives us about how destructive envy can be. I think envy is something that kids struggle with almost constantly. There's always someone who has more or is better at something than your child.
My girls have TV envy. According to them, we are the last household on the planet to still have a TV that looks like a box. No, we have not yet joined the flat-screen revolution in this house. Every time we go in a store that has TVs, the girls have to go look at them and talk about how much cooler they are than our TV. Any time they go to someone else's house, they let us know all about the TV that the other kid has. Despite the fact that we have good reasons for not upgrading our TV at this time, our girls continue to envy other kids who have flat-screen TVs.
Today's verse offers a great way to create a visual picture for your kids about what envy can do. Take a peach or other soft fruit and set it in a plastic container in the window sill. Leave it there for a few days until it starts to decay. Show your kids how the decay starts as a small spot on the peach, but it slowly takes over the whole thing until it is a rotten, smelly, disgusting thing. Read Proverbs 14:30 and talk about how envy can take over our minds to the point of pushing everything else out. Remind them of the queen in the Snow White fairy tale who was so jealous of Snow White that she wanted to kill her. Talk about how envy can cause us to do things that we might not otherwise even consider.
Don't leave out the first part of the verse, either. Talk with your kids about what they think a heart at peace looks like. Ask them why they think God contrasted a heart at peace with one full of envy. Ask your kids if there are things that they envy about others. Pray with them and help them to turn those things over to God. Ask God to fill your hearts with peace, so that your bodies will be full of life. Show your kids how to capture their envious thoughts and replace them with this verse. Tell them that every time they feel jealous of someone else, they should give that thought to God and say Proverbs 14:30 to give themselves something else on which to focus.
As you learn this verse this week, I pray that you and your children will have bodies full of life and that you will leave bone-rotting envy behind.