It is easy to be grateful
for another person’s gifting when it is not as mature or strong as yours. It is
easy to be thankful for the intellect of your student until that student writes
a paper that is beyond your own understanding. It is easy to be thankful for
your little brother’s athletic ability until he starts beating you every single
time at every game you play. It is easy to be thankful for the potential gift
of preaching in someone you are mentoring until your church responds to his
preaching more than they ever have to yours.
I am mostly speaking here
of interactions with people that are close to you. For those that are not
around us but more gifted than us, there is no threat. With those type of
people, admiration can certainly turn to jealousy, and it often appears in the
form of "wishing." I wish I was.....I wish I could....like that
person. I used to wish I could throw a baseball like Roger Clemens, but that is a different story. Let's focus on those
who are around us.
The fact that you are threatened or jealousy reveals a number of things. Let me mention three:
You Are Not Secure in How God Has Made You
God gives gifts to His church and He has made you a certain way. To be jealous or threatened by someone who is a better ________ probably reveals you are not happy with what God has given you. He has given you gifts. Use them and let God decide how He dispenses them. To be jealous or threatened may also mean you yearn for others to value you as much as you think they value another's gift. Again - insecure in how God has made you, but this time revealed by a desire to be liked.
You Might Be Lazy
We all know the person who works at honing their skill for hours and hours and then is still not a good as their more talented colleagues who does nothing but show up. But this is an extreme and for most of us, when we see someone who is clearly better than us at something and wish we were as good, we do not realize the type of work it takes to be good. Yes - there are some people who are just born writers and others who think strategically without any labor. But the majority of people who are skilled at what they do are so because of hard work. They have studied hard, practiced speaking in front of mirrors, been pushed by a mentor and spent many hours alone. They have written pages of content no one will read or practiced their instrument so often their lips or fingers are raw. We often want to skip the work and just have the gift. Don't be lazy. It may be that God has gifted you and you are not being responsible.
You Might Have a Hierarchal View of Gifting
Is being the Lead Pastor of a local church better than being an associate? The gifting and skill might be different, but better? I am reminded of the story of Jeff Cagwin, the former lead pastor of Bridgepoint Church in Indiana, who "demoted" himself. He wanted to use the gifts God had given him. Yearning for different gifting might not have anything to do with the gift and more to do with what you perceive to be as power that comes with a gift. You want decision making power and the gifts necessary to be in that role. Check yourself here. This attitude does sound like the kind of humble service we are called to, whether we lead or support.
Being threatened and jealous will put you in survival mode. If you are the preaching pastor of your church and there is a better preacher (lay or staff), you will try to limit instead of expand their opportunities. You may even try to get them out of the church as soon as possible. Instead of more mentoring, there will be less. You will get paranoid when people compliment your colleague, wishing they would compiment you. If your student is surpassing you, instead of helping them, you will shut them off so they do not expose your level of skill. The result is the church is not helped by a multitude of giftings, but stifled, because we are unable to cope with people more talented than we are.
There is a better way. If you find yourself jealous and threatened, do not delay. Run to the cross of Jesus Christ. It's where your jealousy and pride will die.
Darren Carlson is the Founder and President of Training Leaders International. As President, Darren oversees the general direction of the ministry and serves as an advocate for pastors with little access to formal training and thoughtful cross-cultural theological engagement. You can connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.