The Better Bone

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones. – Proverbs 14:30 (NIV)

One morning years ago I gave each of our dogs, Bobby and Charlie, a big, juicy venison bone before I sat down for my devotions.

“There,” I thought smugly as they settled on the living room carpet about six feet from each other, “that’ll keep them quiet and occupied for awhile.”

I sank onto the love seat and opened my Bible to the day’s meditation. After a few minutes, Bobby got up, dropped his bone on the carpet at my feet, and stood over Charlie until she let go of hers. Quickly, he snapped it up and scooted behind the love seat. Charlie was too surprised to growl.

I didn’t want a dogfight in the middle of my living room, so I picked up Bobby’s bone and gave it to Charlie. It wasn’t long before Bobby sneaked out from behind the love seat and, once again, snatched the bone Charlie was chomping on. I took the bone Bobby had left and dropped it in front of Charlie. Catching on to Bobby’s thievery, Charlie left the bone I gave her and went after Bobby’s.

On and on the swapping went, each dog acting as though the other had the better bone. What I thought would make for peace instead became a source of envy and caused trouble.

I, too, battle envy. I try to stifle envy when I speak with retired friends who have the time and money to do things my husband and I can’t do because he can’t retire yet. After I’ve visited with someone who has plush new carpeting, it seems as though mine has gotten shabbier overnight. And it’s all too easy to find fault with those who I feel are smarter, thinner, or more talented than I am.

Nine of the Ten Commandments deal with our actions; the tenth deals with our inner desires: “You must not be envious of your neighbor’s house, or want to sleep with his wife, or want to own his slaves, oxen, donkeys, or anything else he has” (Exodus 20:17 LB).

Like an acid, envy eats away at my peace of mind, my inner joy and contentment, and my relationships with others. No wonder God tells us to rid ourselves of envy (1 Peter 2:1). He knows what I’m still learning: that love, not envy, is the better bone.

When I feel that tug of envy on my heart, O Lord, help me to be satisfied with what I have, for everything I have is a gift from You. Amen.

Read and meditate on Matthew 6:19–33; Psalm 119:145–160

For further study: Hebrews 13:5; Philippians 4:11–13; James 1:17; Psalm 145:14–21; 1Timothy 6:9–11; Colossians 3:5; Matthew 15:19–20.

(c) 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Getting Rid of Parasites

Photo by Jim Fischer courtesy of Flickr.com
Photo by Jim Fischer courtesy of Flickr.com

“Be holy, because I am holy.” – Leviticus 11:44 (NIV)

The 23-year-old son of my former pastor suffered a massive seizure while on vacation last weekend. An MRI revealed a mass on his brain. Surgery was scheduled immediately.

But surgeons didn’t find a brain tumor—they discovered a parasite, which had traveled from his stomach to his brain. Now that the parasite has been removed, a full recovery is expected.

I’d never heard of parasites on the brain—in the stomach or intestines, yes, but not the brain. So I did some online research.

According to the Merck Manual Consumer Version website, parasites make their way from the stomach to other parts of the body through the bloodstream. When they settle on the brain, symptoms such as headaches, nausea, vomiting, seizures, sleepiness, personality changes, and mental impairment could occur. Who’d ever have thought a parasite could travel to the brain and wreak so much havoc?

A parasite, as you know, is “an organism that lives off or in another organism, obtaining nourishment and protection while offering no benefit in return” (Dictionary.com). The online Free Dictionary definition goes a step further: a parasite “causes harm to its host.”

There are other kinds of parasites—the kind that feed off your mind and spirit, siphoning your joy and leaving untold harm.

Take hatred, for example. It grows over time, one slight, or perceived slight, at a time. If left unchecked—unconfessed, brought before God—it eventually will consume you. Hatred stirs up conflict, damages relationships, and is the cause of more unhappiness than this world realizes. The antidote for hatred is love. The wise King Solomon once wrote, “Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs” (Proverbs 10:12).

Another parasite is envy. When someone has something you want but don’t have, envy takes root and grows, if we allow it. It breeds dissatisfaction within and discord with others. “Be content with what you have,” the writer of Hebrews says (Hebrews 13:5). Paul wrote to the believers in Philippi from a jail cell: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11).

Another parasite is resentment and bitterness. No matter what the cause, unchecked resentment—bearing grudges—mushrooms into bitterness, turning you into a sour person no wants to be around. We’ve all known bitter people—folks who hang on to wrongs done to them, refusing to forgive. Resentment runs deep, and spawns anger and hatred. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice,” Paul wrote to the Ephesian church (Ephesians 4:31).

These parasites that will suck the joy of life from you and give you nothing in return except heartache and broken relationships.

The remedy for a parasite is to remove it—every trace of it. The best—and only—way to get rid of these parasites is to ask the Great Physician to remove them and replace them with love—His love, divine love, agape love.

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23-24). Amen.

Extra-Tea: read and meditate on 1 Peter 1:13–2:3