William Shakespeare said these famous words: “Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” We can recognize greatness in a person’s leadership ability, character, accomplishments, and ideas. A great person becomes the standard for everyone else to follow — and also becomes the target of envy and slander.

Theodore F. MacManus once stated, “When a man’s work becomes a standard for the whole world, it also becomes a target for the shafts of the envious few. If his work be merely mediocre, he will be left severely alone — if he achieves a masterpiece, it will set a million tongues a-wagging. . . .

“. . . Envy, fear, greed, ambition, and the desire to surpass . . . all avails nothing. If the leader truly leads, he remains — the leader.”

Each of us knows people who would fit in the category of “the greats.” They are the teachers, workers, managers, singers, musicians, athletes, and preachers who excel at what they do. We can admire them for their abilities; but if we’re not careful, we may join the envious few who will stop at nothing to put them down. How do we avoid falling into the sin of envy?

The root of envy is insecurity. When we are insecure with ourselves, we will always compare ourselves to others. This only leads to disappointment, because as long as we try to be like someone else, we’ll never find fulfillment in being who God wants us to be. The only escape is to get secure in Christ. As we concentrate on who we are in Him, we can be content with the way God made us. Nothing else matters.

Thank God for the great people in your life — but also thank Him for the way He made you. When you do this, instead of bringing others down to your level, you will rise to theirs. The envy in you and me won’t stand a chance.

A little grit in the eye destroyeth the sight of the very Heavens; and a little Malice or Envy, a World of Joy. — Thomas Traherne

Devotional by Dr. James A. Scudder