Now Sarai, Abram’s wife had borne him no children, and she had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram, “Now behold, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Please go in to my maid; perhaps I will obtain children through her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. After Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Abram’s wife Sarai took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, and gave her to her husband Abram as his wife. He went in to Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her sight. And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done me be upon you. I gave my maid into your arms, but when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her sight. May the Lord judge between you and me.” But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your maid is in your power; do to her what is good in your sight.” So Sarai treated her harshly, and she fled from her presence.
Over the next two days, we will look at an example of envy, its effects, and how God meets and takes care of the victims of envy. At 75 years old, Sarah assumed she was past childbearing age. All she knew of God’s promise (Gen. 12:1-3) was that she and Abraham would have an heir, so Sarah took the initiative to provide that heir by using Hagar, her servant, as a surrogate mother. While this was a custom in their day, and Sarah and Abraham didn’t know how God’s plan would unfold, their action revealed a lack of trust in God’s ability to provide. When the situation appeared hopeless, Abraham and Sarah momentarily forgot the promises of God and turned to their own devices. Envy blinds us to God’s work, and leads to attempts to manufacture God’s work through our own efforts.
This was not new for Abraham; he had a history of taking matters into his own hands when he started to doubt God’s involvement. In this situation, his and Sarah’s mistake had immediate consequences. Sarah was filled with jealousy, their marriage suffered discord, and Hagar felt contempt toward Sarah. Hagar had no choice but to comply with their scheme, and by the time the baby was actually born, Sarah rejected him. The sad truth is that Sarah and Abraham’s jealousy had consequences not only for them, but also for the people around them. Envy is dangerous to our souls because it rarely affects only one person. Envy is attached to an object or person, and that person always experiences the backlash. Yet God is good and patient to the wronged.
- How did Sarah’s jealousy affect Hagar and Ishmael?
- What effects have you seen in your life and the lives of those around you when you’ve given into jealousy?
- Pray that God would reveal to you where you are envious of others. Consider how your envy is hurting them, and apologize if necessary.