To Envy or to Emulate the Successful? That is the question.
“13 The man [Isaac] became rich, and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy. 14 He had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him. 15 So all the wells that his father’s servants had dug in the time of his father Abraham, the Philistines stopped up, filling them with earth. 16 Then Abimelek said to Isaac, ‘Move away from us; you have become too powerful for us.'” –Genesis 26:13-16 NIV
As unlikely as it may seem, these four verses are among the most important in the Torah. They also demonstrate why the Torah is as relevant today as it was three thousand years ago—because it illuminates human nature, and human nature doesn’t change. Jesus Christ knew this well:
“21 For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. 23 All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.” – Mark 7:21-23 NLT
The above-mentioned condition of man’s heart is probably one reason why John records Christ’s apprehension about man. (see John 2:23-25)
“23 Because of the miraculous signs Jesus did in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration, many began to trust in him. 24 But Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew human nature. 25 No one needed to tell him what mankind is really like.” –John 2:23-25 NLT
The verses in Genesis 26 encapsulate Jewish and human history. Instead of emulating the successful, most people envy them, and then often wish to destroy their wealth—or even destroy them.
The most notable exception to this unfortunate rule of human nature has been the American people. Until almost the present day, Americans have tended to react to successful people, not by resenting them but by seeking to emulate them.
This seems to be changing as more Americans (particularly on the left) join others in resenting the economic success of others.
More and more people are believing that America deserves to be brought down because, after all, America has only become affluent through our history of theft and building success on the less fortunate backs of others…or so the argument goes. The moral critique is framed like this: we have raped and stolen land from the Native Americans. We have stolen land from the Mexicans. We are only successful because we used black slaves to generate wealth. America has been a colonial power that dominates foreign countries and, therefore, we must be reduced in power and influence. (I will address the response to such comments in future articles).
Friends, this is the moral critique of America that is played out every day in the halls of our grade schools, high schools, and universities. You will also hear it blasted from the megaphones of the media, pundits in politics, and the entertainment industry.
Like the Philistines, most people would rather fill the wells of the world’s “Abrahams” than learn how to dig wells with water. This is most evident in the repeated mantra “tax the rich and give to the poor”; a statement that appeals to human envy.
More and more people in America are forgetting that original influencers and colonial governors of early America, like George Percy and John Smith, who helped shape the economies of the first settlers to America believed in a free-market system, which promotes such ideas as:
• The rights and responsibilities of the individual to provide for himself or his family,
• The right to private property,
• The right to earn, spend, and invest one’s own personal wealth.
• Individual hard work will bring prosperity.
• The best way to create wealth is to be free to innovate and, therefore, be incentivized to produce personal financial benefits.
The envy of Abraham, Isaac, and their descendants is the theme of an important book, The Israel Test, by George Gilder. This book documents how envy of Israel’s accomplishments has animated much of the hatred directed at the Jewish state. The envy has also been a significant factor in Jew-hatred for thousands of years. Not only have the Jew’s success been enviable, but so much of the world also envies American success. After all, why do so many people desire to immigrate to America?
One of the major contributing motivations of Hitler’s hatred for the Jews was rooted in “envy.” Look to Dinesh D’Souza, “The Death of a Nation,” where he references, Gotz Aly, Hitler’s Beneficiaries page 8,21,30 and 314.
This story in Genesis 26 is a paradigm of much of Jewish history. Jews arrive somewhere as strangers, become economically successful, and then are considered a threat to the original inhabitant, who then expel (and/or kill) the Jews.
Some exhortations in view of this powerful information:
• Rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15).
• Watch yourself for out of our human nature arises envy (Mark 7:22).
• The next time you hear someone say, “Tax the Rich,” warn them that this is a statement of envy not industry. By the way, learn pity statements to counteract false ideologies. These ideologies are cropping up all around us!
• Emesh yourself in Torah, (The First Five Books of the Bible). I would suggest that you purchase the Rational Bible Commentaries by Dennis Prager. The two titles that I am reading and have read are: Exodus, God, Slavery, and Freedom, and Genesis: God, Creation, and Destruction.
• Please make an effort to communicate with those around you the concepts that you are learning. Engage people, be pleasant, ask questions, and learn from those you encounter.
Attempt to have a macro outlook compared to a micro outlook through the lens of Torah and Christ’s Words.