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Jesus and the Cauldron of Envy

Many Muslims have a secret fear: being cursed by the “eye of envy” or “evil eye.” The Qur’an even provides a prayer of protection frequently recited by Muslims: “I seek refuge in the Lord of the Dawn…from the evil of the envier as he envies” (Q113:1, 5). While Christians tend to see envy as a sin that spiritually injures the one who envies, Muslims often feel the greater danger is inflicted upon the one being envied.  


Muslims blame the Eye of Envy for maladies such as illness, unemployment, infertility, and the reversal of fortunes. To increase protection against the Eye of Envy, Muslims employ a variety of charms and amulets. The Hand of Fatimeh, named after Muhammad’s daughter, is thought to have special power in warding off envy. Thus, it is often placed as a doorknocker or door hinge on the front many Muslim homes. Unfortunately for Muslims, they do not believe in Jesus the Son of God, who came “to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8), including all the witchcraft associated with the Eye of Envy.


Jesus is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. In the divine counsel of the Holy Trinity, a plan was laid in eternity past for the Son of God to come and die for the sins of mankind. Jesus would voluntarily lay His life down. He would be slain.


But how would Jesus die? What human sin would ultimately put the nails in the Savior’s hands? Theologically, we knew Jesus carried all the sins of sinful humanity to the cross. But how would the Bible narrative play out? Would a drunk kill Jesus in a fit of rage? Would the Jewish savior be murdered by an act of antisemitism?


If we reflect on the biblical narrative, many sins and frailties contributed to the plot to kill Jesus. Rising above them all, we see that Envy was the main cause of Jesus’ crucifixion.


Jesus emerged from outside the religious leadership of His day. He was not a trained rabbi, but a carpenter. The religious leaders were jealous of the crowds that Jesus drew. They knew they could not match the miracles which Jesus performed. Things got so bad that these leaders even sought to put Lazarus to death after Jesus raised him from the dead (John 12:10-11). Did they not consider that Jesus could raise Lazarus again from death?


That contagion of jealousy spread until a plot was hatched. Judas provided the missing link for the execution of Jesus. Though Pontius Pilate was not likely to be taking the pulse of the community he governed, even he knew that envy of Jesus had risen to a murderous level: “When the people gathered together, Pilate said to them, ‘Whom do you want me to release for you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?’ For he knew that because of envy they had handed Him over” (Matt. 27:17-18, emphasis added).


So, it was envy that ultimately put the Savior on the Cross. Islam denies the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, so it is no wonder Muslims rely on magic, amulets, and charms to ward off their fear of being cursed through envy.


The Tenth Commandment deals with envy in warning us not to covet. None of us are immune to or exempt from the insidious nature of envy. Recently, I presented a funding proposal to several churches. Mine was rejected while others were accepted. Suddenly, I thought, “Hey, what about me? Why them, and not me?” I caught myself aghast at the evil thought formulating within me.


The Gospel brings salvation and freedom to Muslims—just as it does for anyone. The Savior who died as a result of envy, rose again so that people may be liberated from the snare of sin and Satan. Let us confess of our sins, for Jesus is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). What a glorious Savior we serve!

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