Envy is not something we attribute to the wise in any case. Nevertheless, we come to a warning against envying the violent.
Proverbs 3:31: “Do not envy the violent or choose any of their ways.”
Why Would We Envy Violence?
I do not think we are quick to recognize violence as something that may be envied. We have already looked at how the wise pursue peace. Thus, what is to envy in violence? When you distill violence to its most basic form it is a show of power. That is where the envy comes in. We may think we would wield that power in goodness, but violence should be a final option. Therefore, the violent among us have either exhausted their options or at least skipped them on the short path to this end.
We see gun fights, martial arts showdowns, and big explosions at the climax of many hero movies. The protagonist is pushed too far and goes for a show of all their power. This action is excused due to the actions of the antagonist. However, how often do we see a violent end that could have been avoided? That may be the fascinating aspect of the Batman and Superman stories. They struggle to avoid violence even though that would solve their problems faster.
Wisdom Avoids Shortcuts
We will look at the value of taking the “scenic route” later in Proverbs. However, we should already see a pattern of patience for the wise. There is a time for all things and the wise will find the best time for each action. This may keep a challenge from resolution, but it also can provide a more satisfying solution.
We all have the option of punching someone in the face. This may be a literal or figurative option, but we all have some capability of jumping to violence to solve our problems. The escalation may be smacking your computer monitor or jump a lane in traffic. These are not always effective, but how often do they lead us to wish we had a greater power. This is not a wish for peaceful wisdom, but enough power to “knock some sense” into someone or some thing. So now you see where we could be tempted to envy violence.
Teaching Children this Wisdom
I think the key to teaching this wisdom to children is the aftermath. A simple example can lead into a discussion of violence as a solution. Find an inexpensive piggy bank and place some coins in it. Make sure this is one of those banks that has a latch or plug that can be moved to allow easy access to the coins.
When the provided solution is used, the piggy bank survives. Now go grab a hammer. Yes, this is a Dad example again. Place the coins in the bank and use the hammer to get the coins. Point out that the hammer solution is likely faster, but at what cost? This example can be used to expand to other violent solutions. For example, what if you always punch people that annoy you instead of talking things out?
Ask your child for some examples they have of violent solutions (or people) that might be enviable, but should not be. A little dose of reality may be needed in this discussion, but it will be worth the payoff.