This post last updated on November 12th, 2021
Envy says, “I like what I have, I have what I like, but I like what you have more.”
I don’t know who said that, but they nailed it. And the sin of envy is powerful, cunning, and deadly.
Envy and Jealousy
One mistake that’s often made concerning envy is confusing it with jealousy. Jealousy could be considered a sort of an “envy-lite,” but an envious heart actually encompasses so much more intensity and emotion, and there are some considerable distinctions between the two.
For example, envy tends to give way to covetousness. Jealousy may be more fleeting and you’re less likely to dwell on it. Envious feelings could have more of a grip on your thoughts and attitude than jealousy.
Envy is Destructive
The sin of envy destroys. It was Satan’s envious coveting of the worship of God that fueled his pride and gave birth to rebellion.
In the Garden of Eden, we see Satan envious again. This time of Adam and Eve, who were not only wholly devoted in worship to God, but who were also made in His likeness. That led Satan to his conniving work that severed the initial, intimate relationship between God and mankind.
The sin of envy drove Cain to murder his brother, Abel. It was an envious group of Pharisees that battled Jesus throughout his earthly ministry. It was once again envy that ultimately allowed them to turn Christ over to Pontus Pilate. That’s documented in Mark 15:10.
This same sinful, envious behavior is behind many of today’s heartbreaking accounts of abuse, divorce, theft, murder, rape, and all kinds of strife, conflicts, dissension, and controversy.
The sin of envy is rocket fuel for the tabloid industry. Some well known public personalities have even perfected exploiting it into a sickening form of entertainment.
It’s envy that hardens your heart towards God and other people. It will do it’s most destructive work if you allow resentment to invade your life. Resentment is rooted in pride and together they give birth to envy.
That’s one the most potent recipes for misery and unhappiness than anything else I can identify in our human experience.
I’ve witnessed that and have experienced it in the workplace, in my private life, and even in ministry. I bet you have, too, and that’s why I’m here to say that you and I have to uproot it or deal with the destructive consequences of envy.
What’s the Cure for Envy?
There is no doubt that a cure for envious hearts is a tall order. Because of it’s subtlety and the ease with which we tend to justify and dismiss it, this is a raw and very gripping sin.
There are actually several ingredients in the cure for the sin of envy. Those would include humility, contentment, and kindness.
Author and lay theologian C.S. Lewis said this, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” It really encompasses not thinking more highly of yourself than you should. Paul explained that best in Romans 12:3. In fact, the first step to dealing with this sin is to spend some time reflecting on that verse.
Contentment is called a virtue by some people, and maybe it is. Other words used in place of contentment can include fulfillment, satisfaction, and even peace. Jesus taught us to “not be anxious” about our lives, our health, and our day to day necessities. In principle, he instructed us in Matthew 6:25 to be content. In addition to that verse, check out Paul’s words on contentment in Philippians 4:11-13. Contemplate contentment from a guy that was beaten, assaulted, threatened and imprisoned numerous times on account of his faith.
Kindness is a quality of character that produces action. Do you remember the “practice random acts of kindness” campaign? It’s a valid attitude and a good start, but we need to cut deeper still. Kindness includes forgiveness (Ephesians 4:32) and that can be a hard pill for some folks to swallow. The act of kindness means putting others ahead of yourself, and even though that’s a timeless lesson, it’s difficult because it’s definitely not human nature.
Just like my first post in this series, The Truth About Pride, I want to leave you with some action steps. A prescription of sorts. Here are some steps that may help you overcome envy:
- Practice humility and you’ll have more happiness. Study 1 Peter 5:6-7, Romans 12:3-8, and 2 Corinthians 10:13.
- Be content and see what having less stress feels like. See Matthew 6:25, Hebrews 13:5, and Philippians 4:11-13.
- Spend some time in Ephesians 4:25-32. Cultivate kindness and you may even live longer or at least more healthy as I pointed out in this previous article on “white envy.”
- Don’t forget the book of Proverbs. You’ll find a wealth of verses supporting all of these areas and some on envy, too.