Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile.
The crafty device the enemy uses to derail the Christian’s heart and cause him to desire more
There are two things you should know about the sin of envy. It is a little-known evil that many are afraid to learn more about.
I listened to a podcast recently on the topic and wanted to share some of the notes, reflections, and takeaways I got from the unpacking of this soul-shuddering topic.
[You can listen to the four-part series on the Ransomed Heart Ministries website here. I’m only covering Part 1 here but I look forward to what follows.]
What seems to be misunderstood a lot is that envy and jealousy are synonymous. The word envy comes from to look upon with malice. Envy is when someone sees another person’s virtue and feels contempt for it. Jealousy, on the other hand, is the feeling that people get when they lose something due to a change in circumstance.
It should not be mistaken that envy is admiration. When someone envies another, she is not admiring their art, their family, their lifestyle and then longing to be blessed in that way. Envy doesn’t admire, but rather would be gratified to see failure and destruction arrive in the lives of their object of envy. Instead of admiring someone’s success and victory, or their giftings and talents, an envious person will feel hatred against it all.
Envy is a sin. Before the garden of Eden, Lucifer fell from heaven due to his pride, his malice, his envy toward God. He continues to want to be God while attempting to destroy Him.
Francis Bacon said: “A man that hath no virtue in himself, ever envieth virtue in others. For men’s minds, will either feed upon their own good or upon others’ evil; and who wanteth the one, will prey upon the other; and whoso is out of hope, to attain to another’s virtue, will seek to come at even hand, by depressing another’s fortune.” In other words, we who cannot attain another’s virtue are content to destroy their fortune.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Envy is the tax which all distinction must pay.”
Modern culture and the church are drunk with the poison of envy because envy is the hardest sin to recognize. It is insidious because no one wants to admit to harboring its power and stronghold. Proverbs 14:30 says:
A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones.
The Casualties of Envy
What does it feel like to be the object, the subject of someone else’s envy? If you know how this feels, then you know it can be quite disconcerting. It is gut-wrenching to live under the envy of other people. I know this to be true – my family for years has lived under the envy of another couple for having a family.
When God blessed my husband and me with children, the warfare we got from a particular couple in our immediate family got ferocious. We wondered what the root cause was during years of discovery until we unpacked the facts and the patterns of behavior which lead us to believe that they envied us for having children, for God growing and enlarging our coast.
We decided to not invite them to birthday parties or to baby showers (only once did they actually attend). On and off it was like this. We desired to extend courtesy and opened our home to include them into our lives, but it was too much for them to bear, it seemed, to see us joyful in the Lord. When we’d announce a new baby, a season of detachment and withdrawal would follow for months, even for years. So deep is their envy that they have no desire to meet one of my children.
We understand now that suffering is a breeding ground for envy to take root. When children surfaced, they turned on us.
How to Guard from Envy
Success, talents, and possessions appear to be triggers for envious people. Social media, unfortunately, only exacerbates this sin, feeding it like a beast with an insatiable appetite.
One of the hosts on the podcast mentioned that our words must be handled with care. People who flippantly exclaim to another person that they envy them for (fill in the blank) is irresponsible. Saying you envy someone is basically implying that you wish to raid her house, burn her possessions, and bring utter ruin to her life. The definition of envy is not a pleasant one. It means to hate to see other people happy. Envy wants to see us all miserable, together. Envy corresponds to a distrust of God and can take someone away from His light and into a dark pit.
You may long for something, and that could take you to very deep places with God in prayer, but when you question why others have something that you feel entitled to, that becomes dangerous thinking. It is better always, anyway, to keep our lips from uttering folly.