Why do we let jealousy and envy into our hearts and minds? Why do we concern ourselves with, or measure ourselves against, what others have, posses, and/or achieve? When envy springs up and is allowed to live and grow in a person’s heart, it has horrible consequences.
They say there is no such thing as a “little” lie or a “tiny” sin. I mention this because I have always thought of myself as not being a jealous person or a person who suffers from envy. In fact, for the vast majority of my life, I have INTENTIONALLY done the exact opposite of what was trendy and what people thought were the coolest or most hip fads and trends. My mindset has always been, if everyone thinks it’s cool or hip, then it’s not for me. Honestly, why are we all so concerned with what everyone else is going, saying, or buying. It’s tough enough for me to care for myself, my family, and my friends than to concern myself with keeping up with, comparing to, or competing with, others.
However, I have always set goals for myself and targeted certain achievements and accomplishments. There-in lies the rub. Based on these intentional lifestyle choices, it is fair to say that bucking the fads is not jealousy. But some of the achievement and accomplishment goals, I have set, have had a worldly view of acceptance and/or status. So, as I reflect, if I were to do an honest assessment, I would say I have “little” and/or “tiny” bouts of jealousy and envy.
But we don’t get to choose what is minor or major when it comes to jealousy and envy. We either suffer from, or consciously practice jealousy and envy, or we do not. There is no middle ground – it’s kind of like being sort-of, or a “little” pregnant. Thus, I certainly have had jealousy and envy in my life. I haven’t been obsessed by it, but it is there and some of my life’s actions and motivations have been based on the expectation of the worlds view, and not God’s. That, my friends, is 100% jealousy and envy, without question, and I can’t brush it off as not being as bad as others. In fact, the mindset of comparing my personal level of jealousy and envy to others, in its own right, is a form of jealousy and envy, by itself. It reminds me of the person who proclaims: “I have never been (pick your issue; prejudice, jealous, judgmental, etc.) …BUT…” anytime I hear this comment, I know that person is, in fact, guilty of practicing exactly what they are trying, so very hard to say, and prove, that they are not or “have never been!”.
Why do we let jealousy and envy into our hearts and minds? God gives us everything we need and he loves us unconditionally. He told us life would not be easy and that we would have trials and tribulations, but he promised we would never be given more than we can handle and that he would always loves us and never forsake us. SO, WHAT MORE DO WE REALLY NEED? Well, we let the world, the culture, and the society, influence us to what is good and bad, what is acceptable and not, and what should be sought after and what to avoid. Often times the things the world tells us to covet, is not of God nor what God has promised or wants for us. Yet we can feel, see, smell, touch these things and interact with the worlds people and therefore seek out their approval more so than our God, because we feel he is not right here with us. We reason that He somehow cannot see us, or does not know that we have chosen, in these moments, to follow the world and not God. But boy are we wrong. God is right here and with us every step of the way. He knows all and sees all. He has given us His book to live buy. It provides guidance for every situation imaginable. All we have to do is honor and believe Him, and have the faith to live in this world, as he has guided us and that He has provided for us.
So, what are we so afraid of - Why is envy sin? As the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in southern Galatia, on his first missionary journey: (Galatians 5:19-21) “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.”
When envy springs up and is allowed to live and grow in a person’s heart, it has horrible consequences. We can see many accounts of this in the Bible. When Abel’s sacrifice was respected by God, and his was not, Cain killed his brother out of envy. (Genesis 4:3-8.) When Korah was envious of Moses, he was swallowed up by the earth. (Numbers 16.) When Saul let envy of David enter his heart the end result was that he was killed in battle. (1 Samuel 18.) Even Jesus was killed by the religious leaders of the day out of envy. Solomon tells us: “A sound heart is life to the body, but envy is rottenness to the bones.” (Proverbs 14:30.)
Envy is something that most people are familiar with. When we see that someone has something we would like to have – physical possessions, or personality traits, or ministries, or talent – then a natural human reaction is to envy them. It takes conscious work to become free from it, so that we can be thankful for what we have been given and “rejoice with those who rejoice,” as Paul stated in Romans 12:15.
It is not a sin to be tempted to envy, but if it is allowed to live and fester, it becomes destructive. Why is envy sin? Because it divides people. It destroys relationships, sows discord, and creates a spirit of bitterness and evil. It causes people to act and speak in toxic ways. To become envious is definitely a sin, and is defined as such in God’s word. James, brother of Jesus wrote: “For where envy and self- seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.” (James 3:16.)
How do we overcome envy? Being tempted to envy doesn’t have to lead to sin! There is a way of escape. When He lived on earth, Jesus conquered all sin. He was tempted in every way just like we are, yet without sin. As a result, He can sympathize with our weaknesses and help us when we are tempted. Jesus’s love provides a throne of grace we can go to boldly, so we can obtain mercy and find grace to help us overcome envy every single time we are tempted. We can overcome like He overcame.
We have to begin by acknowledging it. It is natural for us to insist that we are not envious. But if the desire of our heart is to truly become free from all sin, then we need to humble ourselves and acknowledge the truth. It begins with a thought. “That’s not fair.” “Who do they think they are?” “Why don’t I get the recognition? Why is it always they who are blessed?” Simple things like this which cause our soul, also known as our feelings and “reasoning,” to react and overreact. Our ego is concerned. It surrounds us at work, at school, in our marriage and families, and with our service for God.
Paul testified that “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20.) By faith, we too can reconcile ourselves – our feelings, thoughts, opinions, ego, etc. – to be crucified with Christ. Then we are alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
When we live according to this faith, we can overcome the temptations to be envious, and grow in contentment and thankfulness instead. When we are tempted, we can pray for strength to remain there on the cross with Christ, and remember that it is He who lives in me now, and that I can react according to His virtues, regardless of what I feel like. Then all “confusion and every evil thing” aren’t born from my actions. Instead, I am creating life and peace. (Romans 8:6.)
When we overcome envy, we also get reconciled with God and Jesus. So overcoming is an essential step because in order to serve Christ and the members of His Body (the Church), there can be no envy or divisions; only unity. The members of the Body cannot work against each other, otherwise the Body wouldn’t function. Paul writes so clearly about this in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27. If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it. If one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. There is no envy there! It is no wonder that community, unity, and the church accomplish far more for the kingdom, when working together, than when one person tries to go alone.
World-renown Christian author Max Lucado provides some interesting InSite to the reason jealousy and envy are contrary to what God wants for us. He writes that envy is a sin “…because it wastes our time and opportunities and steals our joy! Imagine if we grow in virtues instead! When we recognize our boundaries and see instead the works that God has for us to do, we will fit into the Body exactly as we should, not taking up more space than we have received grace from God for, and being useful members that can work together in unity and harmony. What a complete rest and peace we can come into, growing in contentment and thankfulness.”
Lucado shares these additional insights: “What’s the cure for jealousy? Trust. The cause of jealousy? Distrust! In a cemetery in England stands a grave marker with the inscription: She died for want of things. Alongside that marker is another: He died trying to give them to her. Let me ask you, have you seen such envy? Have you seen red-faced jealousy? Are you acquainted with the crimson forehead and the bulging veins of jealousy? Solomon says, “Anger is cruel and destroys like a flood, but no one can put up with jealousy!” (Proverbs 27:4).”
Lucado goes on to say: “Suppose you spotted a flame in your house. How would you react? Would you shrug your shoulders and walk away, saying, “A little fire never hurt any house?” Of course not. You would put it out! Why? Because you know left untended, fire consumes all that’s consumable. For the sake of your house, you don’t play with fire. “For the sake of your heart, the same is true. The name of the fire? Solomon tagged it in Song of Solomon 8:6. “Jealousy is cruel as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire.” Do you know what causes jealousy? Distrust. Do you know what is the cure for jealousy? It is trust. Is the flame of jealousy beginning to consume your heart? Are you jealous of someone’s success or possessions? Then, ask God for deeper trust. He will help put out the fire.”
It has been noted that the Jewish people have a word for jealousy. That word is “qua-nah” which translated means; “to be intensely red.” This is where the term “Red with Jealousy” comes from. Have you seen or experienced someone who is red with jealousy? God does not necessarily answer our hopes and wishes based on what we desire, because He knows and provides what we need. Would you trade the gifts received to satisfy your jealousy and envy instead of having a meaningful relationship with God? If you choose the gifts of jealousy and envy, you might be temporarily satisfied but these gifts are fleeting and will eventually be no more. But, as Lucado stated, Jealousy has no fire when God’s true love is received!
To sum it up, Lucado offers the guidance we all need to conquer this world’s dominant desire to create jealousy and envy in us all. Lucado writes: “The sons of Jacob didn’t trust God to meet their needs. The Pharisees didn’t trust God to solve their problems. What were the consequences of their envy? Loneliness! Who wants to hang out with a jealous fool? Stop focusing on what you want, and start trusting God to provide what you need. Replace your jealousy with gratitude.
In closing, I, like virtually everyone, have let jealousy and envy into my life. But what I have learned through maturity and God’s grace, is that He provides me with everything I need. As I have grown, I have learned that it is my needs that are important, not my wants. We all have been, and will continue to be, challenged with jealousy and envy, but “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13). Paul also reminds us in 2 Corinthians 13:3-5: “I will give you all the proof you want that Christ speaks through me. Christ is not weak when he deals with you; he is powerful among you. Although he was crucified in weakness, he now lives by the power of God. We, too, are weak, just as Christ was, but when we deal with you, we will be alive with him and will have God’s power. Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith. as God has promised.”
After everything that God has done for His people, why do we concern ourselves with what others have or how we compare to others. I am happy for others prosperity and blessings and I seek to help others not so fortunate, but there is no need for me to compare myself to anyone, because God loves me and lives within me. With a loving God who provides everything we need, including unconditional love, forever and always, what is there left to be jealous or envious of, because there is nothing more that we need than God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.
*Portions of this message were taken from Max Lucado’s book; “A Love Worth Giving.”