Summary: Envy is destructive, & if it is unchecked, it becomes invasive & can even become a dominate emotion. Let's look at this powerful force, this hostile emotion, this destructive enemy through some selected verses in Proverbs
PROVERBS 23: 17-18
[Genesis 37:1-11; 30:1- ]
Envy is universal or possible in any person. Each of us has experienced the desire to have the achievements, excellences, or possessions of another person that we feel are missing in our life. It is destructive, and if it is unchecked, it becomes invasive and can even become a dominate emotion [Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology. Benner, David. Ed. 1985. J.R. Beck. p. 366]. Envy is a great enemy of inner peace. It steals contentment from the heart [Swindol, Charles. Living Beyond the Daily Grind, Book 2. 1988 Word: Dallas. p. 444].
Although the emotions are similar, envy is different from jealous (though they often have been used interchangeably). Jealously is wanting to hold on to what one already has. Jealousy is evoked when we fear losing what we feel is valuable to us. Envy is the assertive desire to have what we do not already have, but another does [Beck, 336].
["Interestingly, both emerge in Scripture from the same Hebrew term qua-nah, which means "to be intensely red." It is descriptive of one whose face is flushed as a sudden surge of blood announces the rush of emotion. To demonstrate the grim irony of language, zeal and ardor and envy all come from a common linguistic root. The same emotion that "enrages a man" (Prov. 6:34) also floods him with zeal to defend his country or adore his wife and family." Swindol, p. 445.]
Let's look at this powerful force, this hostile emotion, this destructive enemy through some selected verses in Proverbs.
Proverbs 23:17-18 warns us not to be envious of the successes of sinners. "Do not let your heart envy sinners, but live in the fear of the Lord always."
How should we react when persons who spurn God's way seem to get what they want and go unpunished (Ps. 37:37)? In such cases we may be tempted to "envy [Hebrew q n , qin , "the flush of emotion"] sinners" (1:10), who miss the mark of responsible conduct yet gain rewards that ought to be reserved for those who live in the "fear of the Lord." Envying sinners (3:31; 24:1, 19; Ps. 37:1), wanting to do what they do, is senseless because they have no hope (24:20) whereas the wise and godly do. The immediate pleasure of sin cannot be compared with the ultimate hope associated with the fear of the Lord (19:23; 24:21).
The thrust of verse 18 is that those who fear God are the ones who will be truly rewarded. "Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.
There is a future (for God-fearers) counsels us to patient, consistent, obedient faith (Joel 2:18). "Hereafter" does not necessarily point to life after death, but to life further down the road when the sinners' missteps will catch up with them and the God-fearers' steadfastness will be honored. "Hope" (ch. 13), maintained over the long haul,"will not be cut off " and left frustrated. The justice of God will come to pass for those who obey ("fear") Him and wait. This is good counsel for a generation conditioned by the cheap, tricky, and instant solutions of half-hour television comedies or the impossible resolutions in hour long dramas. [Hubbard, David A.: The Preacher's Commentary Series, Vol 15. Proverbs. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1989, S. 371.]
Proverbs 24:1-2 teaches us not to envy evil men. "Do not be envious of evil men, nor desire to be with them;"
Who are evil men? Anyone who doesn't have the righteousness of Jesus Christ, for even though someone might be a nice guy, the Bible says none are righteous (Rom. 3:10). The only way we're righteous is if we are in Christ, washed by the blood of the Lamb, robed with His righteousness (Isa. 61:10).
The apparent freedom of "evil men," especially those who seem to get away with their lifestyle, can cause even the most committed of us to "be envious" (23:17) at times. A great deal of modern entertainment—whether short story, novel, film, or ballad—is based on the celebration of the happiness or success of the wicked. It banks on the fact that we as audience members have a perverse attraction, even affection, for those who act out the mischief that we only dream of.
Don't desire to be in their company either. [Didn't Jesus spend time with sinners? Yes, but in every instance, they were radically changed by Him. Therefore, if you want to hang around sinners so that a powerful witness can be expressed, if the atmosphere of the gathering changes because of your presence, that's one thing. But if the sinful atmosphere is changing you, that's something else altogether, and you should not be there. [Courson, Jon: Jon Courson's Application Commentary. Vol. Two: Psalms-Malachi. Nashville, TN : Thomas Nelson, 2006, S. 252] ]