Summary: Envy - the sin we cannot enjoy
Deadly Sins and Transforming Virtues Series - 5
One author writes of a friend who was happily married, had a good job and a respectable salary, and who lived in a nice home. His kids where doing well in great schools. He enjoyed the company of a circle of good friends.
Then . . . he went to his 20 year High School reunion and met up with old companions. As he listened to their stories about jobs which sounded a little more exciting, about incomes that were bigger than his, about trips to distant locations - as he looked at their spouses who appeared to be more educated and more beautiful than his; the world turned.
From that point, he felt inferior and dissatisfied with the life he once loved.
But ... absolutely nothing had changed in his life. What changed was how he thought about his life.
This is the disease of envy. It will skew our perspective on all of life and leave us miserable!
Envy - it’s the only of the vices that is never enjoyable! Lust, pride, sloth, and anger can offer, at least temporarily, some kind of pleasure. Envy never does. It is the secretive, mean, soul-destroying sin that nobody admits. We might confess anger, we may even acknowledge lust - but envy? “Not me, not ever,” we say.
But, we will all agree that everybody else is sometimes envious. We say that a person is “green with envy.” Why? Because, we know that envy makes us sick - first spiritually, often emotionally, and yes, even physically!
What wisdom do we find in the Bible about envy?
James, Jesus’ brother, who became the first pastor of the church in Jerusalem, had some difficult people in his congregation. In Acts we are told that the first church fight was over who was getting more help- the local widows versus the widows from out of town! Pastor James took it to prayer. He offers this inspired wisdom -
"Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice." (James 3:13-16, NIV)
Think about that. Envy is a root, not of anything good or desirable, but of ‘disorder and every evil practice.’ Envy messes us up so badly that we live in a state of confusion, unable to sort out reality. James is not the only one in the Bible to speak to this vice.
· "A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones." (Proverbs 14:30, NIV)
· "Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord." (Proverbs 23:17, NIV)
· "Do not envy wicked men, do not desire their company;" (Proverbs 24:1, NIV)
Paul teaches us that
· "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud." (1 Corinthians 13:4, NIV)
You see envy’s evil practices recounted throughout the ages in the Bible, from the opening words through the New Testament.
· Cain was envious of Abel because God liked Abel’s offering more than his. So he killed his brother, consumed by a murderous rage.
· Joseph’s brothers noted his special status, his spiritual sensitivity. Their hatred grew to such an extent they were willing to sell their brother into slavery, pretend he was dead, and break their old father’s heart.
· King Herod heard that a new king was born and out of envy kills all male children in Bethlehem who were under the age of 2 just to preserve his power.
We must not confuse coveting and envy. The last commandment tells us not to covet our neighbor’s possessions, a serious sin and a cousin to envy. Envy is about who we think we are more than about what we own. Envy looks at the person and wants to be who they are even more than to have what they have.
DeYoung illustrates it this way. “There is a difference between wanting a BMW to drive because we like cars and think it is a fine one and believing that driving a BMW will somehow make us superior to our neighbor who drives a Camry. ... Envy makes us believe that having a car like that makes us a person who can command respect, who is of more worth.” (Glittering Vices)
What a foolish game we get sucked into by envy. Yet, it is one so many of us play.