Summary: For the Christian who wants to overcome the temptation of envy learn to fear the Lord.
The Christian’s Answer to Envy
Envy has been called the third deadly sin and for good reason. You see its evil consequences everywhere. Envy is defined as “a painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another person that you lack and want….”
Cain killed his brother Abel because God accepted Abel’s sacrifice and rejected Cain’s (Read Gen. 3:4-8)
Similar jealous and anger feelings arising out of envy this time over a father’s favoritism to their younger brother caused Joseph’s brother to almost kill him before they sold him into slavery to Midianite traders. (Gen. 37:28)
Most of the time we try to reign in our envious feelings sometimes masking them with a false sense of well being for the person envied.
The athletic superstar or top executive who makes
millions in salary and here I am working just as hard or so it seems and it’s all I can do to make ends meet.
There go the Allens getting a new SUV and I have to drive a six year old clunker. And why is it that just because his skin is white he gets the job and I go a begging? If my wife asks me one more time why the neighbors can afford to have their house air-conditioned and we can’t, I going
to tell her to move in with the neighbors.
Yes from the time we were old enough to recognize that my sister got a bigger piece of pie than I did to today’s social and economic, racial and gender differences that continue to foster envious
feelings of jealousy and rage, injustice and favoritism, we-know- something- about- envy.
From the Bible we are taught not to feel envious of others:
--Ps. 37:1 Fret not yourself because of the wicked, be not envious of wrongdoers.
--Mk. 7:20-23 For from within, out of the heart of man come evil thoughts, fornication, theft
murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, ….All these evil
things come from within, and they defile a man, said Jesus.
And as most of us know simply saying that envy is evil and harmful does not stop us from feeling envious especially in our younger years when peer pressure and expectations run high
and strong. Soon it will be June and graduation time, look what expectations the graduates have for prom and weekend activities. Expensive dresses and tuxedos, limousines, all night parties, prom king and queens. Who can look the flashiest, spend the most money, stay up the longest, on and on one contest after another to evoke praise and acceptance but at the same time usher in more and more feelings of envy.
It would be nice to say that as we grow older we grow out of such temptation, but envy does not escape the older generation any more than it does the younger. As one senior brags to another
about his wonderful winter life in Florida and summers in Ohio while the other listens with
the envious regret that he still must continue to work.
What are we to do as Christians to avoid this envy trap? Is it fair or even reasonable to think
that we could somehow stop feeling envious? Is feeling envious that much different from
feeling angry and look how anger haunts our trail throughout life.
In Proverbs 23:17 we get an answer on how to handle envy:
Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the Lord all the day.
Solomon makes the point that rather than feel envious toward the other fellow, fear the Lord throughout the day. It’s a matter or rather a technique of substitution or replacement. Instead
of allowing envy to creep into my thoughts, there is this ever on-going fear of the Lord in
my heart and mind that does not allow “space” for envy. The Christian answer to ridding myself of envious feelings is not to stop feeling envious but to fear the Lord more.
Naturally we would then want to know how to fear the Lord. No doubt there is more than one
answer to that question but to head us in the right direction is that verse in Psalm 115:3
Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.
A similar verse is in Ps. 135:6
Whatever the Lord pleases He does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.
This is one of the points of the parable about the laborers in the vineyard (Mt. 20).
The owner you remember hires laborers to work in his vineyard and agrees to pay them a
denarius for their day’s work. Later in the morning he hires some more workers and then
early in the afternoon hires more workers and near the end of the day he hires still more