Summary: Envy is considered to be the second most deadly sin but it’s known to be the nastiest, ugliest and the meanest of all sins. It is also the most secretive of the 7 Deadly Sins. Many people will admit in public to the sin of sloth or gluttony but envy? Yet
When I served on staff at Rayne Memorial UMC on St. Charles Avenue, a young man named Arthur began attending. Arthur was a nice guy but was different, both in appearance and in personality. Arthur got involved in the young adult ministry I had started at the church and was accepted for who he was. It wasn’t long before Arthur became fixated on another guy in the group I’ll call Carl. Carl was a successful young man working in corporate America who was from a well to do family. He was amiable, friendly with everyone, had a heart of gold, was active in the ministry and often hosted events at his apartment in the Garden District. He was a member of a Mardi Gras Krewe, played golf at a local country club, was a member of the Young Republicans, the Young Leadership Council and another society club. Carl also drove a BMW. Arthur wanted to be like Carl. He asked to join the clubs that Carl was a part of and wanted to be Carl’s best friend. While Carl was gracious to Arthur, they were never going to be best friends. Arthur’s envy turned and one night, Arthur went over the Carl’s apartment, poured gasoline on Carl’s BMW and lit it on fire. He was arrested and served time in jail. This is the power and damage envy can have in our lives.
Today, we’re focusing on the last of the seven deadly sins. Envy is considered to be the second most deadly sin but it’s known to be the nastiest, ugliest and the meanest of all sins. It is also the most secretive of the 7 Deadly Sins. Many people will admit in public to the sin of sloth or gluttony but envy? Yet one thing we do know is that envy is universal. We all struggle with it at some point. You see it throughout the ages in people. Even in the Bible, we see the deadliness of the sin of envy. Cain was envious of Abel because God liked Abel’s offering more than his. So Cain killed Abel out of envy. In the New Testament, King Herod hears of another king being born and so Herod out of envy kills all male children under the age of 2 to preserve his power and station in life. In the Ten Commandments God addresses envy when He says, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” Exodus 20:17. It’s that envy of my neighbor’s ox which gets me every time!
In our culture we have a saying, “green with envy.” This comes because it is thought that someone who is envious is sick. We have another saying, “keeping up with the Jones.’” Envy changes how we look at things. One author writes of a friend who was happily married, had a good job and a respectable salary, lived in a good neighborhood and his children went to great schools and had good friends. But then he attended his 20 year High School reunion and saw people he had gone to school with, heard about their jobs which sounded a little more exciting, their salaries which were a little bigger than his, their neighborhoods which were a little bit more prestigious, their kids private schools and their spouses who seemed to be more educated and more beautiful. When he returned home, he felt inferior and now dissatisfied with his life. And yet absolutely nothing had changed in his life. What changed was how he thought about his life. This is the disease of envy.
We begin to see the person we envy up on a pedestal as we think their life is great and perfect and they have everything going for them. And then we look back into our own lives and we see everything at a deficit, making us feel inferior. That’s because envy attacks where we are lacking or we feel we are lacking. Envy moves from our minds then to our hearts and it spreads to our entire lives. “A heart at peace gives life to the body but envy rots the bones.” Proverbs.
There are four symptoms of envy. The first is that we compare ourselves to others. That’s something which begins at a very early age. Early childhood experts have discovered that at about age 7 we begin to see the similarities and the differences between ourselves and others. It must not be long after that we begin to compare ourselves to others. But we need to know that this tendency to compare is the breeding ground for envy. What we find is that we compare ourselves to people who are similar to us in age, background and circumstance but we avoid comparing ourselves to people who are vastly different from us and may lead lives which are viewed as unattainable. We don’t compare our paychecks with Donald Trump or Oprah. We don’t compare our athleticism to Drew Brees or Chris Paul. We don’t compare our homes and decorating skills with Martha Stewart. Part of the reason envy is so deadly is that it focuses on those who are around us: our spouse, our friends, our family, our neighbors and our co-workers and thus it can affect the relationships with others in our lives.