In my sermon titled “4 reasons why we must not lie” I wrote lying is the most common sin in the church. In today’s sermon, I am going to speak about yet another sin. We call it envy.
1. What is envy?
Envy is a negative emotion. In the dictionary, it is defined as “a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another’s advantages, success, possessions, etc.”
Harold Coffin said, “Envy is the art of counting your neighbors’ blessings instead of your own.”
Socrates elaborating on its effects said, “Envy is the daughter of pride, the author of murder and revenge, the begetter of secret sedition, the perpetual tormenter of virtue. Envy is the filthy slime of the soul; venom, a poison, a quicksilver, which consumeth the flesh and drieth up the bones.”
2. In the Bible?
The Bible has many references to envy. All of them present envy as a negative emotion. Given below are just a few.
(A) It causes physical illness:
“A tranquil spirit revives the body, but envy is rottenness to the bones. (Proverbs 14:30)
(B) Inflicts harm on its subjects:
“Wrath is cruel and anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?” (Proverbs 27:4)
“for you are still influenced by the flesh. For since there is still jealousy and dissension among you, are you not influenced by the flesh and behaving like unregenerate people? (1 Corinthians 3:3)”
(D) A fruit of the flesh:
“Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing, and similar things. I am warning you, as I had warned you before: Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God! (Galatians 5:19-21)
(E) It’s demonic:
“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, demonic.” (James 3:14-15)
3. Why do people envy?
(A) Emotional immaturity:
Joseph’s older brothers envied Joseph when they realized that Jacob loved Joseph more than he loved them, (Genesis 37:3-4). They were physically mature but emotionally very immature that they could not understand it was natural of Jacob to love Joseph the most.
The Satraps and administrators didn’t like being supervised by a Hebrew, whom they thought was lower than them. Therefore they plotted to have Daniel killed, (Daniel 6:4)
Saul feared David’s popularity will cost him his throne and the kingdom. (1 Samuel 18:7-9)
Solomon wrote, “All toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor.” (Ecclesiastes 4:4) This is self-explanatory.
Frustrations and lack of faith also cause us to envy others, (Psalm 73:3).
People envy each other for different reasons. But the fountain of envy itself is always the same. It is called the heart. Jesus said, “What defiles a person is not what goes into the mouth; it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles a person.” The author of the book of Proverbs said: “Guard your heart with all vigilance, for from it are the sources of life.” (Proverbs 4:23).
The heart is the starting point of the activities in life. It determines the course of life. Therefore in order to overcome envy, we must always guard our hearts against emotions such as frustrations, greed, and ego with all vigilance.
St. Paul further elaborated on this principle when he said, “Stand firm, therefore, by putting on the breastplate of righteousness” (Ephesians 6:14b). The breastplate is a metaphor for the righteousness which the Holy Spirit produces in us. This righteousness, expressed in faith and obedience, protects our hearts against emotions such as envy which we discussed above, as a breastplate would protect a soldier’s most vital organs.
Image: Hazel Bregazzi