In my sermon titled “4 reasons why Christians must not Lie” I stated lying is the most common sin in the church. Today I want to talk about yet another sinful practice that the bible calls one of the deadly sins. It’s none other than “Envy”. Speaking of envy, we cannot talk about it without talking about its cousin “Jealousy” – Envy and Jealousy have slight differences but the effects of envy and jealousy on our relationships and life are very much the same.
The cousins of envy and jealousy can suck the life out of our relationships and steal our peace of mind. Today I want to dive deeper into God’s word with you to learn more about envy and jealousy and show you how to overcome the dominion of envy and jealousy in your life. (Also check my sermon titled “Why we must not Gossip?” Scripture quotations are taken from the Amplified® Bible (AMP), Copyright © 2015 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.lockman.org)
1. What is Envy and what is Jealousy?
The dictionary defines the noun of envy as “A feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck while defining the verb envy as “A desire (covetousness) to have a quality, possession, or other desirable thing belonging to (someone else).” If you need a much simpler definition, consider the words of Harold Coffin. He said, “Envy is the art of counting your neighbors’ blessings instead of your own.”
Then what is jealousy? Apart from jealousy being always a noun and envy can be a noun and verb both envy is characterized by covetousness and therefore harmful to others while jealousy is harmful to self. William Penn has said, “The jealous are troublesome to others, but a torment to themselves.” Does that mean jealousy is innocent? Certainly not! While envy is wanting what someone else has jealousy is when you are anxious someone will grab what you have.
“Shakespearean Writings” uses the phrase “green with envy” to refer to envy or the strong sense of covetousness for what someone else has while using the term “green-eyed monster” to refer to jealousy. His words indicate that jealousy is as bad as envy. Furthermore, consider the examples of Joseph’s brothers and King Saul. The older brothers were jealous of Joseph (Genesis 37:3-4) while King Saul was jealous of David. Joseph’s brothers wanted what Joseph had while Saul was worried, that he will lose the throne to David, (1 Samuel 18:6-9). Those are two biblical examples of envy and jealousy.
2. Why do we feel Envious and Jealous?
Socrates elaborating on the effects of envy 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, quicksilver, which consumeth the flesh and drieth up the bones.” If envy is so bad, why do we permit it? The word of God has at least five reasons why we permit envy and jealousy in us despite their evil nature.
2.1 Spiritual Immaturity
While spiritual maturity can be defined as Christ’s likeness spiritual immaturity can be defined as being unable to live a life that is true to your faith. King Saul was a perfect example of spiritual immaturity. The series of his mistakes are recorded in 1 Samuel 13:1-15, and 15:1-35. Consequently, Saul became jealous when he heard the women of Israel upholding David over him. Saul thought “What more can he get but the kingdom?” (1 Samuel 18:8). Ultimately Saul became jealous of David.
2.2 Emotional Immaturity
The American Psychological Association defines Emotional immaturity, as “a tendency to express emotions without restraint or disproportionately to the situation.”Joseph’s older brothers envied Joseph when they realized that Jacob loved Joseph more than he loved them, (Genesis 37:10-11). They were physically mature but emotionally very immature that they could not understand it was natural for Jacob in his old age to love Joseph the youngest of his off seed the most.
2.3 Intellectual Immaturity
Intellectual Immaturity can be defined as an inability to apply one’s intellectual capacities to a given situation. The educated Satraps and administrators we meet in the book of Daniel are a fine example of intellectual immaturity. They didn’t like being supervised by a Hebrew, whom they thought was lower than them. Therefore they plotted to have Daniel killed and ultimately signed their death warrants, (Daniel 6:1-24).
3. What’s so bad about Envy and Jealousy?
Someone said “A man shall never be enriched by envy. Few men have the natural strength to honor a friend’s success without envy. It is better to be envied than to be pitied.” “What a foolish saying?” I thought to myself when I read that quote. There’s absolutely nothing good about envy and jealousy. Both of them are equally evil. They bring destruction to relationships and rob us of joy. Let’s see what’s so bad about envy and jealousy.
3.1 They are the fruit of the Flesh
Paul the apostle in the epistle to Galatians has written about the battle between the flesh and the Spirit in every believer. Though it is an interior, invisible battle, the results are outwardly evident. He writes that envy and jealousy are the fruit of the flesh. The book of Galatians says this in chapter 5 from verses 19 to 21.
“Now the practices of the sinful nature are clearly evident: they are sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality (total irresponsibility, lack of self-control), idolatry, [c]sorcery, hostility, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions [that promote heresies], envy, drunkenness, riotous behavior, and other things like these.”
Just like a servant can’t serve two masters, man cannot serve money and God at the same time, (Matthew 6:24). Likewise, a Christian cannot walk in the spirit and the flesh at the same time because the flesh will eventually overcome the spirit. What starts with envy or jealousy will soon open the door to many other sinful behaviors.
3.2 They share demonic Origins
The Dictionary defines the term “demonic” as a word used to describe behavior or people who are evil. It helps to understand this word if you know a demon is an unclean spirit condemned to hell. Demonic has that same kind of hellish, diabolical, fiendish, infernal, satanic, unholy origins. We often use that word to describe people like Adolf Hitler, Pol Pot, and even the Anti-Christ. James however says in James chapter 3 from verses 14-15, that envy and jealousy also have demonic origins.
“But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be arrogant, and [as a result] be in defiance of the truth. This [superficial] wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly (secular), natural (unspiritual), even demonic.”
We often believe envy and jealousy are to be nothing more than negative emotions. Envy and jealousy are negative, unhealthy emotions indeed but they are also of demonic origins. We can’t dismiss them as innocent, harmless, or annoying feelings. The devil rebelled against God because he wanted to become God. He wanted everything that God had but he did not, (Isaiah 14:12-14). He envied God. In the garden of Eden, he was jealous of Adam and Eve, (Genesis 3:1-4). No wonder envy and jealousy share demonic origins.
3.3 Envy & Jealousy are Unspiritual
When studying Paul’s epistles to the church in Corinth it becomes evident that although the Christians at Corinth believed themselves to be spiritual, their divisions reveal that they were fleshly. They had issues with interpersonal relationships, which indicated a problem in their relationship with God. It demonstrated carnality and a fleshly style of thinking and acting. Consider the book of 1 Corinthians chapter 3 verse 3 below.
“You are still worldly [controlled by ordinary impulses, the sinful capacity]. For as long as there is jealousy and strife and discord among you, are you not unspiritual, and are you not walking like ordinary men [unchanged by faith]?”
It indicates envy and jealousy among Christians are not the only signs of carnality, but envy and jealousy are signs that are evident the most among Christians. Paul just stated that they were acting like mere men, not that they were mere men (i.e., unsaved). Christians are called to something more than simply following the norm. The spiritual state of the Corinthian church indicates that envy and jealousy are evidence of carnality, of a fleshly way of thinking and living.
4. How do Envy and Jealousy harm Us?
Tsem Tulku said, “Envy and jealousy are very harmful because you are never ever satisfied with what you have, and you never reflect on what you have. You constantly live your life on what you do not have.” Another proverb about envy says, “Envy is thin because its bites but never eats.” Antisthenes the Greek Philosopher said, “As iron is eaten by rust, so are the envious consumed by envy.” Let’s see the consequences mentioned in the Bible.
4.1 The Bible says that envy causes physical illness:
The book of Proverbs chapter 14 verse 30 says envy and jealousy can affect our physical health. God didn’t create us to live under the pressure of such emotions. No wonder such emotions make us sick.
“A calm and peaceful and tranquil heart is life and health to the body, But passion and envy are like rottenness to the bones.”
Modern medical science has discovered that envy and jealousy cause cancer in the bone marrow. It’s interesting that the Bible said the same when medical science was still at its grassroots level.
4.2 Jealousy like acid destroys everyone holding It:
The book of Proverbs chapter 27 verse 4 says jealousy is worse than both wrath and anger. Jealousy is like acid. Just like acid corrodes the vessel containing it jealousy destroys anyone holding onto it.
“Wrath is cruel, and anger is an overwhelming flood, But who can endure and stand before [the sin of] jealousy?”
Consider the example of Saul. His life was a great tragedy. He was a man who started well but his jealousy against David prevented him from finishing well. He was consumed by jealousy.
4.3 Envy causes frustration and attacks our Faith:
The author of the book of Psalms in chapter 73 from verses 1 to 14 expressed his frustration after seeing that the unrighteous prosper. Most of you will say that feeling is mutual.
“…But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling, My steps had almost slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant. As I saw the prosperity of the wicked…”
The story of King Saul and David shows that jealousy does not tolerate anybody. Medical science has proved envy can cause born cancer! It has divided our society between the rich and the poor.
Envy is a virus and jealousy is a cancer that needs to be dealt with severely lest they destroy me and you. The word of God introduces us to the antidote for both envy and jealousy. The antidote to envy and jealousy has three well-known essential ingredients. In the Bible those ingredients are called repentance, dependence, and acceptance. Remember, you can’t remove a single ingredient because it makes the antidote useless.
Envy and Jealousy are spiritual conditions and can only be fought with repentance. Let’s consider Jesus’ words about repentance in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 18 verse 3.
“I assure you and most solemnly say to you, unless you repent [that is, change your inner self—your old way of thinking, live changed lives] and become like children [trusting, humble, and forgiving], you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Envy and jealousy will keep coming back to you because the struggle between flesh and the spirit doesn’t end, (Galatians 5:17). Therefore, daily repentance is the only way to overcome those evil cousins every day, (Matthew 3:8).
The next ingredient of the antidote is called “dependence” or dependence on God. In Psalms 73:1-4 we saw that comparing ourselves with the wicked and envying them produces frustration. Here’s what Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 6 from verses 31 to 33.
“Therefore, take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; all these things shall be added unto you.”
We become dependent on God by seeking his righteousness and the Kingdom. In return, he will provide for our needs (Not greed). Jesus is making a deal with us here. If we keep our end of the bargain, he will be faithful to hold his end of the bargain.
The popular “Prayer for Serenity” says, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” I shall say we must rather pray that God will give us the grace to accept his sovereignty. Consider the example of Daniel’s friends in the book of Daniel chapter 3 from verses 16 to 18.
“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego answered the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to answer you on this point. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up!”
Learning to accept God’s sovereignty is an art and mastering that art takes time. It takes practice to stop wondering about why our wicked neighbors prosper and begin to honor God’s sovereignty as we become dependent on him by the day.
In conclusion, if you are feeling envious or jealous today you are not alone. True, envy and jealousy are very unpleasant issues. They steal your joy and rob God’s glory. However, God is willing to help you right now with that problem of envy and jealousy. Just ask the Holy Spirit to wash you with the blood of Jesus and ask God for forgiveness. He is merciful and faithful to forgive you.
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