How to deal with envy

June 7, 2010

He wanted his neighbor’s garden so badly that he offered to buy the land from him. When the neighbor refused, he crawled into bed and pouted, turned his face to the wall and refused to come to supper.
He wanted his brother’s relationship with God and when he realized he didn’t have it, he got angry and began to hatch a plot to do something about it.
He wanted the adulation of the masses that his junior soldier was receiving, and began to eye the young man who had, in his mind, stolen something from him.
The dictionary definition of envy is “a feeling of discontent aroused by someone else’s possession of things one would like to have for oneself.” If you just take the dictionary definition at face value, then wanting to know the Bible better, like John MacArthur, or wanting to understand theology better, like Al Mohler, would constitute envy. However, it is a good thing to emulate other believers who are ahead of us spiritually, or who have better marriages or children who are better behaved. The sin of envy comes into play when we look at something someone else has, physically or spiritually, and we say, “I want to have that, and I resent the fact that he has it.” The biblical definition of envy is “to pine away, to shrivel,” but at is root it means to spoil, to ruin even to destroy. You see your co-worker has a new car, or he bought a place at the beach, or he’s taking his whole family on an Alaskan cruise, and you fret and fume and resent him for his financial blessings and think, “I am the one who deserves those things for all the work that I do around here.” You look around at your friends who are married or who are having children, and you are neither of those and you start feeling a tinge of resentment that it is happening to them and not to you. Or, for the preachers out there, you hear about someone else’s church that is blessed by God in a way that yours is not, and you resent the pastor for having something you desire. Or the flip side: You silently rejoice when you hear of a church that has failed or suffered a split, even thinking to yourself, “Probably got just what they deserved.”
Envy. The green monster, we call it, usually with a smile and a wink. I mean, everybody struggles with envy, right? It’s no big deal. Like gossip and over-eating, it’s just something we do. Read the opening three paragraphs again. In all three of those stories, which are true, the person infested with poison envy ended up killing or trying to kill the person who had what he wanted. Ahab killed Naboth and took his land. Cain killed Abel. Saul tried to kill David and ended up losing his own life in the process. Do a search for envy in the Bible and you will find it almost always coupled with malice, or strife, or even murder. It is not to be trifled with and very difficult to overcome. In fact, it is impossible to defeat except by God’s grace. That’s what David wrote about in Psalm 37. He said to those who want to fret and to envy, “trust in the Lord,” and then unpacked what it means to trust God. How to deal with envy? Recognize that it is a deadly sin that, at its root, is unbelief. Don’t delay. Pull up poison envy by its roots today.