Want to know how to Avoid the Trap of Envy?
“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones” (Proverbs 14:30).
As Christians with the purpose of living to please our God Almighty, we’re urged to avoid envy and jealousy
There is a story of two store owners who were bitter rivals. Their stores were direct across the street from one another, and they spent their days sitting in the doorway, keeping track of whose store had the most customers. If one got a customer, he would smile in triumph at the other.
One night an angel appeared to one of the store owners and said, “God has sent me to teach you a lesson. He will give you anything you ask for, but I want you to know that whatever you get, your rival will get twice as much. Would you like wealth? Ask what you will, but he will get twice as much. Do you want a long and happy life? It is yours, but he will live twice as long. You can be famous, your children can be famous, whatever you desire! But whatever it is, he will get twice as much. The man frowned, thought for a moment, and said, “All right, make me blind in one eye.”
Whether it’s the wicked queen envying the beauty of Snow White, King Saul envying the popularity of David, or our children envying their friend’s new bike, we all can fall into the trap of envy. It’s the subtle whisper…why you and not me? It’s a feeling of sadness that comes over your heart because of another’s success, and it’s feeling glad over their failure. Envy is ugly and completely unchristian. It’s no wonder Shakespeare called envy the green-eyed monster!
We find envy everywhere and it affects us all. Envy can rise between friends, over something as trivial as the size of a flashy new engagement ring. Or maybe spouse envy – Your husband did what!? He fixed the stove, he mowed the grass, he took the garbage out without being asked!? Wow, my husband never does any of those things! And of course, there is job envy, like when people have regular 9-to-5 jobs, with weekends off to go boating on the lake or to relax by the pool…makes me sick… Oh, did I let that slip out?
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Signs We Are Falling into Envy
Yes, envy affects us all, if we’re being honest. And you’ll find examples of it throughout the Bible. Cain’s envy caused him to kill his brother Abel. Joseph’s brothers’ envy caused them to sell Joseph into slavery. Miriam’s envy caused her to speak out against Moses, and to be judged by God with leprosy. Leah was envious of Rachel’s beauty and favor. The envy of the Pharisees and Sadducees caused them to put the Messiah to death. And Lucifer’s envy of God caused him to get kicked out of heaven for all eternity.
So how do we know if we have fallen into the trap of envy? Here are a few clues:
– We believe we could have gone farther if we had gotten the same breaks as them
– We use excuses to explain why they succeeded while we failed
– We temper our compliments of others with faint praise
– We don’t congratulate a friend on their good fortune
– We question the motives of those who show kindness or are successful
– We gloat inwardly when someone gets caught, because “they had it coming to them”
– We can’t be genuine friends with someone who excels in our field
– We are happy to hear that some public figure got caught in sin
– We are better at criticism than praise
Envy arises from the judgments we make as we compare ourselves against others and deem ourselves lacking. It negatively impacts us and devalues our self-worth, specifically in those areas that are important to maintaining healthy self-esteem. Envy is a trap, and a doorway to confusion and all sorts of evil, ultimately separating us from God. Thankfully, it is possible to avoid the trap of envy.
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1. Admit Where You Struggle with Envy
Envy is one of those niggling little sins we usually hate to address and confess, because deep down, we realize just how childish and petty it is. In all the years I’ve been a pastor, no one has ever come into my office and said, “Pastor, I need to confess that the sin of envy has seized my life.” I’ve heard just about every other sin, but never, not even once, the sin of envy. It’s one of those sins that’s simply embarrassing to us, so we try to cover it up or ignore it.
Sometimes it manifests as plastic praise:
– She has a great body! (But did you see her nails? She chews ’em down like nubs!)
– She is a super mom! (But seriously… her house is a pigsty!)
Sometimes it attacks their methods or motives:
– Sure, he’s doing well in business, but he’s got to be cheating people out of money somehow!
– Yeah, that church has 20,000 members, but that’s because they are teaching a watered-down message!
Often envy results in condescending comparisons:
– Oh, yeah, that’s a nice car, but you should see the one I’m getting!
– Nice shoes! Are they Ferragamos, like mine?
It’s small, childish, and petty, and we don’t like to admit that we have fallen into the trap of envy. But confession is where we begin to find freedom.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
If we confess – that means, call it what it is.
Not just…God, I have this issue, will you forgive me?
There is power in naming it. It creates a certain dissonance in our souls. When we call it what it is, we can see clearly how ugly it is, and that begins the healing process.
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2. No More Comparisons
“We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves” (2 Corinthians 10:12).
When we engage in a comparison of ourselves to others, we become blind to God’s goodness in our lives. We can forget the value God has placed on us, which then negatively affects our sense of self-worth. We see this play out in Matthew 18:1 when the disciples began to argue between themselves as to who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. They completely failed to recognize that each one of them had been handpicked by God to be part of Jesus’ inner circle!
Our worth is never determined by how well we do something compared to how well someone else can do it. Like other things in life, the worth of a thing is determined by what someone is willing to pay for it.
What’s a painting worth? The selling price in an art gallery. What’s a Mercedes worth? Roughly 50-100k. What’s an apartment in New York City worth? 2k-20 million.
What are you and I worth?
“For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God” (1 Peter 1:18-19).
The God of the universe didn’t redeem you and me with a chunk of one of heaven’s streets, even though they are made of the purest of gold. We are worth more than that.
God didn’t unhinge one of Heaven’s gates to redeem us, even though they are made of giant pearls, purer than Mikimoto pearls. We are worth more than that, too.
And He didn’t redeem us by cutting into Heaven’s foundation, even though it is constructed from the most precious gemstones known to man. We are worth far more than that.
When it comes to our redemption, God paid with the precious blood of Christ! That’s what we’re worth! So stop the pointless comparisons. In the eyes of God, you’re worth the blood of Jesus!
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3. No More Plastic Praise
It’s time to stop pretending to be happy about someone else’s blessing while secretly thinking, Why God, why not me?
Rather, it’s time to get genuinely happy! Or, as Paul directs: “Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). It’s time to celebrate the successes of others with true joy. It’s time to Go Jonathan on people.
Remember the story of King Saul? He had a son named Jonathan who was heir to the throne of Israel. Jonathan probably dreamed about that future day his whole life. But instead, God anointed David to be the next king over Israel. So when Saul began persecuting David and chasing after him to kill him, you would think that Jonathan would be on board.
But Jonathan and David were best buddies, and he made a covenant with David instead: “’ Don’t be afraid,’ he said. ‘My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you” (1 Samuel 23:17).
He promised David: I will be second to you. I will serve you. I’ve got your back. I’ll cover for you.
I will rejoice with you!
Jonathan recognized that God had anointed young David to be King, and he made a declaration to celebrate with him. That’s how you defeat envy. That’s how you stop it from opening the door to all sorts of evil in your life – you rejoice with those who rejoice!
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4. No More Little God
Envy is not a people problem; it is a God problem. Or rather, it’s a problem with our perception of God. Envy is ultimately a perception of God that says, indirectly, He is limited. It’s an unspoken belief that if God blesses you, then He is restricted in how much He can bless me.
– If He prospers you financially, then my chances of prospering are diminished
– If He gives you a great idea, then His wisdom has been depleted and my chances of getting a good idea go down
– If He restores your marriage with love and respect, then He has one less cupid arrow to shoot into my marriage
Envy is a problem of perception that says if God shows you favor, then I will have to go without because God is limited. And if I believe that God is limited, how can I possibly get excited when God blesses you?
To that end, can I introduce you to the God of the Bible? The One and only God, whose goodness, power, and favor are limitless!
– His mercy is everlasting and grace is more than enough
– His love never changes and miracles never end
– His provision needs no replenishment and blessings never run dry
– His wisdom is a well-spring and peace is unparalleled
– His Word endures and His kingdom is everlasting
Almighty God is anything but limited! He’s omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent.
He’s the One who asked Abraham, “Is there anything too hard for the Lord?”
He’s the One who issued the challenge, “Ask of me and I will give you the heathen for your inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession.”
He’s the One who in boldness declared, “I am able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that you can ask or think!”
He’s not a limited God.
When He blesses someone else, we should be excited! Their blessing is proof that He loves His people and cares for our needs. It demonstrates that He is involved in our affairs and intervenes on our behalf. Translation: If He did it for you, then He can do it for me.
He’s not a limited God, and knowing that is the easiest way to overcome envy!