Envy

By Pastor Jon Lee

We all deal with this thing called envy. Maybe we justify it by saying it’s just thinking “the grass is greener on the other side.” We can think everyone deals with it so it’s just a feeling or an emotion. But envy is more than longing for the better thing or wishing life was better for you. It is comparing what other people have or don’t have. Pastor Scott Sauls gets to the truth of what envy is and defines it this way:

Envy is the opposite of love because it does not rejoice with those who rejoice or mourn with those who mourn. Instead, envy, in its sick and sinister way, rejoices when others mourn and mourns when others rejoice.

Based on that definition, I must ask myself, how often have I rejoiced when others mourned or mourned as others rejoice? In Scott Saul’s book From Weakness to Strength, he shares the example of when King Saul had envy over David. The women would sing as Saul went through the streets, “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7 NLT). One doesn’t have to read much further to see how Saul responded to this, he tries to kill David.

To fight envy we must first assess where envy dwells in our lives and understand what it is. Envy is responding to God’s sovereignty with contempt and distrust. When we deal with envy we are saying, “God you got this all wrong.” We doubt His goodness. We mistrust His plan. We think we know better. Envy distorts salvation. The truth is, what we deserve is Hell and death, but we are offered the free gift of God, which is eternal life in Christ Jesus (see Romans 6:23). Envy demotes salvation to something lesser than the great free gift it is. In a way, envy is declaring with our fists in the air, “If I were God this is how it should be.” So, how do we fight envy?

  • Know You Will Never Have It All

You may be able to catch all the Pokemon but you will never be able to have it all in this life. When Pokemon Go came out as an app (July 2016) it was quite interesting to see how many people were willing to go on these long excursions for something that didn’t physically exist. People would get in car accidents just trying to find the next Pokemon! Yet the design of this augmented reality app is that you will never catch them all. It is designed to change and grow in time to keep people interested— the envious desire of having it all never to be obtained.

In the Bible, King Solomon, the wisest and wealthiest king in Israel’s history, had it all (he didn’t catch all the Pokemon though). He is recorded as having almost a thousand women at his disposal. He had wealth and could eat anything and everything he ever wanted. The kingdom was in great growth and was the largest in its history. People from all over the world would seek him for his wisdom (including the Queen of Sheba) and yet in Ecclesiastes 1, he writes it was all pointless.

Having a drive or ambition is not the problem, it’s what the motivation for your ambition is? If it is being the best, one day there will be someone better. If it is being the prettiest, strongest, greatest, etc., there will always be someone prettier, stronger, or greater. Realizing this shouldn’t leave you depressed because of this unachievable goal. We have a higher calling, a greater purpose in which to do our best. It is all for the glory of God (see Colossians 3:23–24).

  • In Christ You Have It All

There will always be the person that is better or has more, but when we see the surpassing, eternal worth that one has in Jesus Christ, you’ll realize that He is all that you need. Paul describes his outlook in Philippians 4:10–13. Here he describes what it means to be content in all situations with or without the luxuries that can be obtained in this life. We can have nothing, yet in Christ we have all that we need. Charles Spurgeon said:

The cure for envy lies in living under a constant sense of the divine presence, worshiping God and communing with Him all the day long, however long the day may seem. True religion lifts up the soul into a higher region, where the judgment becomes more clear and the desires are more elevated. The more of heaven there is in our lives, the less of earth we shall covet. The fear of God casts out envy of men.

  • Read, Reread, and Rest in the Promises of God

If envy questions God’s sovereignty and goodness, we must read, reread, and rest in what the Bible tells us about God’s sovereignty and goodness. There are several verses that speak about God’s control, power, and wisdom, but one chapter of the Bible I would like to direct your attention to is Romans 8.

In the previous chapters of Romans, Paul mentions the difference between the law and grace. Grace which we don’t deserve is the greatest of God’s gifts. In light of God’s grace through the work of Christ, Paul answers how this changes our position before the Lord.

  • Romans 8:1 – In Christ, there is security and hope in His perfect life, sacrificial death, and resurrection.
  • Romans 8:15 – We are able to cry out, “Abba, Father.” Abba is equivalent to saying daddy. We are God’s children through Christ.
  • Romans 8:18 – The bad that we face is the worst it’s going to be in light of the eternal glory that awaits the believer.
  • Romans 8:28–29 – We can trust and rest in God’s goodness when times are good and through trials because everything He does is for His glory and our good.
  • Romans 8:35, 37–39 – Nothing can separate us from God’s love. What you have or don’t have in this life reflects God’s everlasting love for you.

Reflect on these truths of God’s character and rest in His sovereignty and goodness as you fight off envy.