Envy . . . “a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another's advantages, success, possessions, etc.”
If we are honest with ourselves, we all get envious or jealous at times. Sometimes it might be subtle in our own minds as we wish things were different, other times it can eat us up, warp our perspective and take us into dark places where we will struggle to get out of. Envy can consume us like a fire.
I have never been overseas and as I get older I feel that perhaps I never will. I would so much love to travel and see the world . . . but due to circumstances, it has never been possible. I know people who are currently traveling overseas, about to or planning to do so. At work my colleagues all talk about their overseas trips with such joy and excitement, all the wondrous places they have seen and how much they look forward to their next trip. I sit quietly because I don't want to mention that I have never left this country and unlikely to.
Yes, I get envious of those who have been fortunate enough to travel to exotic places and I wish it was me going instead.
Envy is not new, its been around since the days of Cain and Abel. There is something like 55 verses on envy and jealousy in the Bible . . . we are such weak and pathetic souls who God knew we would struggle with these emotions. Here are just a few of the verses on envy:
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up. (1 Corinthians 13:4)
A sound heart is life to the body, But envy is rottenness to the bones. (Proverbs 14:30)
For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. (James 3:16)
But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. (James 3:14-15)
You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbour’s.” (Exodus 20:17)
Set me as a seal upon your heart, As a seal upon your arm; For love is as strong as death, Jealousy as cruel as the grave; Its flames are flames of fire, A most vehement flame. (Song of Solomon 8:6)
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. (Philippians 2:3)
We live in a world that tells us to "keep up with the Jones" and not be satisfied with what we have. The media are excellent at planting the "desire of want", reminding us that we really do need the latest technology, the biggest house, better furniture, the latest fashions, a faster car, improved looks, less weight, be more successful and more money. One doesn't need to look far to see these messages surrounding us - in magazines, on the TV, social media, even in the news, newspapers, on billboards or just in conversations between people. It is a rare thing to find someone who is honest and says they are content with what they have and no longer want what others have. When John D. Rockefeller was asked how much money was enough, he replied "Just on more dollar", we too always seem to want "just one more thing".
Of course, envy doesn't need to be just about material things. Women in miserable marriages feel envious about those in happy marriages. Women at work feel envious of those at home, women struggling to conceive, feel envious of those with children. This is understandable and one feels great sadness for those women struggling in an unhappy marriage, having difficulties conceiving or those who want to follow the Lord and become keepers of their home. The bible shares the story of Rachel and Leah, Rachel was beautiful and the scripture simply states the sad truth: "And Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah." The rivalry between the two sisters were bitter, nasty and miserable as Rachel wanted what Leah had (children) and Leah wanted what Rachel had (Jacob's love). Years were wasted on their bitterness and discontent when they only needed to be gracious, kind and generous to each other.
Being envious indicates that we are not satisfied with what God has given us. The Bible tells us to “be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). To be find contentment and throw away envy we need to be honest with ourselves and recognise that we do get envious of what others have and it is a sinful emotion. Our envy keeps us from desiring God's Word and from living more Christlike . . . instead of focusing on Christ, we are too focused on ourselves and our own desires, we are only concerned about satisfying our own cravings and as a result we forget to look at how God has truly blessed us.
When our lives are over, we're going to leave everything behind. The body we spend so much money on will return to dust. The wardrobe, the beautiful home, the bank account, the advanced degree, the recognition—all those things that we give our lives to are going to remain on Planet Earth long after we've departed.
There are no pockets in a shroud. That's why it's essential to remember that only two things on earth will enter eternity—people and God's Word. If we give priority to giving God's word to people and living it, we'll have something that will last forever. (from Bible.org)
As our faith strengthens and we spend more time serving others instead of ourselves (and being excited for their blessings), our heart will change and we will no longer want or desire the things of this world.
We need to offer words of graciousness when someone is blessed with an opportunity to do something that you so much would like to do yourself. To give thanks to those who are blessed with another child or reach out to someone in an unhappy marriage rather than boasting about your great family. Envy is such a nasty cancer that spreads and can be difficult to kill. We don't want to be like Rachel and Leah.
And do not be conformed to this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,
that you may prove what is that good andacceptable and perfect will of God.