BY PASTOR T. O. BANSO
Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary defines envy as, “A feeling of resentment and jealousy toward another person because of his possessions or good qualities.” Many times, envy and jealousy are used interchangeably in English, although jealousy could have a positive meaning like protectiveness or watchfulness.
Envying the sinner
Looking at the first part of the definition of envy, one can envy evil people because of their possessions – you don’t need to be righteous to have possessions. I would like to address this dimension of envy first.
Don’t envy the wicked, evil people or those who do wrong. If you know their future or the end, you’ll not be envious of them or whatever they possess. The Bible talks so much about not envying the wicked, the sinners, or evil people. Psalm 37:1-2 says, “Do not fret because of evildoers, nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb” (NKJV). Proverbs 3:31 says, “Do not envy the oppressor, and choose none of his ways” (NKJV). Don’t envy sinners but always continue to fear the Lord (Proverbs 23:17). Don’t envy evil people; don’t desire their company (Proverbs 24:1). The only reason you should envy them is if you want to receive the same reward with them or experience what is awaiting them. “Do not fret because of evildoers, nor be envious of the wicked; for there will be no prospect for the evil man; the lamp of the wicked will be put out” (Proverbs 24:19-20 NKJV).
Let me now talk about envy in general. Envy is a destructive spirit and an attitude that a child of God must deal with in his or her life. “Wrath is cruel and anger a torrent, but who is able to stand before jealousy?” (Proverbs 27:4 NKJV). This simply tells us that jealousy or envy is worse than anger and wrath.
You can be envious and not know it. How do you feel towards people who are financially or materially better than you? How do you feel when you hear the good news of the promotion or success of a colleague or neighbour? Do you feel sincerely happy or do you wish that you were the one financially or materially better? Do you wish you were the one promoted, not the person? Your sincere response will show whether you’re envious or not. If you don’t deal with envy in its present state, it will mature into a horrible size!
Some people today are driven by envy regarding their projects, endeavours, and enterprise. Ecclesiastes 4:4 captures it well: “Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless—like chasing the wind” (NLT). The New King James Version puts it this way: “Again, I saw that for all toil and every skillful work a man is envied by his neighbor. This also is vanity and grasping for the wind.”
The Apostle Paul said, “Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill” (Philippians 1:15 NKJV). You would think everybody would preach Christ out of an upright, holy heart, but Paul said this wasn’t so. In Acts 13:45, the Bible says when the Jews saw the multitudes that gathered to hear the Word of God, they were filled with envy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying. Envy!
God knows the motives of everybody; He knows the secret of everyone’s heart and will reward accordingly. “Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free” (Ephesians 6:8 NLT). Get rid of envy (1 Peter 2:1). Don’t walk in envy or any other sin (Romans 13:13).
Rachel and envy
Rachel was envious of her sister, Leah – both were married to the same husband, Jacob. Rachel was the one Jacob actually wanted to marry before he was deceived by their father, Laban, to marry the elder sister. Jacob served another seven years to marry Rachel, who unfortunately didn’t have a child for years. Genesis 30:1-2 says, “Now when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister, and said to Jacob, ‘Give me children, or else I die!’ And Jacob’s anger was aroused against Rachel, and he said, ‘Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?’” (NKJV).
Rachel didn’t have to be envious. The reason she needed to be pregnant shouldn’t have been because her elder sister had been pregnant. Rachel eventually had a child, but the envy and rivalry continued between the two of them – it was a case of pregnancy contests between them. It was first through their two maids they gave to their husbands to impregnate and later directly between the two sisters. The pregnancy competition ignited by Rachel’s envy eventually led to her death during the delivery of her second son (Genesis 35:16-19). Don’t be envious of anyone.
Who are you envious of?
Don’t forget the definition of envy: “A feeling of resentment and jealousy toward another person because of his possessions or good qualities.” Who are you envious of? Do you have a feeling of resentment and jealousy towards somebody because of his possessions or good qualities and you’re now motivated to do all that you can do to surpass him? That is not the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God does not envy; it doesn’t covet what belongs to another. Exodus 20:17 says, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s” (NKJV). This is exactly what envy does.
An envious person never lives in love with the person he/she envies. There is a relationship between envy and hatred. “You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it” (James 4:2b NLT). Envious people fight and quarrel to take away from others their possessions.
In a dangerous progression, envy can lead to covetousness and hatred; and it can lead to other sins like stealing, robbery, or murder. That’s why you must get rid of envy in your life. Envy won’t only harm the envious; it can actually move him to harm those envied. That’s probably why envy is also called “an evil eye” (Mark 7:22 KJV, NKJV, ASV). The phrase “an evil eye” is translated as “envy” in some Bible translations. Envy is evil and is listed in Mark 7:21-23 among those sins that come from the heart and defile a man. So envy will defile you or make you unclean.
Surprisingly, many people don’t see envy as a serious sin. However, if you look at other sins it is listed alongside in Romans 1:29, you’ll see the need to get rid of it in your life. In that scripture, it is listed alongside murder, and in fact, it is close to murder – an envious person is close to being a murderer.
Envy and murder
Let me show you some proof in the Bible that envy and murder are close relations – an envious person is a potential candidate for murder, a ready tool in the hand of the devil to kill. The religious leaders who arrested Jesus and killed Him did so out of envy (Matthew 27:17-18; Mark 15:9-10). There are still envious religious leaders today – ministers of God who are envious of their fellow ministers, the grace of God upon their lives, and what God is using them to do.
Cain and envy
Cain killed Abel out of envy. “Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. So the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.’ Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him” (Genesis 4:4-8).
Envy, working through Cain, killed Abel; and it also destroyed Cain. No one’s life can ever be better with envy – it can only get worse. You won’t be a murderer in Jesus’ name.
Saul and envy
Saul was a man also given to envy. A whole king, out of envy, wanted to kill David, who had helped him to kill Goliath. However, this same good deed and gallantry of David provoked Saul’s envy. He was provoked to envy by the way the Israelite women praised David when David was returning from the slaughter of the Philistines. He was envious that they ascribed “ten thousands” to David and “thousands” to him, the king (1 Samuel 18:6-9). The king was envious of one of his subjects. However, all the plans of Saul to kill David failed, and on two occasions, David could have killed him, but he spared his life because of his regard for the anointed.
Unfortunately, Saul eventually died in a battle which David, if he had not forced him into exile out of envy, could probably have helped him to win. Lamenting the death of Saul and his son, Jonathan, who was David’s covenant friend, David said, “O mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew nor rain upon you, nor fields of offerings. For the shield of the mighty is cast away there! The shield of Saul, not anointed with oil” (2 Samuel 1:21 NKJV). Envy contributed to Saul’s death. Envy will slay anyone who continues in it. “For wrath kills a foolish man, and envy slays a simple one” (Job 5:2 NKJV). That won’t be your portion in Jesus’ name.
Be careful not to entertain envy in your life. Let it be part of the old life and not part of the new life. Let it be a sin you once committed but you have repented of and forsaken (Titus 3:3).
If you are a child of God and you allow envy in your life, it will hinder you from inheriting the kingdom of God. In the list of the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21, envy is mentioned just before “murders” in the New King James Version. You’ll find a similar arrangement in Romans 1:29 as I said earlier. Therefore, if you want to inherit the Kingdom of God, stop envying others. Don’t be full of envy. Get rid of envy in your life.
Envy and your health
Another important truth you should know about envy is that it has negative implications for your health. Envy leads to the rottenness of bones. “A sound heart is life to the body, but envy is rottenness to the bones” (Proverbs 14:30 NKJV). The New International Version says envy rots the bones. According to the Good News Translation, “Jealousy is like a cancer.” Get rid of envy instead of allowing it to rot your bones.
How to get rid of envy
To get rid of envy, do the following:
1. Repent of envy. Acknowledge envy as a sin and repent of it. In Ezekiel 35, the LORD announced that He would punish Edom for envying Israel and Judah and committing similar sins. “Therefore, as surely as I live, says the Sovereign Lord, I will pay back your angry deeds with my own. I will punish you for all your acts of anger, envy, and hatred” (Ezekiel 35:11a NLT). Don’t consider envy as nothing; it is serious.
2. Fear the Lord. As I have said, envy is a sin; it is referred to as an evil eye. The Bible says the fear of the Lord keeps one from evil. Fear the Lord. As Proverbs 23:17 says, do not let your heart envy sinners but be zealous for the fear of the LORD all the day.
3. Walk in love with others. Love will get rid of envy in your life. As 1 Corinthians 13:4b says, love does not envy. Walk in love. Love others as yourself (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 19:19; 22:39; Mark 12:31; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8).
4. Practise thanksgiving. Cultivate the attitude of thanking God for what he has done for you or given you. This will discourage you from envying anyone. Nobody has everything. You have some things that others don’t have and vice versa. Therefore, thank God for what you have and what others also have. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says to give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
5. Be content with what you have. Contented people will not be envious of others. Godliness with contentment is a great gain. 1 Timothy 6:6-7 says, “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” (NKJV). John the Baptist told the soldiers who came to him for baptism in Luke 3:14 to, among other things, be content with their wages. Developing contentment will help you get rid of envy. “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5 NKJV).
Get rid of envy.
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit that you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto You today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and God raised Him on the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank You, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like a palm tree and grow like a cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The Lord be with you.
T. O. Banso is the President of Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
Phone No: +2348155744752, +2348033113523
WhatsApp No: +2349081295947