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.” Most 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, it is possible for one to envy evil people because of their possession – you don’t need to be righteous to have possessions. I’ll 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 sinner or evil people. Psalm 37:1-2 says, “Don’t worry about the wicked. Don’t envy those who do wrong. For like grass, they soon fade away. Like springtime flowers, they soon wither” (NLT). Proverbs 3:31-32 says, “Do not envy violent people; don’t copy their ways. Such wicked people are an abomination to the LORD, but he offers his friendship to the godly” (NLT). 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 generally on envy. Envy is a destructive spirit and an attitude that a child of God must deal with in his or her life. “Anger is cruel, and wrath is like a flood, but who can survive the destructiveness of jealousy?” (Proverbs 27:4 NLT). This simply tells us that jealousy or envy is worse than anger and wrath.
It’s possible to be envious and not know. Let me ask you: 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 neighbor? Do you feel sincerely (not pretentiously) happy? Or do you wish that you were the person financially or materially better than the person? Do you feel you were the one promoted and not the person? Your sincere response will indicate whether you’re envious or not. And if you don’t deal with envy in its present state, it will mature into a horrible size.
Many people today are being driven by envy. Their projects, endeavours and enterprise, are founded on envy. Paul the apostle talked about this in Philippians 1:15 when he said, “Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill” (NKJV). Did you see that? You would think everybody should preach Christ out a clean, upright, holy heart, but Paul said this wasn’t the case. Some were preaching out of envy, some out of strife and some out of goodwill. Which category do you belong to? God will reward everyone according to his or her works. “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). God knows the motive and motivation of everybody; He knows the secret of everyone’s heart and will reward accordingly. Talking about prayer, Matthew 6:6b says, “Then your Father, who knows all secrets, will reward you” (NLT). God knows all secrets; His knowledge is not limited to prayers we pray in the closet. Don’t do the work of God out of envy or strife. Lay aside envy (1 Peter 2:1) and walk properly not in strife or envy (Romans 13:13).
Many today are pursuing success at such a frenetic speed because of the envious desire to be better than someone or others. Ecclesiastes 4:4 captures it well: “Then I observed that most people are motivated to success by their envy of their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless, like chasing the wind” (NLT).
Rachel and envy
Rachel was envious of her sister, Leah – both were married to the same husband, Jacob. Rachel was the one Jacob really wanted to marry before he was deceived by their father, Laban, to marry the elder sister. Jacob served another seven years to marry Rachel,her heartthrob,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 be 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. It was a case of pregnancy competition ignited by Rachel’s envy until she died in the course of being delivered of her second son (Genesis 35:16-19). Don’t be envious of anyone.
Who are you envious of?
Do you still remember our definition of envy? It is “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 (and possibly all that you can’t 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.
As we’ve seen, envy will make you have resentment towards another person because of what he/she has. I’ve never seen any envious person who walks in love towards the person the/she envies – it’s always hatred. So, there is a relationship between envy and hatred. “You are jealous for what others have, and you can’t possess it, so you fight and quarrel to take it away from them” (James 4:2 NLT). Did you see that? Envious people fight and quarrel to take away from others their possessions. Romans 13:9b says, “‘You shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (NKJV).
In a dangerous progression, envy can lead to covetousness and hatred; and it can lead to other vices like stealing, robbery, or murder. That’s why you have to deal with it in your life. No wonder, Psalm 37:8b warns: “Do not envy others — it only leads to harm” (NLT). Envy won’t only harm the envious; it can actually move him to harm the envied. That’s probably why envy is also called “an evil eye” (Mark 7:22 KJV, NKJV, ASV). That phrase “an evil eye” is translated envy in other translations of the Bible. That description, “an evil eye”, is quite fitting because 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. To defile you means to “make you unacceptable to God” (Mark 7:23 NLT).
It is amazing that many people don’t see that envy is a serious sin. However, if you look at other sins it is listed alongside in Romans 1:29, you’ll begin to deal more seriously with this sin 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; an envious person is a candidate for murder.
Envy and murder
Let me show you some proofs in the Bible that envy and murder are close relations – an envious person is just close to being a murderer; he 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 says, “Therefore, when they had gathered together, Pilate said to them, ‘Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?’ For he knew that they had handed Him over because of envy” (NKJV). Mark 15:9-10 says a similar thing. There are still envious religious leaders today – ministers of God who’re envious of their fellow ministers; envious of the grace of God upon their lives, envious of 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…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 4:4-5, 8 NKJV). 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. “Now it had happened as they were coming home, when David was returning from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women had come out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with joy, and with musical instruments. So the women sang as they danced, and said: ‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.’ Then Saul was very angry, and the saying displeased him; and he said, ‘They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed only thousands. Now what more can he have but the kingdom?’ So Saul eyed David from that day forward” (1 Samuel 18:6-9 NKJV). Did you see that? He was provoked to envy by the album released by the Israelite women to praise David! Why should they ascribe ten thousands to David and thousands to him, the king? Saul’s eye was full of envy for a small boy. A whole king was envious of one of his subjects! Imagine a boss being envious of someone his subordinate! 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.
What was the end of Saul? He died as one not anointed 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). Saul died as if he had not been anointed with oil! Envy dried up the anointing upon his head! Envy contributed to his 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 a sin you once committed (Titus 3:3).
If you call yourself a child of God and you allow envy in your life, it will hinder you from inheriting the kingdom of God. “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, ENVY, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21 NKJV; Emphasis mine). Did you see that envy is listed immediately before murders among the works of the flesh that will make one not to inherit the Kingdom of God? 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. Put an end to envy in your life – it is flesh and it should die (Colossians 3:5).
Envy and your health
Another important truth you should know about envy is that it has negative implication on your health. Envy leads to rottenness of bones. It causes bone diseases. “A sound heart is life to the body, but envy is rottenness to the bones” (Proverbs 14:30 NKJV). That’s what the Bible says – medicine may or may not agree. The Bible says if you continue in envy you may develop cancer in your bones! “The life of the body is a tranquil heart, but envy is a cancer in the bones” (Proverbs 14:30 Jerusalem Bible). If I were you, I’ll stop envy now rather than stand the risk of rottenness or cancer in my bones.
Repent of envy today because God will punish envy; He won’t overlook it – it is a sin. 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 mine. I will punish you for all your acts of anger, ENVY, and hatred. And I will bring honor to my name by what I do to you” (Ezekiel 35:11 NLT, Emphasis mine). Don’t consider envy as nothing; it’s a sin so serious that it will deny you the Kingdom of God.
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit 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 resurrected 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 the palm tree and grow like the 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, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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