Over the last few weeks, I have read several articles and devotionals written on the issue of envy. These writings have served as a great reminder as to how dangerous the sin of envy really is to all of us. First Peter 2:1 warns, “So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy.” The Bible clearly states that the sin of envy needs to be removed from the life of every follower of Jesus. The envious spirit you struggle with needs to be eliminated from your life completely, because there is no spiritual value in having a heart riddled with envy.

It appears that envy is the arch enemy of joy. In fact, I can’t think of anything that steals joy from believers more effectively than the sin of envy. Being envious of another person’s life situation is a surefire way to lose your joy. Envy and joy are unable to exist in the same heart. Your soul will either be filled with joy or envy. You simply cannot be simultaneously filled with both attitudes.

Perhaps you are uncertain about the level of impact envy is having on your life. I offer two remarks for your consideration. First, consider what the English word envy means. Envy is defined as “a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another’s advantages, success, or possessions.”

Second, consider the level of self-centeredness that breeds the sin of envy. In fact, envy is the epitome of selfishness. Envy is sly, and it creeps into all of our lives to one degree or another. Rather than rejoicing over what God has blessed another person with, we become jealous and desire something even better for ourselves.

Since God’s word commands us to eliminate envy from your life, you must identify the underlying attitudes that foster a spirit of envy. The sin of envy rages in our hearts when these five attitudes are present in our lives:

1.      Discontentment: When you are not content with what God has provided, you will be vulnerable to envy. A lack of contentment is fertile soil for envy to take root in your heart. Many people are discontent with their job and become jealous of those who advance more quickly. While career advancement is a wonderful thing, the desire for position becomes sinful when an envious heart resents those who progress in their profession more quickly. The love of money is also a common snare for many people living in our materialistic culture. Because our nation has been so richly blessed, Americans are particularly prone to becoming envious of the monetary blessings others enjoy. That is why the writer of Hebrews 13:5 warns, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have.”

2.      Covetousness: Envy is always welcomed in a covetous heart. When you are coveting what God has blessed someone else with, you can be sure the sin of envy is present. Covetousness and materialism are very close relatives, and your sinful heart always craves more. Your covetous heart always feeds your desire for more material things. But material things are not the only target of our covetousness. People can also covet relationships. Recently, I read the story of a wife who described how content she was in her marriage until she met one of her husband’s coworkers. Upon meeting her husband’s colleague at a company function, she was no longer satisfied with the man God had provided. Her husband was quiet, laid back, and struggled with passivity. But the man she met at the function was outgoing, motivated, and quickly advancing in the company. Suddenly, the women was covetous of this man, and dissatisfied in her marriage. That is why God strongly warned His people against the sin of covetousness in the Ten Commandments. In Exodus 20:17 Moses writes, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”

3.      Bitterness: When you sense bitterness in your heart over the advantages others enjoy in life, you have fallen prey to the sin of envy. We all want to be first and hold a clear advantage over others. Innate in all of us is the desire to be significant and enjoy as many benefits in life as possible. When someone has an advantage we believe should be ours, we are opening the door wide open for envy to occupy our hearts. Our attitudes are similar to that of James and John who asked Jesus in Mark 10:37 “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”

4.      Resentment: Resenting the success of another person is a clear indication of envy. When you are unable to rejoice with someone who is experiencing great success, you have likely caved into the temptation to be envious. Envy can quickly deteriorate into resentment. If you are resentful over the success of someone, you are clearly envious. Envy turns the prosperity of others into deep-seated resentment, which always robs you of joy. Psalm 73:3 says, “For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”

5.      Materialistic: Envy is unmistakably present when we are desirous of another person’s material possessions. Covetousness is certainly involved as well, but envy also fans the flames of materialism. When we believe others have the amount of material possessions we deserve, we quickly become envious. As a result, we are often driven to keep up with their level of belongings. That is why Jesus warned against living for the constant pursuit of possessions. In Luke 12:15 Jesus said, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Take a few moments and assess your heart for even the slightest hint of envy. An envious heart will always keep you from a joyful life. Remove envoy from your life, and praise God for what He has provided.

Jay Knolls