How To Exteriminate Envy And Its Insidious Cousins

The spirit of envy is the very contrary of the spirit of heaven, where all rejoice in the happiness of others; and it is the very spirit of hell itself … Jonathan Edwards, Charity and its Fruits

Years ago at a pastors retreat I shared that at times I envied others’ gifts. One man’s jaw dropped and he said, “But Mark, you probably receive more encouragement than any other pastor I know.” Sadly, he was right – I’d been blessed to preach and pastor and write songs and regularly received lots of encouragement.  But when others were praised for their preaching or leadership, jealousy would rear its ugly head.

Envy is no light thing –  it’s one of the “evil things that come out of the heart of man,” along with sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, deceit, sensuality, slander, and pride and all these, including envy, “defile a person” (Mark 7:22-23).

Envy and its cousins, jealousy and selfish ambition, are “earthly, unspiritual, demonic” (James 3:15) and “where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice” (16).  When we open the door to envy it ushers all its foul friends and every kind of chaos into our lives.

Like the Orkin commercial where a homeowner answers a knock at the door and there stands a 6 foot termite, who says, “I was wondering if I could use your phone – my car broke down a few blocks over, and – (looking down at the floor) is that oak?”  Envy knocks on the door and says “Mind if I come in for a few minutes? I’m not that bad.” And when we let it in it brings all its cousins – jealousy, selfish ambition, disorder, and every vile practice.

Envy springs from a debased mind (Romans 1:28), is a work of the flesh along with immorality, idolatry, sorcery, drunkenness and orgies and those who practice these things, will not inherit the kingdom (Galatians 5:19-21).  Not only does envy trash us for heaven, it ruins us now – “envy makes the bones rot” (Proverbs 14:30).

When we envy, we are saying Jesus alone isn’t enough to satisfy us –  we need Jesus PLUS possessions, admiration, and success.  Then we’ll be satisfied.

And envy is the complete opposite of love, because “love does not envy or boast” (1 Corinthians 13:4). Instead, love rejoices when others are blessed.

How can we exterminate this filthy vermin and its insidious cousins?  

Edwards says the spirit of heaven is “where all rejoice in the happiness of others.”  So when tempted to envy, ask, “How would I react if I were in heaven and God blessed someone more than me?”  In heaven we’ll be free from all sin – including envy.  So we’ll rejoice to see others blessed, honored, and rewarded above us, and we’ll worship Jesus for his generosity.

That’s the spirit of love. The spirit of heaven. When we love others we rejoice to see them blessed – even more than us.  And Jesus will help us to love others this way as we confess our sin, ask Jesus to satisfy us with himself, and help us rejoice when he blesses others.

  • http://www.worshipfulreader.blogspot.com Ron Reffett

    Amen Mark! Great post! I was just thinking about this today, I find myself cringing, not just at the other person who receives the praise or accolade but at my hearts reaction to it! I find myself allowing those nasty pests of envy and jealousy in. If I stop and examine my heart, I would see the only One who deserves any praise or adoration is my Heavenly Father! Everything else is just purely a bonus, because all that I truly deserve is wrath and condemnation! Thanks for yet another gospel centered reminder!
    Blessings
    Ron

    • Mark Altrogge

      Hey Ron,

      Thanks for your comments! I especially like this one: If I stop and examine my heart, I would see the only One who deserves any praise or adoration is my Heavenly Father! that is excellent! Good reminder – we don't really deserve any praise or admiration or encouragement. Thanks again for adding your comments!

  • Graham Leverton

    This is a great post Mr Altrogge but I never have got this idea that God blesses one man with an oak floor and not another. The issues, most of which are sinful, must surely lie in the fact that a man feels that he is blessed by God because of his oak floor and the other guy is envious because he only has laminate. Envy is closely linked to self righteousness. Interestingly, Paul carefully draws the self righteousness parallel in the context of the the scriptures Roms 1.28 and Gal. 5. 19-21, and he does so to highlight non-believers in the chains of self righteousness. I sometimes think that if only I didn't communicate to single unmarried Christian people that I am blessed to have 6 children, I might not provoke their envy. But that is plain stupid because the next day I am envious because my single friend is again off on holiday with other single friends, 'Oh how they are blessed.!' So teaching on envy and his cousins should always include their parent…. self righteousness, as Paul does. And to exterminate self-righteousness we only need to be clear that we are absolutely loved and possess the spirit of love to love others. I know you hint at all this but I actually think it is fundamental to the confusion some of Christianity has with their emphasis on blessing.

    • Mark Altrogge

      Thanks for your comments, Graham, I will need to check out the self righteousness link to envy…

  • fredokie

    Mark, Thank you for a poignant self check. I'm not sure why but we are wired to always compare ourselves to others or to man's standards, not God's.
    It is a daily battle to not compare what someone has in the way of job, status, wealth, or stuff to what I have. I am reminded daily and try to focus that everything I have is from God and his rich grace. I am blessed that I can, in a very small way, share His grace and mercy on others.
    My wife would say I can be pretty clueless sometimes but she reminds me that we have been blessed beyond our wildest dreams. Sometimes we can lose sight of His blessings on us.

    • Mark Altrogge

      Hey Fred, thanks for these comments! Yes it is so easy to lose sight of his blessings on us – if that's what we were focused on instead of his blessings to others, it would certainly make our battle much easier.