Envy is characteristic of our corrupt nature. Our normal tendency, apart from God’s grace and help, is to be jealous and envious.
The Bible states that before our becoming believers that we “were…living in malice and envy, and hating one another”. (Titus 3:3). Note those three words, “living in…envy”. This is a powerful expression. It has the idea of being a constant presence, ruling our life and decisions.
According to this verse envy leads to our being malicious and hating people. This is the normal result of envy being allowed in one’s heart to exist unchecked. It is a part of our corrupt nature. It is also a hindrance to our being able to love genuinely.
If I live without God’s presence or control in my life I will be consumed with “envyings” (Galatians 5:19-21). The word is plural; I can be jealous and envious of many things at the same time. Envy, as a snake’s venom spreads quickly through the bloodstream, begins to affect everything you see or hear that others have that you do not.
Rather than loving them and rejoicing for them, you wish you had their stuff (jealousy) and soon get to the place where you wish they didn’t have it (envy). Envy is so subtle and powerful that it can possess a person. The Bible teaches that we can be “full of envy” (Romans 1:29).
When a person comes to Christ they are given new desires from God. There are two dominant desires that reveal the authenticity of the new birth: a desire to be holy and clean in their hearts (II Peter 1:3-4) and a desire to love and care for people (I John 2:9-11).
Simply put, if a person does not have a desire to be Christlike in their character and to love people they have never been saved because they do not bear the marks of the new birth.
God says, “…this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication…” (I Thessalonians 4:3). God’s plan includes my personal holiness and moral purity.
A second text says, “…as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another”. (I Thessalonians 4:9) A genuine believer doesn’t have to be taught how to love others, He has been taught of God in his heart to do so.
My nature apart from God is not interested in living according to God’s Word or to love people. The human heart is naturally immoral and selfish. Salvation not only changes my destination from hell to Heaven, but also my motives and desires in this life.
One of the measurable expressions of love in the Bible is that “Charity…is not envious” (I Corinthians 13:4). When I am filled with jealousy and envy I am not loving others but preoccupied with what they have. Rather than thinking good things about people there is resentment toward them.
I have known families that have separated over the way a will was divided and were alienated for years because they could not get over the hurt and perceived injustice. As long as you are jealous and envious of a person you cannot love them.
Several years ago I was talking to a close friend that was in ministry about a conference he had attended. He mentioned a sermon that was given on jealousy and how it had helped him. He shared that the speaker communicated how easy it was to be jealous by looking at other Christian ministries and the things they have that you do not. He challenged the people to be content and grateful for what God had given them.
My friend told me that he began to count His and the ministry which he oversaw. It is easy to begin to compare what we have or do not have with others. It’s a dead end and will result in a lack of love for a sister ministry and the people that are in it.
Has envy crept into your heart? Are you envious of someone’s marriage? Is there envy because of the fact they are married? Are you envious of the type of children they have – their behavior, abilities, or honors? Perhaps you are envious of the fact that some couples have children and you cannot. Some may be envious of the type of job another has and the perks it carries. Maybe you are envious over the fact someone has a job and you can’t find one.
There is a contrast between the nature of a true believer and an unbeliever. A true believer loves people and an unbeliever “lives in envy” and is “filled with envy”. That doesn’t mean that Christians never struggle with jealousy or envy, but it does mean they have a sincere desire to love, give and serve others.
“Nothing sharpens sight like envy”, wrote Thomas Fuller. May our sight be focused on our blessings and rejoice in the goodness of God to others. Until we do so we are not only miserable and ungrateful, but we are not loving people.