A child of God needs to be vigilant against envy. We read in Rom 13:13 that as saints we must “walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying (Rom 13:13).”
Envy is a sign of a worldly mind-set. “For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men (1Co 3:3)?”
Envy can potentially lead to terrible consequences. It is the opposite of a sound heart, and likened to rottenness. “A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones (Pro 14:30).”
Envy Ends in Tragedy
Cain was envious of Abel, whose sacrifice was accepted whereas his own was rejected. Cain allowed his envy to fester and it became bloodlust, even against his own brother. It eventually led to murder (cf. Gen 4:4-8).
The priests and Pharisees were envious of Jesus. They were more concerned about their own security than the truth, more fearful of the Romans than of God (cf. John 11:47-48). It did not escape Pilate that it was out of envy that the priests had Jesus falsely accused with the intent of murdering him (cf. Mat 27:17-18).
Envy led to evil scheming and premeditated, cold-blooded murder. Worse than that, it led to the rejection of the Messiah.
The Jews were envious of Paul and Barnabas when they saw the multitude gathered to hear the missionaries. They spoke against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming (cf. Act 13:45). Not only that, but “moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar… (Act 17:5).”
Envy Ends in Judgment
Envy not only leads to tragedies, it leads to judgment from God. Envy is one of the sins listed by Paul in Rom 1:29-32 that bring the wrath of God upon this sinful world. Furthermore in Gal 5:19-21, Paul expressly states envy as a sin which bars men from inheriting the kingdom of God.
Guarding Against Envy
Envy and humility are incompatible. A humble spirit helps to guard us against envy. Paul exhorted the Philippian saints:
“Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others (Php 2:3-4).”
Paul went on and gave them the greatest example of humility – the Lord Jesus.
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Php 2:5-8).”
The second guard against envy is contentment. “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee (Heb 13:5).”
Paul learned through his many sufferings how to be content.
“Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me (Php 4:11-13).”
The apostle wrote to his protégé, Timothy, to encourage him. “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content (1Ti 6:6-8).”
Envy is a terrible thing! It can disqualify us from entering heaven and cost us our souls. But thank God we can stand firm against this sin. He has made it possible for us to do so. Let us continue to cultivate humility and contentment in the likeness of Christ.