What Does The Bible Say About Envy
Envy is an emotion that involves a strong desire to obtain and possess something that another person has. The Bible suggests that envy should be avoided, as it can lead to hatred, strife and a host of other negative emotions. The book of Proverbs declares that envy “is cruel as the grave” and that it “stirs up strife” (Proverbs 14:30; Proverbs 28:22). By contrast, the New Testament encourages living in love, peace and harmony with others (Romans 12:10-12; Ephesians 4:1-3).
The Bible also identifies envy as a sin. James 3:14-16 explains that envy will lead to a host of other sins, including murder, though it does not mean that all instances of envy lead to serious offenses. Rather, the passage serves as a warning that envy should be avoided at all costs. Furthermore, Jesus taught that envy is a sign of spiritual blindness (Luke 16:14-15).
Envy brings about destruction, not only on the person being envied, but also on the person doing the envying. In the book of Ecclesiastes, envy is said to “destroy its possessor” (Ecclesiastes 4:4). The ancient Roman playwright Seneca once wrote, “Envy is a weed of which no fruit can be reaped.” Clearly, envy can lead to sorrow, heartache and strife.
The Bible provides a number of solutions for avoiding envy. One obvious remedy is to be content with what one has. Paul counseled the Philippians to “learn to be content with what you have, for he said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” (Philippians 4:11-13). The Bible also encourages expressing gratitude for one’s blessings (1 Thessalonians 5:18). And Joshua 1:8 teaches us to meditate on Scripture and “observe to do according to all” of God’s Word.
The Bible also explains that rejoicing in the success of others is an antidote to envy. Proverbs 23:17-18 explains that when others prosper, we should rejoice with them and not begrudge them their accomplishments. As the Apostle Paul described in Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” On a practical level, the Bible encourages us to be generous and help others, rather than envy them (Proverbs 22:9; Proverbs 28:27; 2 Corinthians 9:6-7).
When we are feeling tempted to envy, the Bible encourages us to “choose this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15). We are to put God first, focusing on His plans and promises, rather than the circumstances of others’ lives, or what He has given to them versus what He has given us. This helps us to remember that our ultimate blessings are found in the Lord, not in material or physical success.
Seeking After Godly Wisdom And Understanding
Ultimately, envy is rooted in discontentment, which is a product of worldly thinking. The Bible encourages us to pursue after godly wisdom and understanding (Proverbs 3:13-18). Instead of seeking out the physical wealth or success of others, we should seek after the spiritual riches found in a relationship with God (Job 28:15-19). We must remember that the Lord knows what is best for us and will provide for our needs, regardless of whether or not we have the same material blessings as someone else (Romans 8:28; Philippians 4:19).
The book of James urges us to practice the two greatest commandments and seek after the Lord’s righteousness: “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was” (James 1:22-24). When we are focused on God and His purposes, we are less susceptible to envy.
A Proper Response To Envy
Envy is an inclination that must be combatted and rejected. We should strive to avoid envying others who are enjoying the wealth or recognition that God has blessed them with. The Bible encourages us to not only contain our envy, but to respond to others with love and compassion. We can rejoice in their successes and celebrate their accomplishments with them (Philippians 2:1-4). By doing this, we can grow closer to God and our fellow man, and trust that He will bless us in His perfect timing and in the way that is best for us.
Managing Envy In The Age Of Social Media
In the age of social media, the temptation to experience envy can be very strong. It is easy to compare one’s present lifestyle or successes with what others have and to feel envy bubbling up inside. In order to combat this, we have to focus on the good things that God has done for us and thank Him for them (Ephesians 5:20). Furthermore, social media users can make a deliberate effort to be mindful of the content that they are exposed to and to filter out negative or envious thoughts.
One way to do this is to set up lists of people or organizations that one follows on social media. For instance, a person might choose to follow accounts that post uplifting Scriptures or stories of overcoming hardships. Additionally, one could use the mute or unfollow features of various social media platforms to limit their exposure to content that encourages envy. By living our lives according to the Word of God, we can enjoy peace and stability even in an ever-changing world.
Learning To Be Content With What We Have
The Bible teaches us to be thankful to the Lord for our blessings, no matter how few they may be. Contentment is the antidote to envy and should be the focus of our lives. One way to increase our contentment is to seek contentment in small, everyday joys. Instead of constantly striving for more, we can enjoy simple pleasures like savoring a cup of coffee on a Saturday morning, playing a game with family and friends, or snuggling up with a good book. The Bible also encourages us to take joy in serving others, reminding us that we can be blessed by blessing someone else (Deuteronomy 15:10).
Alfred Lord Tennyson once said, “‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Indeed, when we have the correct perspective, it can be truly rewarding to receive the Lord’s blessings, acknowledge them, and be content in them. By living a life of joy and contentment, we can glorify God and neuter the power of envy in our lives.
Celebrating The Success Of Others
The Bible urges us to be happy for those who receive the blessings of the Lord and learn to appreciate the successes of others. In Luke 6:35-36, Jesus says, “But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.” We should strive to follow this example and be glad for the successes of those around us.
The Bible also encourages us to be generous with our praise and to recognize the merits and successes of others. Even if the person’s success came at our own expense, we can still honor them, trusting that the Lord will grant us our own successes in due time. Furthermore, we can learn from the successes of others, learning their tactics and using them to better ourselves.
We all experience envy and jealousy at times, but it is important to remember that envy is an inclination that should be disregarded and renounced. The Bible gives us numerous avenues to reject envy. Above all, we must trust in the Lord and remember that His plans for us are always best. When we do this, we can look forward to a life filled with contentment, peace and joy.