The Lost Sin of Envy - What Envy Wants
Today I want to wrap up my short series on the sin of Envy. Yesterday I looked at How Envy Behaves and this morning I want to show what Envy wants from you and then to give some instruction on putting him to death. There are at least four things Envy wants from you.
Envy Wants to Destroy Your Joy
Envy is unique among the sins in that you never, ever enjoy it. Envy never brings any satisfaction. If you commit the sin of adultery, you enjoy the fleeting pleasures of the flesh; if you commit the sin of gluttony you get to enjoy the taste of food while it slides down your throat. These are very fleeting and fleshly pleasures, but they are pleasures still. Envy only, ever makes you more miserable than you were before.
Envy also bring misery by making you unwilling or even unable to confess the sin. He cuts so deep, he exposes so much of what you really want that confessing that he exists requires a true baring of the deepest, darkest recesses of the soul. You may not know just how ugly and dark your sin is until you look into your soul and see Envy and then go digging around to try to get him out of there, to find the source and to uproot it.
When I am walking with Envy and allowing him to influence me, I cannot enjoy anything in itself because I only see what I have and what I am in comparison to someone else. I am not popular, I am less popular than he is. I don’t sell books, I sell fewer books than he does. In every case, I can never be joyful, because everything the other person has calls me into question.
Proverbs says that Envy is rottenness to the bones (14:30). Envy makes you sick with grief and dissatisfaction, rotting you from the inside out.
Envy Wants to Destroy Your Love
Envy is anti-love. 1 Corinthians 13 says it plainly: “Love does not envy.” Why? Because love cannot envy. They cannot co-exist. You cannot be envious and loving at the same time toward the same person and this means that you have the choice before you: will I love this person or will I be envious toward him? To love is to rejoice in who he is and in what he has been given. To be envious is to hate who he is and to want to watch him lose what he has been given.
Envy insists that if you have less, I will be happier. This is ridiculous, but it’s exactly what Envy whispers to you. A famous author who experienced all kinds of success once said, "Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies." His friend's success felt like death to him. He is no friend at all.
It gets more evil still. Envy keeps you from the people that you should be closest to. You tend to compare yourself with people who are like you, not with people who are unlike you. As a writer I will be envious of other writers more than I will be envious of an athlete or a musician. The kind of person I should be drawn to, to befriend, to mentor or be mentored by, is the kind of person I will turn on and hate.
Envy Wants to Destroy Your Gratitude
When Envy is in your life, it is very difficult to be grateful for what you have. Instead of being grateful to God for all that he has blessed you with, you resent that you do not have more of it. A billion dollars is not enough if the other person has two billion; an A is not enough if he has an A+.
When I first created this web site and began to write articles, I began to dream of the day when 100 people would read the web site and I began to envy those who had 100 readers. Then I had 100 people who visited the site every day and I began to envy and resent the people who had 1,000. But then I had 1,000 people who read every day and I began to envy the people who had 10,000 and then 20,000. And that’s how it went. So often when I had what I wanted, I just set my eyes higher and envied those who were a little bit further ahead. I felt so little gratitude. When I got the desires of my heart, I just shifted my desires higher. I missed so many opportunities to give thanks to God.
Envy is never, ever satisfied and he will destroy your gratitude.
Envy Wants You to Deny God's Goodness
Finally, Envy wants you to deny the goodness of God. He wants you to deny that God is good, that he truly loves you, that he expresses this love and goodness through his sovereign plan for your life.
When we say God is sovereign, we say that God is intimately involved in everything that happens in this world. God is not sovereign in an arbitrary way, but is sovereign for a purpose--for my good and for his glory. One of the great promises of Scripture is that all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). That includes riches and poverty and popularity and obscurity and all the rest. Whether I am rich or poor, whether I am wildly popular or completely unknown, whether I am highly skilled or just average, that is all part of God's good decree.
Envy denies all of this. Envy says that it is luck or bad fortune, that it is unfair, that I deserve more, that if God really loved me, if he really cared, if he was really good, he would give me what that the other person has. He would take that guy’s popularity, his platform, his skill, and give it to me.
Envy wants to rob you of joy, he wants to destroy your love for others, he wants to rid you of all gratitude to God, and he wants you to deny that God is good. That is his great plan for your life. With a friend like that, who needs enemies?
Putting Envy to Death
When it comes to Envy, there’s no debate about capital punishment. He deserves to die and he needs to die. There is much that could be said here, but I will keep it short.
A mistake you might make is to focus on Envy itself, waking up each day and declaring, “Today I wll not envy.” Instead of focusing on not sinning, orient yourself toward obeying God’s commands and especially the commands that are completely opposed to Envy, which is to say, the commands that motivate love. Consider the two great commandments—love God and love your fellow man. Because Envy is anti-love, breeding hatred and discontent toward both God and man, love will serve to drive out Envy.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind. Love God by trusting in his character, by trusting that he is good. Embrace soli deo gloria. These are three sweet words that simply mean, “Glory to God alone.” With these words you proclaim that God is worthy of all glory and praise and that he works all things to his glory and praise. When you embrace this sweet promise, you can now rejoice in another person’s success. Why? Because that brings glory to God. Now you can rejoice in your own moderate success, or even your own failure. Why? Because that, too, brings glory to God. In all things God will have his glory and that is the best outcome of all. Glory to God alone!
Love your neighbor as yourself. Love is the antidote to Envy. To stop envying someone I need to begin loving him. When I feel Envy coming close, when I can feel his approach, when I sense that my heart is beginning to turn against another person, when I desire what he has, when I desire his good to be turned to evil, I need to start loving that person. I need to run away from Envy and flee to Love. Usually the best way of learning to love someone is to begin praying for him. Is there someone you envy? Add him to your prayer list. Pray for him! Pray for him every day! You cannot pray for someone you hate. Not for long. As you pray for him, your hatred will turn to love, your envy will turn to appreciation and gratitude.
Let me give the final word to Charles Spurgeon:
The cure for envy lies in living under a constant sense of the divine presence, worshiping God and communing with Him all the day long, however long the day may seem. True religion lifts the soul into a higher region, where the judgment becomes more clear and the desires are more elevated. The more of heaven there is in our lives, the less of earth we shall covet. The fear of God casts out envy of men.