We all deal with this thing called envy. Maybe we justify it by saying it’s just thinking “the grass is greener on the other side”. We can think everyone deals with it so it’s just a feeling or an emotion. Envy is more than longing for the better thing or wishing life was better for you. It is comparing what other people have or don’t have Pastor Scott Sauls gets to the truth of what envy is and defines it this way,
“Envy is the opposite of love because it does not rejoice with this who rejoice or mourn with those who mourn. Instead, envy, in its sick and sinister way, rejoices when others mourn and mourns when others rejoice.”
Based on that definition, I must ask myself how often have I rejoiced when others mourned or mourned as others rejoice? In Scott Saul’s book From Weakness to Strength, he shares the example of when King Saul had envy over David. The women would sing as Saul went through the streets, “Saul has killed his thousands and David has killed his tens of thousands (1 Samuel 18:7).” One doesn’t have to read much further to see how Saul responded to this, he tries to kill David.To fight envy we must first assess where envy dwells in our lives and understand what it is. Envy is responding to God’s sovereignty with contempt and distrust. When we deal with envy we are saying, “God you got this all wrong.” We doubt in his goodness. We mistrust his plan. We think we know better. Envy distorts salvation. The truth is we deserve is hell and death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:23), but envy turns demotes salvation to something lesser than the great free gift it is. In a way, envy is declaring with our fists in the air saying, “If I were God this is how it should be.”
How do we fight envy?
First, Know You Will Never Have It All
You may be able to catch all the Pokémon but you will never be able to have it all in this life. When Pokémon Go came out as an app (July 2016) it was quite interesting to see how many people were willing to go on these long excursions for something that didn’t physically exist. People would get in car accidents just trying to find the next Pokémon! Yet the design of this augmented reality app is that you will never catch them all. It is designed to change and grow in time to keep people interested and the envious desire of having it all will never be obtained.
In the Bible we have King Solomon, the wisest and wealthiest king in Israel’s history, had it all (he didn’t catch all the Pokémon though). He is recorded in having almost a thousand woman at his disposal for his sexual needs. He had wealth and could eat anything and everything he ever wanted. The kingdom was in great growth and was the largest in its history. He had people from all over the world seek him for his wisdom including the Queen of Sheba and yet he writes to those who live after him, it was all pointless (Ecclesiastes 1:2).
Having a drive or ambition is not the problem, it’s what is the motivation for your ambition? If it is being the best, one day there will be someone better. If it having the most toys, someone will have more. If it is being the prettiest, strongest, greatest etc. There will always be someone one day that will be prettier, stronger, and greater. The danger is when there is someone that is better how do you respond? Do you look upon them with disgust? Do you mourn when they have good things going for them? Do you say, “If it were only I…?”
Realizing this shouldn’t leave you depressed because of this unachievable goal. It should help you refocus on why? Why should we do our best in this limited life that we have? If it is to be at the top, well you can get your 15 minutes of fame, but that’s it. We have a higher calling, a greater purpose to do our best. It is all for the glory of God (Colossians 3:23-24).
Second, In Christ You Have It All
There will always be the person that is better or has more but when we see the surpassing, eternal worth that one has in Jesus Christ, He is all that you need.
Paul describes this outlook in the book of Philippians. A verse that is usually quoted to encourage athletes to give it all is “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).” Before we just take this verse as the green light in accomplishing hard things, we must look at the context considering the surrounding verses.
Paul writes, “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me (4:10—13 ESV).”
Paul is describing what is mean to be content in all situations with or without the luxuries that can be obtained in this life. In fact, he addresses the fact of being brought low and thriving with having nothing. We can have nothing yet in Christ we have all that we need. Charles Spurgeon said,
“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 up 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.”
Third, Read and Rest in the Promises of God
If envy questions God’s sovereignty and goodness, we must read, reread, and rest in what the Bible tells us about God’s sovereignty and goodness. There are several verses that speak about God’s control, power, and wisdom with creation (See Colossians 1:17; but one chapter of the Bible I would like to direct your attention to is Romans 8.
In the previous chapters of Romans Paul is mentioning the difference between the law and grace. Grace which we don’t deserve is the greatest of God’s gifts. In light of God’s grace through the work of Christ, he answers how this changes our position before the Lord. The answer is what this life in the Spirit looks like. With these verses I encourage you to remember the great work of salvation that was accomplished through Christ that gives us an eternal disposition with God.
- Romans 8:1– “There is, therefore, no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” In Christ, there is security and hope in the His perfect life, sacrificial death, and resurrection.
- Romans 8:15– “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’”- Jesus’ death has brought us into a relationship with Creator God where we are now his adopted children (Ephesians 1:5). We are able to cry out as Abba can be equivalent as saying daddy. We are his children through Christ.
- Romans 8:18– “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” This is a reminder that the bad we face is the worst it’s going to be in light of the eternal glory that awaits the believer.
- Romans 8:28-29- “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” God is good and does good for those who are called according to his purpose. The times we go without and the times we go with are all reflections of his infinite wisdom and goodness. We can rest in His goodness when times are good and through trials because everything he does is for his glory and our good. We can trust and rest in God and his goodness.
- Romans 8:35, 37-39– “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Nothing can separate us from God’s everlasting love. You are greatly loved and what you have or don’t have in this life reflects God’s everlasting love for you.
Reflect on these truths of God’s character and rest in His sovereignty and goodness as you fight off envy.