The Erosion of Envy

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I am no scientist, but I know that erosion occurs in many ways. Whether from glaciers growing or retreating, rain falling, wind billowing or waves crashing, land takes many blows from the elements of nature that collide and scrape against it. Through this process, which can take many years, our world is transformed.

Our hearts and minds, like the earth, are vulnerable to erosion. Sin, especially those we allow to take up residence in our lives, has a way of transforming our hearts into something we don’t recognize anymore. One of the most erosive sins that I have come to know is that of envy—a seemingly harmless enough indulgence that doesn’t directly take anything away from others. The sole victim of such a vice is the trespasser, which in our minds makes the crime far less heinous and much more acceptable for us to practice. If this the case, however, why then is envy harmful? How much damage can it really inflict, and how can I keep my heart from its erosive power?

Envy is defined as: “A feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck.” It’s an easy one to admit to feeling, because who hasn’t? I have struggled with envy, and I’m guessing you have as well. Other kids’ Christmas presents always seemed far better than the gifts I had. The vacations of others on social media far outweighed whatever I was doing at the time because, well, whatever I was doing was boring enough to start checking my phone. As an athlete I very much wanted to be as fast as the other guys, but no matter how hard I would train I was still slower. The lie that envy tells us is that if you just had that (whatever “that” was), then you would be happy. The reality is, no matter what or how much you have, there will always be someone who has something that you don’t… and that you want.

A classic example of this is the story of Bathsheba when King David, although having many wives, looked down from his palace and noticed a beautiful woman bathing. He coveted her although he knew the law, and in the law he was told not to covet. He was not to covet his neighbor’s house, wife, servant or animal. It’s important to understand this wasn’t a part of the fringes of Jewish law, but this was the 10th commandment God gave to Moses on Mt. Sinai in Exodus chapter 20. The result of David burning with envy resulted in him committing adultery with Bathsheba and murdering her husband, two horrible acts that forever stained his reign and legacy. Envy is what opened the door for David to commit these sins, of which prior to he wouldn’t have dreamed he was even capable of doing.

Why is envy so potent of a sin? Because it mirrors the first sin in Eden. Envy might tell you that if you just have that, you’ll be happy. But it never delivers. Yet, the far more erosive element is its whisper that God is holding out on you. “God doesn’t want you to be happy. He is unfair and unloving.” Those are things envy may say to us. When envy is embraced, we believe the worst things about God and may elevate our own wisdom above His word. Will you serve a God that you believe is holding out on you? Will you pray if you don’t even trust Him? Will you read or cherish His word? The emphatic answer is no.

As you can probably tell, Envy is a serious threat. So, how do we as Christians combat such a foe? In his letters to the early Churches, the Apostle Paul gives constant reminders to rejoice in the Lord and to give thanks to Him. Paul isn’t just an advocate of this, but he is a healthy practitioner of thanksgiving. Trust, thanks, and rejoicing cannot exist inside an envious heart. The inverse is also true. We may flip flop between the two from time to time, but the truth is a thankful heart isn’t an envious heart. You cannot trust and mistrust God. After all, who can serve two masters? One will win out in the end. Taking time to thank God for the specific blessings that He has given you will drive out the erosion of envy. In its place will be a foundation of trust and understanding that God loves you with a fierce love, a love that saw him give His own son for, and a love that continues to this day.

As you are going about your day, remember and practice I Thessalonians 5:16-18:

“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”