Overcome envy

I’m often tempted to envy my friends.

I envy the fact that they’re married and have cute babies. I envy the fact that they have well-paid jobs in senior positions. These well-paid jobs enable them to have posh houses and expensive cars, which I wish I had.

But recently God has been speaking to my heart about my envy.

He said to me – “I love you and want the best for you. Whatever you have in your life is the best for you and you lack nothing. You are unique. What will make others happy will not make you happy. What makes you happy might not make others happy. So don’t compare yourself with others. Be thankful for what you do have and make the best of what I’ve given you.”

When I heard this truth from God, I resolved to change my attitude towards my friends’ prosperity. Instead of comparing myself to them, I resolved not to envy them or indulge in self-pity. I told myself not to indulge in what-if-I-had-what-they-had thoughts and wishful-thinking fantasies of having what they had.

Instead of envy, I replaced it with gratitude and a serene acceptance of what I do have. Instead of pining, yearning, longing for what I do not have, I have a calm, satisfied gratitude for what I do have.

I resolved to celebrate my unique circumstances and gifts, to learn how to thrive with what God has given me instead of envying others and longing for what they have. This means taking stock of all the blessings and positive things God has poured into my life, and to use those things to maximise my happiness.

I’ve learnt to be free from competition. That means that I don’t compete with others to be the best, I only compete with myself. In Philippians, Paul writes, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” The Christian life is like a race. When you watch the big races, like the Olympics, you’ll notice that the runners never look at each other when they’re running. They look straight ahead as the zoom towards victory. In the same way, when we run the Christian race, we should just focus on running it in the best way that we can and not compare our running with our fellow Christians.

Envy can be a dangerous vice and it is one of the seven deadly sins. Envy, if it festers and grows, can turn into hatred, and even lead to murder. That’s what happened to Cain, who envied his brother Abel and killed him. Saul became envious of David’s success in defeating the Philistines and threw a spear at him to try to kill him. The religious leaders envied Jesus, and plotted to have Jesus put to death. As it was said in the gospel, Pilate “knew very well that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him because they were jealous” (Mark 15:10). Envy can turn your love for a friend into one of hatred, so guard your heart against this deadly attitude!

Envy is the only deadly sin that is also listed in the Ten Commandments: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Exodus 20:17).

Oftentimes we sin because we can’t resist the pleasure of that sin, but envy is a sin that brings no joy at all. Envy creates hell in the human heart. It allows no satisfaction, no security, no peace only the constant discontent of selfish desire. It is a deadly sin and a miserable punishment.

Envy leads you to want to see the other person’s happiness to be destroyed – it is full of selfish maliciousness. It reminds me of the story about the preacher who was disappointed because he wasn’t invited to a neighbor’s picnic? Later, when they got around to asking him, he said, “It’s too late. I’ve already prayed for rain.”

When you understand the dangers of envy, you’ll take care not to cultivate it when it rears its ugly head. James warns us that ” where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work” (James 3:16 ).

Instead of being jealous, we should learn to be content with what we have. We should develop an attitude of thanksgiving, both for our blessings and the blessings of others. As it is said in Romans 12:15 – “Rejoice with those who rejoice”.

(If you liked this blog post, do visit this blog again. I intend to update this blog with a new entry weekly, usually on Wednesday)