Paul writes to the church in Galatia (5:19-21) that there are things in this world that simply have no place within us because they have no place with God. Paul lists these offenses and calls for Christians to put these things aside. The works of our sinful nature are in direct opposition to God. Seeing envy on Paul’s list causes me to wonder just how deep its roots run in our lives and within our families. It is easy to see the lives of others and wish for something that is not ours.
Jealousy might be defined as protecting something that is already yours. To covet is to want something like what others have. But envy is wanting to take away something from someone else so you can be better then them. Envy beats others down so you can be first. Envy is hard to deal with because it’s a complex emotion. Envy is both a noun and a verb, a feeling and an action. Envy can be an internal emotion and also externally acted upon. Envy is a desire and want that can quickly transition into disappointment and anger. Envy can range from a offhand comment among friends to deep-seated animosity that desires confrontation. Envy ruins all kinds of relationships and ultimately it puts a wedge between us and God.
When we allow envy to take root in our lives we begin to see all relationships as competitions. We begin to want the bigger house and fancier car because ours has to be better than the others. We begin to plan the bigger vacations and brag about it because we want others to see our affluence. Envy says that I want to take away what you have, even if God did not choose to give it to me. Envy asserts that I deserve that which I do not have. Discontent becomes a competition that drives me to beat you. Envy drives out the authenticity and love in our relationships. Envy distorts our vision because it wants the now while losing sight of eternity.
The only thing envy does well is create harmful and unnatural relationships. One aspect of being created in the image of God is our ability, and need, to be relational with each other. We are designed to find joy and strength in our relationships and build each other up. Envy doesn’t do any of those things--it actually does the exact opposite. Envy pits friends against friends, family members against family members, and in the end all you really have are fractured relationships, anger, disappointment, and loneliness. James 3:16 says, “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” There is no way around it: nothing good comes out of envy. It’s a snowball of destruction.
God’s kingdom and New Creation has no place for envy because all of us are equal in the eyes of God, and everything we have are his gifts. All of us have different and unique gifts and callings that declare the glory of God and are to be used to bring his kingdom into existence. Life should not be about competition, but rather living in full communion with God and caring for one another. Find joy in who God created you to be and give thanks for blessings that you have been given. That can be hard when others have so much while your family struggles. Thankfully, this earthly kingdom doesn’t get the last word. God promises that a new day is coming that will be full of abundance. This coming kingdom will be without tears and we will never want more. God’s coming kingdom should motivate us to push envy aside when it begins to creep into our thoughts. The things of this world are not worthy of our desires. Envy becomes senseless when we view life through the eyes of eternity.
Rev. Deb Koster