The spirit of envy is the very contrary of the spirit of heaven, where all rejoice in the happiness of others; and it is the very spirit of hell itself –Jonathan Edwards, Charity and its Fruits
Years ago at a pastors retreat I shared that at times I envied others’ gifts. One man’s jaw dropped and he said, “But Mark, you probably receive more encouragement than any other pastor I know.” Sadly, he was right – I’d been blessed to preach and pastor and write songs and regularly received lots of encouragement. But when others were praised for their preaching or leadership, jealousy would rear its ugly head.
Envy is no light thing – it’s one of the “evil things that come out of the heart of man,” along with sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, deceit, sensuality, slander, and pride and all these, including envy, “defile a person” (Mark 7:22-23).
Envy and its cousins, jealousy and selfish ambition, are “earthly, unspiritual, demonic” (James 3:15) and “where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice” (16). When we open the door to envy it ushers all its foul friends and every kind of chaos into our lives.
Like the Orkin commercial where a homeowner answers a knock at the door and there stands a 6 foot termite, who says, “I was wondering if I could use your phone – my car broke down a few blocks over, and – (looking down at the floor) is that ok?” Envy knocks on the door and says “Mind if I come in for a few minutes? I’m not that bad.” And when we let it in it brings all its cousins – jealousy, selfish ambition, disorder, and every vile practice.
Envy springs from a debased mind (Romans 1:28), is a work of the flesh along with immorality, idolatry, sorcery, drunkenness and orgies and those who practice these things, will not inherit the kingdom (Galatians 5:19-21). Not only does envy trash us for heaven, it ruins us now – “envy makes the bones rot” (Proverbs 14:30).
When we envy, we are saying Jesus alone isn’t enough to satisfy us – we need Jesus PLUS possessions, admiration, and success. Then we’ll be satisfied.
And envy is the complete opposite of love, because “love does not envy or boast” (1 Corinthians 13:4). Instead, love rejoices when others are blessed.
How can we exterminate this filthy vermin and its insidious cousins?
Edwards says the spirit of heaven is “where all rejoice in the happiness of others.” So when tempted to envy, ask, “How would I react if I were in heaven and God blessed someone more than me?” In heaven we’ll be free from all sin – including envy. So we’ll rejoice to see others blessed, honored, and rewarded above us, and we’ll worship Jesus for his generosity.
That’s the spirit of love. The spirit of heaven. When we love others we rejoice to see them blessed – even more than us. And Jesus will help us to love others this way as we confess our sin, ask Jesus to satisfy us with himself, and help us rejoice when he blesses others.