The sin of envy: don’t hate, congratulate

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The above title phrase is what is told to people who become envious or jealous about others’ successes. The envious, jealous, person is often labeled “a hater.” The hater is either unable to obtain what they see someone else posses or, won’t put forth the effort to achieve it; and so, the hater is bitter with the other person. They are rightly labeled a hater because this is what envy and jealous behavior does – it hates others for having something they don’t.

Envy and jealousy is defined as:

1) resentful, bitter or painfully desirous of others advantages, possessions or achievements. It also includes: 2) fearful of the loss of position or affection – which leads back to the first definition.

An Example

Tameka is jealous of Jamie, because Jamie just got married and Tameka is still single. Tameka badly wants to be married and is unhappy with Jamie because she has obtained what she hasn’t. Now, Tameka talks bad about Jamie’s new husband, implying that he’s a cheat, not that good looking, not that much of a man, doesn’t make enough money etc.

Tameka is also in fear of losing friend time because Jamie will be spending more of it with her new husband. Tameka has become a bitter, resentful, hater; her motives are selfish and she doesn’t love her friend. If Tameka really loved her friend, she’d be happy and supportive, but instead, she begins to degrade her friend’s husband.

Now, Jamie’s other friend, Quanita, thinks Jamie’s new husband is so sexy, she can’t stop thinking about him, she wants him so lustfully, she plots to steal him away. She’s not happy at all that this man is with Jamie and not her. Quanita wants what she can’t have. Quanita has committed adultery in her heart (Matthew 5:27-30). Quanita often degrades Jamie saying, in subtle ways, “You’re not good enough for him. You don’t deserve him. Are you sure he didn’t marry you out of pity?”

Unfortunately, Jamie has two friends who are really not acting as her friends; these women have ceased from loving her. If this behavior isn’t dealt with, Quanita could damage the self-esteem of Jamie and defile the marriage by sleeping with her husband. Tameka could successfully put suspicions and distrust in her friend’s mind about her new husband – causing division in the marriage. Either way, Jamie’s happiness and joy is at stake because her friends don’t have joy and aren’t happy for her as they should be.

Understanding Envy

Envy rears it’s ugly head in degradation of either the object, or the person who has the object. Envy can lead to worst such as: theft and murder.

Whether it be a new car, house, spouse, achievement, award, talents, gifts, positions, status in church, winning a competition, etc – people will see it and become envious. My hope is that you can recognize it among those who are close to you and confront the behavior before it does damage to you. Haters in your company will prevent you from further success.

We’ve all been envious at times, why, is the question, and what should we do about it? We know it comes from the desire to have things that we want but don’t have, but why do we get mad at others who do have? Why not just work hard to get what we want, and be happy for the other person. The first answers were mentioned earlier: inability or laziness and impatience. People simply don’t want to work hard, and spend the time to achieve their goals – they want it quick and easy. The second answers are: selfishness and pride.

Selfishness was Quanita’s initial sin which led to envy. She coveted Tameka’s husband for herself. Quanita was all about me, me, me. She didn’t care that he belonged to someone else; or the expense and pain it would cause if she took him. She just wanted what she wanted, and was willing to steal. Sometimes, people like Quanita, use the tactics of degradation towards the object (the husband), like Tameka did, to sow division between the owner and the object, so that the object can be freely obtained by the envious person.

Pride was Tameka’s initial sin which led to envy. We already talked about the sin of pride and how it is linked to a person’s self-worth coming from everywhere but God; and so they feel either low or high about themselves according to others in their circle. This was Tameka’s case: she began to have a low opinion of herself as she compared Jamie’s status of newlywed to her own.

Marriage is an achievement most women want for their lives. In this culture, singleness, after a certain age, is viewed as failure. Before, Tameka and Jamie were on the same level, but now Jamie had achieved a “higher status” – a better life. In Tameka’s eyes, Jamie had won and Tameka became a loser. If Tameka’s self-worth came from God, she’d be happy for her friend and would trust God for a spouse (in his timing), but instead, she allowed pride to control and leave her bitter.

Tameka’s jealousy also came from selfishness too. Even though friendship is important, Tameka doesn’t care about what Jamie needs, which is: a husband. Tameka just wants Jamie all to herself. Tameka doesn’t understand that people should be shared. Once again, if Tameka trusted in God to supply her needs, she wouldn’t fear loneliness as her friend’s status changed. She would know that God sustains her – not her friends.

Nothing is wrong with admiring someone’s possessions or thinking “I’d like to have one of those.” Many people desire the same things; but when we become bitter and resentful, the sin of envy is birthed. Love doesn’t envy, it isn’t jealous – this is what God says (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). If you say you love your friend, family, church family, neighbors and strangers, you should be happy for their achievements rather than envious and jealous. If you feel this way, you should repent.

Consequences of Envy

Envy makes you bitter and resentful. Why feel this way about something you could possibly get on your own if you work hard enough or be patient for. Envy and jealous behavior leads you to degrade others to make yourself feel better. It also leads you down the road of lust, theft, scheming and even murder. Envy is a sin and breaks fellowship with the Father. It takes more energy to be bitter and resentful than to be happy and congratulatory.

Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another (Galatians 5:26). For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there (James 3:16).

How would you feel if you achieved some success, but family, friends and neighbors “hated on you” for it? then why do you do it to others? And don’t think they can’t feel your bitterness. We often hide envy behind fake smiles and congrats. We know envy is wrong, but can’t seem to drop that feeling. If we are to be people who please God and love everyone like he does, we must uncover the root sin under envy and jealously which are: laziness, impatience, pride and selfishness.

We must confess these sins, repent and follow God in the power of the Spirit. We must renew our minds so that our self-worth comes from God; and our focus is more on the well-being of others rather than ourselves – knowing that those who give will receive (Luke 6:38). Pride and selfishness doesn’t benefit anyone and neither does the envy that proceeds from it – those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:18-26).

Let’s repent and please God by walking in the Spirit. Let’s understand that God knows what we want; and he’ll give it to us in due time (according to his will). We don’t have to covet and steal it. God commands us not to covet (Exodus 20:17) because he is the supplier of all our needs (Philippians 4:19). If we see something we want, that someone else has, let’s ask our heavenly father, and see what he says.

Written by Neal Chester (Nealreal) and published January 18, 2010. If this was helpful, share it using the buttons below. If you'd like to redistribute this article in other ways, visit our terms for more information. For other inquiries, please contact us.