“There is a generation that will deal with the envy issue straight on. They will not hide from it; they will not call it something else; they will not justify it with a false zeal; they will not let shame keep them from confessing it. They will say with simple forthrightness, “I have a problem with envy. Lord Jesus, forgive me! Cleanse me. Root out the self-seeking ambition from my heart that doesn’t want to celebrate my brother’s successes. Give me a clean heart, I pray, O God.” The generation that will walk in this light will be the generation that will see revival.”
– Bob Sorge, Envy
It took me one whole year to finally admit to myself that my heart was filled with envy.
I convinced myself the reason I was distant from social media was because I spent too much time on it; and that the reason I wanted to delete all my accounts was because it was consuming my life.
But it wasn’t social media that was consuming my life, it was the bitter, ugly root of envy that was.
“It wasn’t social media that was consuming my life, it was the bitter, ugly root of envy that was.”
Envy isn’t talked about much. All the other “more important” sins always take center stage. But envy is running rampant in the body of Christ and in the world. Destroying our hearts, our relationships, and our inner peace; driving our motivations, our goals and our decisions.
The Problem With Envy
Envy is easy to cover up, to mask and to ignore. That’s exactly what I did, at least. I didn’t know it was envy at the time. All I knew was I didn’t like the feeling I got when I logged in to social media. I tried to convince myself envy wasn’t there by getting rid of the avenue that made my envy shine forth.
But it wasn’t social media that I needed to get rid of, it was the wickedness in my heart.
Can you relate?
The crazy thing about envy is it can be hidden for YEARS and you never know until something triggers it (much like unforgiveness). A quote from the book Envy by Bob Sorge is as follows:
“Envy is an iniquity of the heart that is not seen until occasion calls it forth.”
For me, that “occasion” was social media. It was there all along, but social media called it to the surface. I thought it was social media that I needed to get rid of, but no, the culprit was my envious heart.
What finally led me to confessing my sin (yes, S I N) and committing to overcoming envy was after almost a year of avoiding social media, I finally got back on only to feel those same, heavy, envious feelings.
I hated it. I didn’t want to feel like that, but I did. I wanted to rejoice with people, but envy watered it down.
Finally, a friend of mine named Jasmin, who actually has her own Christian blog too, gave me a book. In the back of the book were other book suggestions. Want to know what the name of one of them was? ENVY. At that moment, I knew it was time to address the issue and committed in my mind to get the book….soon!
Well guess what?! A few days after that, Jasmin and I just so happened to be hanging out. I went in her apartment, looked on her bookshelf, and guess what book I found…. you got it…. ENVY by Bob Sorge.
If it wasn’t clear that God was calling me to a pure heart by then, then I don’t know what was! So I snatched that book up so quick (just kidding, I politely asked if I could borrow it) and started on the journey of purifying my heart and overcoming envy. Honestly, it’s still a journey. But God is oh so faithful!
So now, I want to share with you guys some important stuff about overcoming envy. I want to give you some solid Biblical and day-to-day examples to help you identify any envy that you have. Then, at the end, we’re going to destroy envy with God’s Word and grace. So don’t back down if you get a little tense, it’s all going to end good.
I want to note that the book Envy by Bob Sorge helped set a foundation for this post, so I give lots of credit to this awesome man of God (whom I have never met) for helping me address this issue in my heart and write this post.
Let’s begin breaking down the stronghold of envy together. It only gets good and convicting and freeing from here, so don’t stop reading 🙂
Identifying Internal Envy and Jealousy
Here’s a great quote from the book Envy by Bob Sorge:
“While my brother was struggling, I found I could pray for him with energy and sincerity. But when the blessing of God exploded around his life, something else exploded within my heart, and I could no longer pray for him as in former times. God had answered my prayer by blessing my brother, and now my pity had turned to envy.”
– Bob Sorge, Envy
Can you relate to this? Wanting the best for someone when you’re ahead of them, but wanting them to slow down once they surpass you spiritually, financially, or in other areas?
This is a sign of envy. Here are a few other Biblical examples.
Jesus, The Sabbath and the Pharisees
In Luke chapter 6, the Pharisees were very upset because Jesus healed on the Sabbath. Since the Sabbath is the day of rest, they believed Jesus was to rest from using his gift that day.
I had always read this scripture thinking the Pharisees simply disagreed with Jesus’ doctrine, but never realized a driving force was likely envy.
Perhaps the Pharisees were so adamant that Jesus “rest” his gift because they envied him, not just because they did not believe his doctrine. They wanted their doctrine and their teachings to gain as much attention as Jesus.
They wanted to be able to heal like Jesus could, and since they couldn’t, envy began to creep up and they accused him (which is a sign of envy that we will talk about more in depth later).
Envy vs. Strife: What’s the difference?
The Bible uses the words envy and strife together many times.
Strife, in one of its original Greek definition, refers to competition and division. It literally means “competition, discord, quarrel, controversy, and debate.”
I see it like this: envy is what’s on the inside (your desires, your motivations, your thoughts, and your feelings). Strife is what comes out of what’s on the inside (bickering, arguing, debates, division, etc.).
So strife comes from having an envious heart. It starts with feelings of envy, and then those feelings overflow and (inevitably) come out physically through your speech or your actions, causing strife.
It follows the same principle of Luke 6:45:
“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” -NIV
In other words, strife is the outward and inevitable manifestation of inward envy.
To avoid inner envy destroying our life through strife, we must work on overcoming envy before it grows. If we don’t that envy can quickly begin to express itself outwardly through contests, competitions, quarrels and discord.
An (embarrassing) Personal Example of Envy
Gosh I don’t want to tell this story, but here we go…..
I was getting to know (considering relationship; courting) this guy over the course of a couple months. We both had feelings for each other but (to make a long story short) he didn’t want to be with me.
I was totally fine with that. I genuinely carried no anger, no bitterness or anything toward him. I prayed for him as fervently and lovingly as I did during that period of getting to know him.
THREE WEEKS LATER….
*suspense music plays*
He got a girlfriend. Boy oh boy did envy kick in! With my envy of her also accompanied anger, bitterness and sadness. I did not have a pure heart.
So, how did I know for sure that it was envy? Well, let’s break down some scripture and uncover some symptoms of envy. According to the Word, here are two signs that you (or I) harbor envy in your heart.
1.) Accusation (Mark 15:3, 10) – You begin to make assumptions and accusations about the person or situation you envy based on little to no evidence. In Mark chapter 15, before Jesus was crucified, he was envied and accused. Verse 3 says that the chief priest accused Jesus of wrong doing. We later find out in verse 14 that they were accusing Jesus, and even going to murder him, without any evidence of wrongdoing. This strife was all a result of envy.
2.) Negative Speech (Genesis 37:3-18)
Joseph was loved the most by his father out of his siblings, according to Genesis. Verse 4 of chapter 37 says the following:”And when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.”
Joseph’s brothers’ inability to speak peaceably to him was a sign of that envy was harboring in their hearts.
Do you struggle to pray positive things over or for people? Do you struggle to give compliments or be genuine in the compliments you do give? Do you find yourself speaking negatively about people? Discouraging them from reaching their goals? Being the skeptic or naysayer? Struggling to find anything nice to say?
If yes, you may have some envy on the inside. When you are free of envy, you can freely, willingly and naturally speak good things over people. From personal experience, I’ve found that when I struggle to pray for people it’s not because I don’t know what to pray, it’s because, just like Joseph’s brothers, I have envy that blocks positive speech. It’s a heart matter, not a “what should I pray” matter.
Let’s get back to my personal example. In this situation (the guy I liked who got a girlfriend), I suffered from the ugly heart disease of envy and the symptoms I showed were accusation and an inability to think or speak positive things about the the situation.
Once I discovered the guy I liked had a girlfriend, I started accusing him in my mind and using his PAST flaws to accuse him in his CURRENT situation. (For the record, we shouldn’t use people’s pasts to dictate or determine their future!)
I started thinking things like….
“I know him, I bet he didn’t even pray about being with her!” (assumption and accusation!)
“He probably had sex with her, that’s why they jumped into stuff so quick…he’s now hypnotized!” (assumption and accusation!)
“Is she even saved for real?… probably not.” (assumption!)
“I just KNOW he was talking to her while talking to me.” (assumption and accusation!)
Do you see how these accusations showed my envy?
Suddenly my prayers shifted. I was praying against false assumptions that I created in my mind in order to make myself feel better about my hurt & envy. LOL.
It’s not funny, but I’m laughing at how absolutely STUPID this sounds now that I’m typing this out!
Actually admitting I was thinking these things embarrasses me. But it’s so easy for trivial thoughts like this to creep in our head! What I was thinking definitely seems childish and carnal….and it is.
In fact, envy is evidence of our (my) immaturity and carnality.Envy is evidence of immaturity and carnality. -@AzaniShelise Click To Tweet
Read 1 Corinthians 3 in 2 different translations…
1 Corinthians 3:3 – 3 For you are still only baby Christians, controlled by your own desires, not God’s. When you are jealous of one another and divide up into quarreling groups, doesn’t that prove you are still babies, wanting your own way? In fact, you are acting like people who don’t belong to the Lord at all.” -TLB
NKJV- “3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?”
Next section, please.
Principles of Envy
1.) Envy often occurs between people in similar stages in life or on the same level in life.
You know what that means? It’s the people you are closest to…your friends, your brothers or sisters, the people you hang with most….that could be envying you most, or that you are envying.
Don’t believe me?
Here are three biblical examples of envy that occurred between people who held similar positions and were in similar stages in life.
- Joseph’s brothers envied him
- The Pharisees envied Jesus (both were religious/spiritual preachers in the community)
- Esau envied his brother, Jacob, because his brother obtained the birthright
Each of these examples of envy occurred between people of similar status, age, and/or positions in life.
2.) Envy has its root in narcissism (yikes!)
Think about it, why would you struggle to wish the best for someone? Perhaps because you want the good allllll for yourself. Or you want to be the one to advance, not them. Or you want people to notice your talents and your gifts. Or you want to have the power and authority like they do.
Whatever way you slice it and whatever reason you give, Envy becomes allllll about YOU.
3.) Envy is connected to immaturity
1 Peter 2:1-3 (NIV) – “2 Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”1 Corinthians 3:1-3 (NIV) – 3 Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in Christ. 2 I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready, 3 for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world?
4.) The presence of envy is evidence of a lack of love
We’ve all read or heard about the “love chapter” in the Bible. (If you haven’t, click here to read — it’s so good!). Here’s a little snippet of it:
1 Corinthians 13:4 (NKJV) – 4 “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up…”
It’s simple. Scripture says it: Love does not envy. If there is envy, then there is a lack of love. Period.
It is no coincidence that the chapter addressing the distribution of spiritual gifts (Chapter 12) is followed by a whole chapter about the importance of love (Chapter 13). Apostle Paul, the author of this book, was not foolish, undiscerning, or unaware of the reality of envy within the church as it pertains to spiritual gifts. Similarly, we are not unaware or undiscerning of envy within our hearts and homes. Just like the powerful Paul, we will address the issue of envy head-on and will not allow it to poison our hearts, our friendships, our minds, and our church services any longer.
The Undeniable Connection Between Envy and Pride
A simple, biblical definition of pride is to think higher of yourself than you ought to (Romans 12:3).
A lot of times, the reason we envy another person’s blessing or life is because we think we ought to do what they’re doing, or that we could do what they’re doing better than they are.
In other words, we are filled with pride.
The reality is that God has many people in certain positions and gives people certain gifts, abilities, talents and blessings for a reason. If God thought you were equipped for the job or position or gift, He would have given it to you. But He didn’t. And the fact that we think we could (and should) do someone’s job better, despite the signs that God is with them, is deceitful and envious.
Numbers 12:1-3 gives a great example of how envy is connected to pride.
When Aaron and Miriam appeared to see error in Moses’ (their leader) actions, pride began to bubble up. They became fault-finding and self-righteous and began to devise plans in their hearts to do Moses’ job for Him. This was not a leading that came from God. It was rooted in pride and envy.
How to Deal With Envy in Others
There may be times when you are very aware that a friend or someone you know envies you. You must use discernment and discretion when dealing with this. From personal experience, I believe it’s rare that God will have you directly speak to that person about their envy of you.
Based on scripture, it appears that God typically uses situations and other people to deal with envy.
Either way it goes, whether God leads you to address it with them directly or not, the one thing you can do is intercede for the envier in love, without keeping record of wrong, and maybe even in silence or secret without holding anything over their head.
In Numbers 12, God placed a sickness of leprosy on Miriam for envying (and questioning) Moses, her leader. Immediately after God did this, Moses interceded on behalf of Miriam that God would reverse his wrath toward Miriam and heal her.
“13 And Moses cried unto the Lord, saying, Heal her now, O God.”
Moses’ response to Miriam’s wicked heart was not celebration or a “that’s what you get” mindset, it was mercy, love and forgiveness. I believe that this is how we are called to deal with the envy of others and also all sin committed against us.
So How Do I Actually Overcome Envy?
This is the part that is most important. This is where we get to hone in on God’s grace and mercy (which we obviously desperately need!).
Psalm 32:5 — Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin.
Confess your sin to God — “I feel envy.” Acknowledging that is the first step. As with any other sin or transgression, the first step to freedom is confession. Even if you have harbored just a tiny bit of envy, it’s imperative to confess it to God before it grows in your heart.
Psalm 37:4-5, 7 – Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. 4 Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
This entire chapter focuses on how and why we should not envy others but how, instead, we should focus on God’s plan for our lives. In context, this chapter is referring to envying those who are doing wrong – but the principles presented can still be applied to all types of envy. Overcoming envy, based on Psalm 37, requires that you do these things:
Trust in the Lord – when you trust God to uncover and manifest His plan for your life, envy will begin to dissolve. We often want what others have because we are so consumed with their success, that we ignore what God is doing and desires to do through us. If we would lean on God and trust him for OUR life, rather than looking to the right and to the left, then we will develop contentment in our life and His plan for our life.
Commit your plans to God – People who are successful in doing God’s will are walking proof that they are obedient to God’s leading in their life. Success in God comes only through obedience (i.e. we cannot disobey God’s instruction and expect the same successful outcome that obedience would have brought).
This one is so vitally important because, often times, envy looks at people’s success, but does not look at the labor, toil and obedience that brought the success. We envy others’ outcomes, longing to be as successful as them, not realizing that we can be successful too, IF we commit our ways to the Lord – as they did.
When we commit our plans to Jesus, he honors it. Verse 6 says the following: “He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.”
Understanding Envy Through the Life and Ministry of Jesus
I have a hypothetical question for you. When did Jesus envy?
(Hypothetical answer: Never)
Now, I have a real question that I want you to answer….
Why didn’t Jesus envy?
There’s plenty of answers to this one. But the one that is really tugging at my heart was that he knew who he was and he knew what he was called to do.
Jesus didn’t envy because he knew he didn’t need to. He knew that God sent Him to earth for a specific reason and that no one outside of him could fulfill that purpose.
When we know who we are in Christ, we stop striving to be like others and to have what others have, and we start pressing toward becoming all that God has ordained us to be.
If we truly knew who we were in Christ and believed that God’s plan and timing is perfect; that his ways are good; that he loves us and has a plan for us – we would not be envying others.
Let’s face it. Our envy is evidence of our lack of trust in God.Our envy is evidence of our lack of trust in God. - @azanishelise Click To Tweet
Granted, God hasn’t called any of us to save the world from sin, as Jesus did. But there is still a very specific plan that God has specifically for your and my life that only you and I can fulfill. The same way God has amazing things planned for your brother and sister, he also has amazing things planned for you. It’s a matter of pressing toward that and becoming who God desires for us to become.
Pressing Toward the Mark: Scriptures to Meditate as You Pray
“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:12
Ultimately, we all have some work to do and overcoming envy, jealousy, or any other heart matter isn’t something we should overlook. None of us have “arrived” in our walk with God. We are still growing, learning and being transformed. And that’s perfectly okay.. As the scripture says – we are eagerly and earnestly seeking God and pressing toward becoming more like Him. We may not be there, but our hearts are pure and open to becoming more like our Perfect One.
I definitely don’t want to tell you what to pray or how to pray. Let the Holy Spirit lead you, but here are some scriptures about having a pure heart to use in your prayer time with God.
- Psalm 32:5 — Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin. (Read the whole chapter here)
- Peter 2:1-3 (NIV) – 2 Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (Read the whole chapter here)
- Psalm 24:3-5 (NKJV) 3 Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully. 5 He shall receive blessing from the Lord, And righteousness from the God of his salvation. (Read the whole chapter here)
- Psalm 51:10- 10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Read the whole chapter here)
- Psalm 51:1-2 – 1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. (Read the whole chapter here)
- Matthew 5:5-9 – 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Read the whole chapter here)
I pray this post helped you identify envy. As Christians, our heart’s desire should always be to be more like Christ and to be pure before the Lord in all that we do.