Envy manifests itself when we see something desirable that belongs to another person. It could be physical appearance, money, talent, or position. It might be a church or a ministry. It might even be someone else's spouse. The other person possesses something that we want.
Envy is a vice of nearness – the closer we are to someone in terms of vocation, temperament, gifts, or position, the more fertile the soil is in which envy grows because a sense of entitlement clouds our judgement. For instance, the athlete who runs a mile in 3:58 resents the runner who is four seconds faster, running a 3:54 mile. A pretty woman resents the beautiful woman. The hard working B+ student envies the straight-A student, especially the happy-go-lucky one who never seems to study. The pastor of a plateaued church resents the pastor of a growing church. The associate pastor envies his senior pastor.
Envy. It’s rabies of the heart.
When you give in to envy, you not only want what the other person has and resent them for having it; you want to take it away from them! What an envier ultimately wants is not simply what another has; what an envier wants is for the other person not to have it. We want him to be deprived.
The envier experiences secret satisfaction when he sees the misfortune of others. He actually finds joy in the suffering or failure of another.
Do you celebrate the success of another church? Or would you prefer to hear about their downfall – declining attendance, a staff defection, a failed effort at outreach, or a scandal?
Do you rejoice when you see a fellow church member being promoted to a higher position of visibility and responsibility? Or would you prefer that the skeletons in their closet be exposed?
Let’s be honest. We like dirt. Sometimes we’ll even participate in spreading it by being quick to share rumor and innuendo, gossip and hearsay. Why? Because we pathetically think that it tears them down and builds us up.
Can we call it what it is? It is sin and people who manifest it are doing the devil’s work.
“If you harbor BITTER ENVY and SELFISH AMBITION in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, OF THE DEVIL. For WHERE you have envy and selfish ambition, THERE you will find disorder and EVERY EVIL PRACTICE” (James 3:14-16).