The sins of envy and jealousy are everywhere. And being in our media-saturated world certainly contributes to them.
Social media makes us constantly compare ourselves to other people’s appearance or success. Similarly, marketing continuously bombards us with the newest, shiniest things. And eventually, we become dissatisfied with what we have already.
For example, have you ever wished that you:
- Looked like someone else?
- Had what someone else had?
- Received the promotion you felt you deserved?
- Had the lifestyle or relationships that someone else has?
Furthermore, have you ever worried that someone would take something away from you? Even if your worry was irrational?
Welcome to the club! Indeed, every person has experienced the sins of envy and jealousy at some time in their lives.
So, how can we overcome such common emotions?
How Should We Define the Sins of Envy and Jealousy?
Envy and jealousy are different but related emotions.
On the one hand, envy wants what someone else has. For instance, it might be status, possessions, lifestyle, or relationships. Further, we might envy another person’s physical, mental, or emotional characteristics.
By comparison, jealousy is different from envy. Above all, it is a suspicion or worry that another person wants to take away what you perceive to be yours.
Undeniably the sins of envy and jealousy are self-centered. They are also unloving and destructive emotional problems (Prov. 27:4; Matt. 27:15–18; 1 Cor. 13:4–8). In effect, envy and jealousy are rebellions against God.
What are the Causes of Envy and Jealousy?
Undoubtedly, The sins of envy and jealousy arise from several causes, including:
- Firstly, your pride that you deserve more success and recognition than someone else. I think this is the most common source of jealousy and envy.
- Secondly, placing too much value on worldly gains. For instance, money, status, appearance, talents, or achievements.
- Finally, comparing ourselves to others. Sometimes we compare ourselves to others almost automatically. Moreover, when we do, we usually see ourselves lacking something the other person has that we don’t.
What are the Symptoms of Envy and Jealousy?
Envy and jealousy manifest themselves in sinful thoughts. For example:
- Disappointment with what God has given us
- Lack of Contentment and dissatisfaction with life
- Resentment toward someone else’s success
- Competitive feelings toward another person
Sinful behaviors also arise from envy and jealousy:
- Gossiping about others
- Idolizing persons or things
As a result, if we don’t recognize the sinfulness of envy and jealousy, it can lead to:
- Hatred and seeking to destroy the other person
- A biblical example is Saul and his hatred of David (1 Sam. 18:6-30)
What’s the Difference between God’s Jealousy and Human Jealousy?
Scripture tells us that the Lord is “a jealous God” (Exod. 20:5; 34:14). But a non-Christian might ask, “If human jealousy is a sin, how can we justify jealousy in God?”
In short, God's jealousy is different from a human’s sinful jealousy. Basically, our jealousy and envy come from wanting what doesn’t belong to us. And we chiefly want these things to please ourselves (Rom. 13:12–14; 1 Cor. 3:1–3; Jas. 3:13–18).
On the other hand, the Lord’s jealousy is justified because:
- Most importantly, God created us, and he has every right to expect his creations to worship and serve him alone
- In contrast, if his creations worship anything other than him, that is idolatry
- God is right to be jealous when his people worship idols. Because only he deserves ultimate worship
How Can a Christian Overcome Envy and Jealousy?
Overcoming the sins of envy or jealousy involves a threefold “Love Oreo.” Specifically, “Love-Contentment-Love:”
- First, understanding God’s love for you
- Second, learn to be content with God's provisions
- Third, love others as God loves you
1. First, Understand God’s Love for You
Spend time with God by practicing spiritual disciplines to become more like Jesus. Spiritual disciplines seek to draw us into a more intimate relationship with God. Three of these disciplines are particularly useful:
- Study, meditate, memorize, and obey Scripture
- Focus on verses that remind you of God’s love for you (John 3:16; 15:13; Rom. 5:7-8; 8:38-39; 2 Cor. 13:14)
- Read the Psalms as personal prayers, praising God for all he is and what he has done. Dr. Donald Whitney discusses how to pray the Bible.
- Pray that God will transform your envy or jealousy into dependence on and confidence in him
- As challenging as it might be, pray for God’s blessing to be poured out on the person whom you envy. And give thanks for God’s provision for that person.
(3) Holy Spirit
- Okay, the Holy Spirit isn't a spiritual discipline. But I want to encourage you to seek to use the spiritual disciplines in order to walk more closely in relationship with the Holy Spirit.
- When the Holy Spirit controls us, he produces in us the fruit of our salvation
- Spiritual fruit includes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22)
2. Second, Learn to Be Content with God’s Provisions
The Bible tells us to be content with what we have because God will never fail or leave us (Heb. 13:5).
Overcoming the sins of envy and jealousy involves transforming your mind (Rom. 12:2).
- It means “putting off” the sins of envy or jealousy. Because they fail to understand that God has your best interests at heart
- And “putting on” a belief of being truly satisfied with God’s provisions for our life. Because we know he will meet our every need.
- Further, God has given every Christian a spiritual gift. And we are to use those unique abilities to serve him and others. When we serve others, we take the focus off ourselves and what we don’t have.
How does this translate into real life?
- First, ask God to help you sincerely love someone without envy or jealousy.
- And then practically do something to show your love for that person.
We can overcome the sins of envy and jealousy. But we must choose to celebrate another person's life. As well as speak of their good qualities.
Personal contentment comes from a lifestyle of continual gratitude and worship. For instance, we can:
- Thank God for His constant love and care
- Remind ourselves of who we are as one of God’s beloved children (2 Thess. 2:13)
- Give thanks for the qualities that God has established in our hearts
- Every day acknowledge our blessings
- Remind ourselves that “things” can never replace the genuine presence of God in our life (Luke 12:15)
3. Third, Love Others as God Loves You
The sins of envy and jealousy are ultimately a rebellion against God’s provisions for us. In essence, they are the opposite of love.
Instead, we should reflect on God’s love and rejoice when others are blessed (1 Cor. 13:4).
As a result, we develop a love for others that God has for us (1 Cor. 13:4–5). To change our hearts, we must remove self-focus by serving others (Rom. 12:2).
Love does not seek to benefit itself (1 Cor. 13:4). Instead, we find contentment in focusing on meeting the needs of others.
Finally, ask God to bring genuine believers into your life. They can encourage you in your relationship with Christ and model a loving lifestyle.
What is Your Next Step?
Maybe your first step is to recognize that the sins of envy and jealousy have crept into your everyday life.
If envy and jealousy are a part of your life, you can start by seeking some counsel. Set up a meeting with a more mature Christian, pastor, or Christian counselor. If that seems like too much, at least reach out to a trusted Christian friend to talk about this and ask their help and prayer.
Try reaching out to them. Not to shame the friend or loved one, but humbly. After all--each of us struggles with these emotions. So, when we share biblical truth: “We are just one beggar showing another beggar where to get some bread.”
In any case, you may want to share the information you just learned in this blog or the Binmin Podcast episode on this topic.
If you have not become a Christian yet but you want to truly overcome your envy and jealousy, consider becoming a Christian. Start by investigating the claims of Christianity. And I pray you will ultimately put your faith in Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Jesus alone forgives us and changes us through his powerful love.
Memorize Scripture: 12 Keys For Making It Happen! by Dr. Bob Martin III