By Bethany Bettenhausen
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy . . .” 1 Cor. 13:4a
Merriam Webster defines envy as feeling resentful toward someone on account of an advantage which she possesses. In other words, someone has something that you’d like, and instead of feeling happy for her, you feel resentful towards her. Envy implies ill-will towards someone – you want what another person has, and you do not really want her to have it if you cannot have it too. Envy is mentioned many times in the New Testament – usually listed among sins such as pride, immorality, slander, selfishness, hatred and wickedness (Mark 7:22, Rom. 1:29, Gal. 5:21, 1 Tim 6:4, and others).
Some character flaws feel a bit easier to identify than others. It is easy to point out rage for example. However, some sins such as envy seem to creep into our hearts and camouflage themselves in our lives without us noticing. Before we know it, the weed of envy can be controlling our thoughts towards others and crowding out our peace and contentment. We might not identify it as such, but we look at other people and feel that we cannot be happy until – just like them, we–fill in the blank–get married, have children, have more friends, weigh less, purchase a bigger home, and on and on. We may be nice to the people who we envy on the outside, but internally we wish them ill.
Yet God has called us to real love, the same love that is His very nature. This love is absolutely pure; it does not envy. Instead of being filled with envy, we can rest in God’s love for us. He has given each woman all she needs at that very moment. Resting secure in God’s love, we can then learn to rejoice with others instead of being envious of them. We can sincerely celebrate every marriage, every baby, every promotion, every victory of our sisters in Christ. Our culture tells us that when we feel insecure we should just pull out our superiority card in whatever area we are stronger. For example, you might think, “I’m not very pretty, but at least I’m super smart” or “I might not have a nice house, but at least I get to travel.” But although it is important to thank God for the ways that He has gifted or blessed us, this is not where our worth or peace comes from, and we should not try to one-up our neighbor either.
James 3:14 instructs us, “But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.” A key to rooting out envy is to ask the Holy Spirit to point it out in our hearts and then to confess it to Him and ask Him to remove it, replacing it with a heart that is content in Christ and brimming with goodwill towards others.
1 Peter 2:1 urges us that in light of the message of the gospel and the very hope that it gives us, “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”
Our God is so good! Let’s ask Him to fill us with His pure love and goodness so that we may be free from the spiritual weed of envy!