E57: How to overcome envy, the toxic sin no one wants to admit – What does the Bible say?
PODCAST: Do you struggle with envy?
It can be a bit embarrassing to admit that we’re envious of someone. Why is envy so dangerous if it isn’t nipped in the bud? Let’s look to the Bible for the answer. In this episode, Milenko and Eunice look at why envy is so destructive, and how we can overcome this sneaky sin.
Transcript: “Living the Gospel” podcast, Episode 57: How to overcome envy, the toxic sin no one wants to admit – What does the Bible say?
Welcome to ActiveChristianity’s “Living the Gospel” podcast. Join us as we talk about how we can “live the gospel” every day, no matter who we are, where we live, and what our circumstances are.
Eunice: Welcome to another episode of “Living the Gospel” podcast. I am Eunice.
Milenko: And I’m Milenko.
Eunice: And we’re currently in our “What does the Bible say …?” series. Today we’re going to talk about what does the Bible say about a certain sin. Specifically, envy. And it’s been interesting doing this series, hasn’t it, Milenko?
Milenko: It certainly has. I think it’s a very important topic because everything we do is based on the Bible, it’s based on God’s word. And it’s a really, really good exercise to go and see what the Bible actually says about different topics. I think it’s a series you could go on for weeks and weeks and weeks. We’re not going to do it in this round; maybe we’ll have another round later. But it’s a really good exercise, as I said, to go back and find out what God thinks about certain topics and how we should tackle them and work with that.
Eunice: The Bible is our live manual; you can’t go wrong with that.
Milenko: Right. And so, we’re going to look at different things. Today, as you said, it’s the sin of envy.
Eunice: Yeah, we’re going to talk about why envy is actually such a destructive sin. And we’re going to look at some examples in the Bible that prove this. And of course, maybe the most important, how to overcome envy. So, let’s start by looking at some verses in the Bible that mention envy. There are many verses, but we picked out a few of them.
Milenko: What really struck me when we were looking at these is how serious envy is. The Bible speaks in no uncertain terms how seriously God looks at envy and what the results are. We can look at them. For example, if we look at James 3:16: “For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.” Just think of that! That’s a pretty serious statement. Every evil thing is there where envy is. So it shows what consequences it has, too.
Eunice: You can’t think so straight, so clearly, when you’re overcome by envy. And then in Proverbs 14:30 it’s written: “A sound heart is life to the body, but envy is rottenness to the bones.” So it almost sounds like envy is the opposite of a sound heart.
Milenko: Right. And it’s really destructive. Another verse from the New Testament, Galatians 5:19-21: “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness … envy, murders, drunkenness … of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Eunice: I don’t think it gets more serious than that. I mean, envy is named beside all these other dirty sins. Adultery, fornication, and a lot more that we didn’t mention. I think if we ever wondered if envy is a sin, reading this verse, there’s no doubt. And then there’s another one from the New Testament. 1 Corinthians 3:3: “For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?” So, this verse is talking about relationships with people, because envy does destroy relationships. That’s why it’s so dangerous.
Milenko: So, envy is really serious. But it’s important, I think, to mention here that we’re not talking about the feeling of envy. Or being tempted to envy. Because I think that’s something that’s in human nature; I think everyone experiences it, more or less, sooner or later. Many times, maybe.
Eunice: And it’s not a sin to be tempted.
Milenko: It’s not a sin to be tempted. That what comes up from our nature. But giving in to it. It says, “where envy exists,” so you’re allowing it to exist, you’re allowing it to fester and poison you. That’s where it really becomes serious. And we can see some examples too, in the Bible. And there’s some well-known stories about envy and its results. Maybe the very first one was with Cain and Abel. The first children born into this world, two brothers. And you see the result when Cain was envious of Abel and his sacrifice and the blessing God gave him.
Eunice: I find it interesting, actually, that before Cain actually murdered Abel, God says to him: “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7.) So, it’s kind of a warning sign, you know. Something to take note of, before you actually go and act on your envy.
Milenko: And that’s exactly what we were saying, that sin lies at the door. You could be tempted to this; that’s how it is. But, don’t give in! God says it to Cain very directly, “You should rule over it.” So, He’s already giving us this clear guideline how to overcome envy. And there’s many more examples. Take, for example, the well-known story of Joseph. His brothers were really envious of him and the way his father treated him better than them, in their eyes. And it almost ended up in murder. It ended up in quite a dramatic story anyway.
Eunice: And then there’s the story also of Saul and David. And David killed the ten thousands and Saul killed the thousands. At least, that’s what people said. And actually, that story, if you read it, he tried multiple times to kill David in different ways.
Milenko: And then there’s the biggest one of all, where Jesus, He was crucified because others were envious of Him, because of His spiritual strength and His words and He made an impression on people. The scribes and Pharisees of the day, they were envious, and they actually had Him crucified.
Eunice: These are people that should be respected and looked up to …
Milenko: Should have known God’s word.
Eunice: Yeah. So, we can see from all these examples that, I don’t think it started out as this desire to murder. It started out with this little thought of envy and from that you draw the line to the end, and it resulted in murder. So, I think that’s how things can go if the little seed of envy isn’t plucked out at the root when it surfaces.
Milenko: Right. And envy is something that pervades our human nature. It goes through … I think everyone experiences it.
Eunice: Of course.
Milenko: And it’s maybe something we don’t want to admit to very readily, that I am envious.
Eunice: It could be a bit embarrassing.
Milenko: Yeah, I mean, it could be a bit shameful. But we notice it in conversation. It’s so easy to gossip, to talk about other people. And you can hear the envy coming through.
Eunice: And I think, like, sometimes, even we ourselves, we might not right away realize that we are envious. But I thought for myself, when I was doing this episode, how can I actually realize the warning signs of envy? And there are some things I thought of, some clues. It could be that I find it really hard to rejoice with those who rejoice. Or really hard to compliment someone when they do well, because of that competition in me, you know, I wish that I’m the one doing better. Things like that. Or maybe we even are secretly a little bit happy that that person we’re envious of wasn’t as successful at their task than they wanted to be. And then we’re kind of like, well, that’s good, I guess.
Milenko: I mean, it’s that, but it’s not only that I want to be as good as them, but I want them to be worse. Like, that’s what it ends up with. It brings other people down. And it all has its root in one thing, and that’s egotism. Selfishness. Which is basically what sin is. It’s got to do with me and mine and that my will should go through. And it can be big things; it can be small things. Like, we really meet all kinds of things in life, and it can be just really stupid little things- You know: That another one gets praise where I think I would have liked to get praise. And it can be really big things, that really affect my whole life. But the thing is, it’s all about egotism. And because of that, it is against God’s will. And that is what’s so serious about it.
Eunice: So, envy results in us being very unhappy and very unthankful, actually, with what God has given us. And being unthankful, actually, is unbelief, isn’t it?
Milenko: Right. And that’s what is so serious about it. Envy is basically saying that what God’s done for me is not good enough. So, you’re despising God, despising His plan, despising everything that He has given me in life. When you think that God is love – God really wants it to succeed for me and everything He gives me in life is so that it will work out for my very best. So that I can be blest in every way. All the situations, whether I like them or not, according to my nature. God has planned it for me so that it will go well with me. And in those situations, I can find all those lusts and desires in my flesh that are against His will, and through His power I can do something with it. And if I then go against that by wishing it was different, I’m actually saying that what God’s doing isn’t good enough. That’s how serious it is. That’s why envy is so serious. I’m saying, OK, what God has given that person is not right, because they don’t deserve it. But I should have had it. So I’m actually overriding God’s plan. And that is a really, really serious thing. When you start thinking of it like that, it’s actually going against God. And it’s pride. And what does it say? God resists the proud. So you get God against you. And that’s what’s so bad about it.
Eunice: And we also actually have to believe that God has planned it perfectly for the other person too. That they have what they have because that’s what they need as well.
Milenko: Because if I do let myself be filled with envy, I start looking at what I don’t have instead of what I have, and I stop working on my own salvation. We spoke about that in an earlier episode, about working out your salvation. Because God works in you to will and to do. The thing is, then I’ve closed my ears to God, and I start listening to my own lusts and desires instead. So my whole salvation is suddenly in jeopardy. And that’s really, really serious.
Eunice: So, we’ve talked about how serious of a sin envy is. And now it’s important to know how to overcome envy. And maybe the first thing would be to acknowledge that we’re envious, right? To say that, OK, this is something that I’m struggling with, and I need help.
Milenko: And what we mentioned before, you get this feeling of envy. So, this feeling of envy that comes up, that’s the temptation. And it actually feels like I’m envious. So it can be really hard to be able to discern there. Am I envious? Or is this a temptation? And then you have to be very, very clear in your mind: Whom do I serve? Now I’m serving God; then this feeling of envy, that’s my enemy. And it’s coming up, so then I’m aware of it, and now I have to go against it. And there’s different ways you can do that. First, you have to have that real hatred for this, hatred for everything that goes against God’s will. If I love God, then I hate what’s against Him. So I have to pray for that too, that I really get to see it as seriously as it is. And then I can look at what the results are if I follow this line through. If this envy continues. What happens? Then I start getting problems with the people around me. My relationships suffer.
Eunice: People that I love, actually.
Milenko: So, I battle against that envy in myself, but I can also do other things.
Eunice: Yeah, like, some practical things that, you know, if there’s someone that’s the object of my envy, the first thing I can do is pray for them. And it might be a bit hard to pray for this person at first, but we can pray that God will bless this person, in our prayers we help them succeed, even though we don’t really want them to, but you know … When we do that, we’re actually denying ourselves.
Milenko: And it can be tough, in a situation where it seems like everything’s … they’ve got everything going for them and I’m the one who’s struggling. And then I pray for them, that it will succeed? But that is really humbling myself. And that is humbling myself under God’s will, humbling myself to understand what God’s will is in my life. Because what I see then – and I can start looking – what does God want me to find in this situation? And then there’s the first obvious one, and then there’s all these other things that might come up, you know. Dissatisfaction and, you know, and problems with loving other people. There’s so much I can find in a situation like that that I can work with. I can work on my salvation. That God shows me the way and He gives me the strength to do it.
Eunice: And God can also open my eyes to see the opportunities that I have and what I’m not using, because I’m so busy with other people. So then I can see the value, actually, of what He has given to me. And the value of what He has given to other people. Then you appreciate them even more.
Milenko: And it has such good results. I mean, when you have it like this, your relationships improve. People that you were struggling with that maybe noticed that you, you know, were a bit cold when they were around, they start to notice that you actually want to bless them. And you become content with your situation. Even when things are really difficult, you have this peace and rest inside you that, together with God, you’re going to come through this, and it’s going to be for your eternal value.
Eunice: And then we have enough to do, if we’re busy with finding what God wants us to do.
Milenko: Right. And praying for the others, that’s one thing. Another thing we can do is to actually bless them. We can go and do something for them. Say good words. Give them something.
Eunice: Help them out.
Milenko: Help them out. Speak well of them to other people.
Eunice: Yeah. That’s a big one.
Milenko: When other people, when that envy that is in all people starts coming out in conversation, that we can turn that, and we can rather turn it into a positive direction. There’s so many things that I have to overcome my own sin in my own nature to do it, but that’s the way of salvation.
Eunice: Yeah, and by doing that, by speaking well and all these things, you are actually overcoming. It’s the way to go.
Milenko: And these things don’t come naturally to us. What comes naturally is envy. So, I really need to pray to God for help. So one thing is to pray for the others, but I have to humble myself and say to God, “I need help. Here I see this envy; I feel envious. But I don’t want to be envious. I want to bless. Help me now to go that way.” And then we will get help. It doesn’t mean the feeling goes away straight away, because we’re still who we are, we have to work our way through that and the situation’s the same. But God will give me the strength to do what is right. So it’s a tremendous gospel we have. It’s such a fantastic gospel! Think, this is that we can come free. It’s liberation. You can come free from that. Wow!
Eunice: So, we mentioned before all these bad examples of envy in the Bible. But there are actually good examples too. And two examples that we could think of is Jonathan and David.
Milenko: Oh. That is such a powerful, really powerful, story. You see Jonathan’s father Saul, and his envy, that he tried to kill David. And Jonathan who was, you would have thought, was his heir, and instead of being full of bitterness to David, he loved him, and he blessed him, and he helped him.
Eunice: Protected him.
Milenko: Yeah. And Jonathan’s legacy we have with us today. David’s words, “Jonathan my brother, there was no greater love than what I saw in you.” And that’s something we can learn from today.
Eunice: And then from two ladies, Mary and Elizabeth. I love this story too, you know. They both were carrying babies that were promised, but obviously we know that Mary was carrying Jesus. And Elizabeth could totally have been jealous. Like, why didn’t God pick me. But she rejoiced, and blessed her and was excited for Mary. I think that is such a good example.
Milenko: And then we’ve got it right through the new covenant. The new covenant gospel, we see it – all the different Apostles, what they write about. You know, about rejoice with those who rejoice, and to humble yourself under one another, and to …
Eunice: Esteem one another.
Milenko: Esteem one another better than ourselves. Paul writes about it, Peter writes about it, James writes about it, John writes about love for one another and how great this is. The result was that for the first time in history, people experienced unity. That was the church. That it was one body. And instead of what James writes, that there was confusion and every evil thing because of envy, it was the opposite! They were being built together in to one body. With love for one another. That’s the result.
Eunice: And through the power of the Holy Spirit we can do that too, today, in our time, in our church, and with our friends. So I think, like, the Bible is the recipe to good relationships, to unity, to love, and there is a way to go to deny myself what I’m naturally wanting to do, but the promise is so much better than what I have to give up.
Milenko: Yeah. So, in the Bible we have examples, or the warnings, of how bad envy is. We have examples of this. And we also have examples of the opposite. And we have this tremendous, hopeful gospel. That we can overcome and we can be transformed! That’s what the new covenant is about!
Eunice: So, I hope that this episode has given you hope and inspiration to fight, because it is so worth it!
Milenko: And we hope that you’ll be able to work on your relationships with others, your relationship with God. And that this evil of envy can be rooted out in your life through God’s help and the Holy Spirit’s power in your life.
Eunice: That we can grip hold of Romans 8:28, the verse that is read out so often, but so simple, yet the secret to happiness.
Milenko: What does it say there?
Eunice: “… that all things work together for good … to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28.) And that’s us!
Milenko: That’s us. That’s what we’ve been given. Why do we need to be envious? We’ve been called according to God’s purpose, and everything works out for our best. So that what we’re in now, that’s what God has given us, for our good. And our good, that’s eternal salvation.
Eunice: So next week we’ll be doing another episode on the “What does the Bible say …?” series. And if you’re interested in reading more, we have a topic page on our website actually called, “What does the Bible say?” with all sorts of different topics. So feel free to check that out.
Milenko: And remember you can always send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’ve got any feedback or questions or suggestions or ideas. We really want to hear from you.
Eunice: So, thank you for listening today. Have a good week and bye!
Milenko: Bye everyone.