Who are we honoring when we see good deeds and behavior? I think how we answer this question determines if we fall into the trap of envy or not.
“The Seven Deadly Sins” is a list of categories of predominate sins that were identified formally around the fourth century. Envy, greed, lust, sloth, gluttony, pride, and anger are the seven that made the final list. In exploring these categories, I was confronted with one way that envy can be manifested—“Envy begrudges someone their status, material possessions or the relationships and good will that they have earned from others in the community.”“Yuck!” I thought, “I subconsciously do that!”
Verses like 1 Corinthians 13:4b “love does not envy” pierced my mind and heart. I felt another painful stab when I realized envy (coveting) is the 10th Commandment (Exodus 20:17)! The Bible warns us by telling the consequences of envy, “envy makes the bones rot” (Proverbs 14:30). The Bible shows us the consequences of envy in the killing of Abel by Cain (Genesis 4:1-16), the selling of Joseph by his brothers (Genesis 37:9-28), and the condemning of Jesus by the Jews (John 12:19 and Matthew 27:15-23). Envy is ugly because it is sin.
I find myself stepping into the trap of envy most often when I hear of the good works others are doing or how others honor them. How they are succeeding in giving, serving, parenting, grandparenting, networking, fitnessing, dieting, connecting, decorating, writing, teaching…and on and on and on. There is no end to what my warped mind and heart will envy! Envy is so silent, so subconscious. I don’t even know it is there. I hate it when I envy and what envy does to my relationships. Envy kills. It kills my relationship with God, my relationships with others, and my joy. It gets me so focused on others that I miss out on what God has for me. That is probably just what Satan wants…relationships and God’s work being hindered.
Being aware, identifying, and confessing envy as sin is the first step to being free from envy. Further freedom from envy comes by way of exploring our hearts with God in this deadly area of sin.
In my case, envy was outwardly fixed on what good was being done by others and the honor others received. Envy gets my focus on others and off of God—the giver of all things good (James 1:17). God gently reminded me of all the good gifts He has given me. In recounting these good gifts, I sensed my heart fill with joy and gratitude. He has given me what I need in order to accomplish His will for me (Hebrews 13:20-21).
God is a creative God (just look at the creation!) who delights in creating people differently with unique gifts, talents, abilities, and spheres in life in order to accomplish His will throughout the world. As we sense a spotlight on someone’s (ours or other’s) good work, it is really God we should be applauding not mere humans. Our hearts should be filled with joy and gratitude that God’s will is being accomplished whoever the vessel is. I find that I need a different perspective on good deeds and honor—not who is accomplishing the good deeds or who is receiving the honor but on who is behind all the good deeds and who all honor should be given.
So the next time envy starts to raise its ugly, deadly head at the sight of other’s good deeds and honor received I want to applaud God—for His will and purposes being accomplished through whatever vessel He chooses and remember the good gifts He has given me to accomplish His will! These two thoughts get my focus off of others and on to God—where the real applause belongs. I think applauding God is one way to keep us from the deadly sin of envy. Who are you applauding when you see good work or behavior? The answer to this question will put you in or keep you out of the deadly trap of envy.