And I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man’s envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. –Ecclesiastes 4:4
We live in a society that focuses on bigger and better. We want to outperform and outshine our neighbors, our friends, our coworkers, our teammates…anyone. We compare whose house is bigger, whose husband is more attentive, whose kids are more well-behaved, who has a nicer car, who is skinniest, who has the largest paycheck…jealousy hovers and can turn into malice.
The Old Testament records a story of jealousy. It is the story of Joseph who received a brightly-colored robe from his father. Because of his father’s favor, the Bible says that Joseph’s brothers hated him and couldn’t say anything nice to him. In fact, their envy was so out of control, that one day they plotted to kill him. Joseph’s brothers ended up selling him to traders who took him to Egypt. No need to be jealous, problem solved. Joseph was gone. He could no longer be their father’s favorite. Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “I haven’t done anything that bad!” Maybe not, but jealousy plays out in a variety of ways when it is allowed to thrive.
Envy festered and caused Joseph’s brothers to first hate and then plan to get rid of him in order to get what they wanted…more of their father’s attention. People are often driven by envy. Instead of enjoying the blessings and the gifts we do have, the focus is placed on what we don’t have. We start looking towards others, wanting what they have: their vacation, their house, their family, or their job. Instead of being happy with what we’re given, we simply want to have as much as the next person.
Envy starts out small and builds, so catch it quick before you get lost in it and lose control. Here are three steps you can take:
1. Acknowledge it. Ask the Lord to show you where you have envy in your life so you can start to let it go.
2. Apologize to God. God is the giver of all gifts. At the heart of envy is the lie that God owes you something.
3. Celebrate others. One of the best ways to beat envy is to celebrate with others when they succeed.
The wise King Solomon understood that a life driven by envy is meaningless and amounts to chasing after the wind. May we too be given the wisdom we need to understand the dangers of envy and the strength to rid it from our lives.
1. Where do you have envy in your life? Take a few moments to confess to God those places in your heart that harbor envy.
2. What steps can you take to prevent envy from gaining a foothold in your life?
Genesis 37; Proverbs 14:10; Titus 3:3; Colossians 2:13-14