Envy Topical Study

<p><strong><span class="heading-lg">Envy in Scripture</span></strong></p><p><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><span class="heading-sm"><strong>Cain and Abel</strong></span></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Genesis%204%3A1-8">Genesis 4:1-8</a> starts the history of envy. God favors Abel&rsquo;s offering over Cain&rsquo;s, provoking Cain to anger and then to fratricide. The incident is the first in a biblical pattern in which God surprisingly prefers one person over another&mdash;typically the younger over the older&mdash;and then has to deal with the loser&rsquo;s envy. Think Jacob and Esau, Leah and Rachel, Isaac and Ishmael, Joseph and his brothers.&nbsp;God may have preferred Abel&rsquo;s offering because it really cost Abel something to give it&mdash;he gave the choicest cuts from his most valuable stock while Cain brought garden-variety produce. Or God may have preferred Abel&rsquo;s offering out of the blue. To an envier, it doesn&rsquo;t matter. The other person&rsquo;s advantage is unfair either way.</span></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><strong><span class="heading-sm">Saul and David</span></strong></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/1%20Samuel%2016-31">1 Samuel 16-31</a> gives us the incomparable Saul and David stories. David is a teenager with beautiful eyes who became a giant-killer in his dual with Goliath and therefore a rival to his own sovereign, the stormy King Saul. Saul had been Israel&rsquo;s undisputed war hero. But now this talented rookie is making the crowds roar and the women sing: &ldquo;Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands.&rsquo; Saul was very angry; for this saying displeased him&rdquo; (<a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/1%20Samuel%C2%A018%3A7%2C%208">1 Samuel&nbsp;18:7, 8</a>). In fact, the refrain makes Saul want to kill David.</span> </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><strong><span class="heading-sm">Resentment of Another&rsquo;s Ministry</span></strong></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Numbers%2011%3A26-28">Numbers 11:26-28</a> describes Joshua&rsquo;s resentment of Eldad and Medad&rsquo;s prophecy. The two of them hadn&rsquo;t gone to the tent of meeting where the Spirit had inspired the seventy elders to prophesy. They had stayed home from church that day but started prophesying anyhow, and Joshua didn&rsquo;t appreciate it one little bit. See also <a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Mark%209%3A38">Mark 9:38</a>: &ldquo;John said to him, &lsquo;Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us;&rdquo;&rdquo; [i.e. &ldquo;we&rsquo;re the authorized exorcists, as you can see from our T-shirts&rdquo;].</span> </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><strong><span class="heading-sm">Moses and Aaron</span></strong></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><span class="body-copy">In <a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Numbers%2016">Numbers 16</a>, the story of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram (with echoes in <a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Psalm%20106%3A16">Psalm 106:16</a>) tells of God&rsquo;s judgment on those Israelites who envied the leadership of Moses and Aaron.&nbsp;</span></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><strong><span class="heading-sm">Envy poisons</span></strong></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><span class="body-copy">Several Old Testament texts warn that envy poisons the envier, e.g., <a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Job%205%3A2">Job 5:2</a> (&ldquo;Resentment kills a fool, and envy slays the simple&rdquo;, NIV) and <a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Proverbs%2014%3A30">Proverbs 14:30</a> (&ldquo;a heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones,&rdquo; NIV).</span> </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><strong><span class="heading-sm">Evildoers</span></strong></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><span class="body-copy">Several Old Testament texts caution believers against envying &ldquo;the wicked&rdquo; or &ldquo;evildoers&rdquo; (e.g. <a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Psalm%2037%3A1">Ps. 37:1</a>; <a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Proverbs%2024%3A1%2C%2019">Prov. 24:1, 19</a>). The idea appears to be that envy of the wicked is superfluous. They may appear fat and sassy, but they cannot endure.</span> </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><strong><span class="heading-sm">New Testament:</span></strong></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><span class="body-copy">New Testament texts are of roughly four sorts:</span></span></p><ul><li><span style="font-size: 16px;">Vice lists: Texts in which envy is an undiscussed item in a list of vices (e.g., <a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Romans%C2%A013%3A13">Romans&nbsp;13:13</a>, <a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/2%20Corinthians%C2%A012%3A20">2 Corinthians&nbsp;12:20</a>, <a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Galatians%C2%A05%3A21">Galatians&nbsp;5:21</a>, <a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/1%20Timothy%C2%A06%3A4">1 Timothy&nbsp;6:4</a>)</span></li><li><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><span class="body-copy"><span class="body-copy">Worldliness exhibits: Similarly, texts in which envy is an exhibit of worldliness, (e.g., <a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/1%20Corinthians%203%3A3">1 Corinthians 3:3</a>, <a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/James%203%3A14">James 3:14</a>, <a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Titus%203%3A3">Titus 3:3</a>)</span></span></span></li><li><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><span class="body-copy"><span class="body-copy">Envy of Jesus and Paul: Texts in which envy is the motive for handing over Jesus to the Romans (<a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Matthew%C2%A027%3A18">Matthew&nbsp;27:18</a>, <a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Mark%C2%A015%3A10">Mark&nbsp;15:10</a>) or for opposing Paul&rsquo;s ministry (<a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Acts%2013%3A14">Acts 13:14</a>, <a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Acts%2017%3A5">17:5</a>)</span></span></span></li><li><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><span class="body-copy"><span class="body-copy">Various instances: Texts in which the all-day employees in the vineyard resent advantages given to the latecomers (<a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Matthew%C2%A020%3A15">Matthew&nbsp;20:15</a>) or the elder brother resents the party thrown for his younger brother (<a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Luke%2015%3A28-30">Luke 15:28-30</a>) or Martha resents Mary&rsquo;s sabbatical for study (<a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Luke%2010%3A38-40">Luke 10:38-40</a>) or John the Baptist&rsquo;s disciples resent the crowds Jesus is drawing (<a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/John%203%3A22-26">John 3:22-26</a>)</span></span></span></li></ul><p><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><strong><span class="heading-lg">Reflections about Envy</span></strong></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><strong><span class="heading-sm">Not Jealousy</span></strong></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><span class="body-copy">Despite ordinary usage and meaning in current English, envy in the &ldquo;seven deadlies&rdquo; tradition is not the same thing as jealousy, which is the keen desire to keep and protect goods one already has. (God wants people&rsquo;s worship not to drift toward idols: God is a jealous God. A husband wants to keep his wife&rsquo;s love for himself; he is properly jealous of it.)</span> </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><strong><span class="heading-sm">Not Covetousness</span></strong></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><span class="body-copy">Neither is envy the same as covetousness, which is unhealthy desire for the goods of another, and thus, classically, a motive to steal. (In the 1930s, the Japanese cast a covetous eye on the natural resources of Manchuria.)</span> </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><strong><span class="heading-sm">Not Emulation</span></strong></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><span class="body-copy">Envy is not emulation either&mdash;the desire to equal or surpass someone in achievement or quality. (&ldquo;After hearing Wynton Marsalis I wanted to go home and practice for hours.&rdquo;)</span> </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><strong><span class="heading-sm">Envy verses Gratitude</span></strong></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><span class="body-copy">Envy&rsquo;s opposite is gratitude to God for the genuine goods with which God blesses others. This is a high calling. Church fathers sometimes commented that it&rsquo;s easier to weep with those who weep than to rejoice with those who rejoice.</span> </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><strong><span class="heading-sm">Schadenfreude</span></strong></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><span class="body-copy">Envy&rsquo;s natural corollary is what the Germans call <em>Schadenfreude</em>&mdash;the enjoyment of others&rsquo; misfortune. The envier not only sorrows over another&rsquo;s good fortune and wants it to end; he or she also rejoices in another&rsquo;s misfortune and wants it to persist.</span> </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><strong><span class="heading-sm">Pure Evil</span></strong></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><span class="body-copy">Nearly all the other seven deadly sins (pride, anger, sloth, avarice, gluttony, lust) have an element of pleasure in them. Not envy. It&rsquo;s pure evil, as sickening to the envier as to everybody else.</span></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><span class="heading-sm"><strong><span class="heading-lg">Translation Insights for Envy</span></strong></span></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><span class="heading-sm">wu-guu (Kassem):</span> <span class="body-copy">In Kassem, a language spoken in the African nation of Burkina Faso, the word &ldquo;envy&rdquo; or &ldquo;jealousy&rdquo; is translated <em>wu-guu</em> which means &ldquo;inner-being-killer.&rdquo; In the Burkinabé culture of Burkina Faso, when a person is jealous of someone, it hurts his inner being almost to the point of killing him. Jealousy is more than just wishing to have what the other has; it also means wishing the other person doesn&rsquo;t have it, perhaps leading to violent or destructive behavior.</span></span></p>