Envy

One night, many years ago, I sat in the dark on the landing of the wooden stairs that led to our front door. It was a remote area, and the stars were so bright that they drew my attention upward. I was crying and praying.

I had just spent the last few hours with a couple who it seemed to me had everything that I wanted. I lived in a beautiful home and had all of the amenities I could use, but I was very unhappy. They lived in a small home, and had sacrificed a lot to live in our area. Their lifestyle was so minimal that for her birthday, even the smallest gift, (something I could pick up at the store without thinking about the cost), was celebrated. I didn’t understand their lifestyle, but that night I knew I envied them everything they had.

After they left for their home that night, I stayed outside in the fresh air and darkness to figure out what to do with the envy I had only just recognized. One, they had something I wanted but there was nothing I could do to get what they had. Two, it didn’t matter whether I could get it or not, as a Christian, I knew that envious was something I shouldn’t be. What was my way out of this?

Looking up at the stars, I cried out to God with all my heart, but silently, “Lord, please forgive me for being envious. Please teach me how not to be that way.” I recognized that by being envious I was doing something that was detrimental to my happiness and peace of mind. That night I repented, and asked for His help with how to move forward free of envy. And He helped me.

There is an almost imperceptible ledge that takes one from admiration to envy. I believe that every ‘don’t’ in the Bible is for our benefit. The command to ‘not covet’, and the warning to not be envious, are there to protect us from being eaten from the inside out with desire for what other people have, and to keep us from doing crazy things to get them.

Now I understand why ‘covetousness is idolatry’, (Col 3:5 NKJV ). It sets up as an idol the thing we crave. It is self-centered, and makes us focus on what we don’t have instead of what we do have. It kills relationships. Envy makes us sad, angry, and deceptive. Envy is insidious. We cannot truly love someone we envy.

Envy comes easily, and can be disguised as striving to attain, to excel, to elevate one’s station in life. It is so important to be self-analyzing for the source of the motivation that pushes us. Often, we don’t even know why we do the things we do, and why we work so hard. When we are envious of others, it is possible that we want others to be envious of us and that determines what and how we post on social media.

Come to think of it, we often dislike someone simply because we envy them, or covet something they own or someone they have access to. Love is blocked by envy, jealousy, and covetousness, and so it’s near impossible to enjoy another person’s successes if we are envious of them. Envy spurs inter-relational tension and friction, and prohibits self-growth.

How do we avoid envy? David gave us the key for handling envious motivation that is buried away where it isn’t easily spotted: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting”. (Ps 139:23-24) NKJV. Sometimes, we really just have to pray about it; ask God to show you what’s in your own heart, because truthfully, sometimes we can’t see it with our own eyes.

Envy is often most prevalent or obvious during the holidays. There is the assumption that others are having a better time celebrating, or getting better gifts. Don’t be envious, my friend. The antidote for envy is gratitude. Start/continue practicing gratitude to the Father for all the ways – big and small- that He looks out for you, and you won’t have space in your heart for envy. 

© Debbie Mendoza, December 2022

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