How to deal with envy and jealousy?

I remember walking into my new friend’s house. I was so glad she invited me to her Bible study group: after moving to a new country and joining a new church, I didn’t know where to start building new relationships. But my joy quickly turned to pain: looking at her house with high ceilings and a beautiful carpet, I remembered my own modest little house, which did not yet have a normal front door.

I scroll through the news feed on social networks, and somewhere inside this ancient and so modern sin begins to gnaw – envy. About things, looks and attention. Dissatisfaction with someone’s abilities, talents and success. A secret delight in someone’s failure. Both jealousy and envy whisper the same bitter words to me: this world owes me. People, the world, and the God behind it all, have taken away what should be mine.

The Bible talks a lot about envy. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament emphasize that unkindness is incompatible with our calling to be God’s people. Envy is the rottenness of our soul (Proverbs 14:30). Born in a heart that is convinced of its right to decide what is good and what is bad for me, envy does not give me satisfactory answers, but makes me run in circles in my thoughts and feelings from resentment to bitterness, anger to feeling that I have been deprived of something and back again. This leads to confusion and all kinds of evil (James 3:16, Gal. 5:20) and finally, when given free reign, it leads to hatred – which is clearly seen in the lives of Sarah, Saul and Cain (1 John 3:12). Jealousy penetrates our lives so much that the Ecclesiastes wrote: “I saw that all labor and success spring from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This too is futile and a pursuit of the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 4:4) and God himself included the prohibition of envy in the 10 commandments (Exodus 20:17). In the New Testament, the authors instruct God’s church to walk “worthy of the gospel” – which means a life free from envy.

Envious people have no place in God’s presence. He is constantly revealing to His people and all mankind throughout the ages how good and sufficient He is for all, how perfect His sovereign will is, and how beautiful His plan is for us who are conformed to His image. God considers envy to be idolatry (Col 3:5, Eph 5:5) – and so it is: because we, being dissatisfied with Him and His goodness, put our hope in something. Paul tells us that there will be no idolaters in heaven. Idolatry leads to death, says the psalmist (Ps 135:18).

What to I do when jealousy starts to poison my heart? I sat down, began to read the Scriptures, and saw how the parable of the prodigal son ended (Luke 15:11-32). In conclusion, Jesus added another moment through which the family of the prodigal son (and with it me too) could experience the effect of grace – grace with the greatness of which Jesus wants to amaze us with the goodness and love of the Father in this parable. I hear the angry and bitter words of the elder son, who refused to enter the house when he saw the honor done to his younger brother. At one point, this jealousy and envy in his eyes overshadowed not only the fact that he did not miss anything, but also the fact of his brother’s miraculous return.

And the father’s answer to the eldest son is unusually simple, but profound: all that is mine is yours. Rejoice with me at this miracle that gave me great joy (Luke 15:31,32).

Here are the steps I take, starting with these simple words:

As my mentor said long and often: a dime can block out the entire sun if brought very close to the eye.

I tear my eyes away from whatever caused the envy/jealousy.

The Bible tells us repeatedly that envy is idolatry. “Therefore put to death everything in you that belongs to the sinful nature: … passion, evil desires, and covetousness (which is the same as idolatry)” (Col. 3:5). Whatever that idol is—whether it’s the idol of success, productivity, fame, or relationships—I ruin my marriage with God thourh my jealousy. James unequivocally declares, “You want, but you do not have; you kill and envy – and you cannot … Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? So whoever wants to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (James 4:1-4).

I confess and regret that I have made an idol of this thing or of myself.

When envy begins to whisper its bitter words to me, I remind myself that all that the Father has is mine. Through Christ, He gave me “all blessings” (Eph 1:3) – every good thing He gave! In Christ, He loves me with the love with which He loves His Son (John 17:24). I thank Him for this great grace which He has “given us abundantly in all wisdom and understanding” (Eph 1:9), of which I can now boast with the hope of glory (Rom 5:2) and “incomparable riches which I shall see hereafter, in times to come (Eph 2:7).

Friends, possessions, wealth, recognition – how easy it is for us to start thinking that if we have them, we are doing the right thing. But Job cried out i.e. terrible news, his incredible words: “Naked I came, naked I go!” (Job 1:21), helps me see that good gifts and salvation are undeserved gifts. My questions: “What did they do to earn their rewards? What did I miss and why did I miss it?” comes from a heart that forgets the fact that God’s grace has been given to these people and to me.

I did nothing to earn His forgiveness for my adultery. He washed me in the blood of His Son so that I could reflect His goodness and beauty with my joy in Him. I did nothing today to deserve the breath in my nostrils and the warmth of the sun. Nor did I deserve His unceasing determination to work in me and strengthen me in the midst of suffering and hardship. All of these are good gifts from the Father of Light, whose heart, unlike ours, is unchanging.

I realize that everything in my life is God’s grace, an undeserved gift given based on God’s good will, not on merit. I thank Him for everything – both in my life and in the lives of people I envy.

The older son saw only himself – and his father’s joy had no weight for him. When jealousy and envy seep into relationships like poison, the reality of God’s love becomes a kind of phantom. I begin to see only myself, and the people around me become only objects with which I can get what I want, or who stand in front of this desire. And it is a phantom of God’s love, when I cannot rest in His grace until I receive mine—and it is a sign that I have made an idol of man or of myself. And that I live functionally as an orphan and an atheist – and not as a fellow citizen and as if I were without hope, without God in this world (Eph 2:11-22).

I must learn to rejoice in what the Father rejoices in: His beloved Son and the work He has done through His Son in me and others. Tearing my eyes away from what made me jealous, I learn to look outward, not inward, and teach my heart to look and cling to all the movements of His hand in history and in the present moment.

I am learning to see people through His eyes. I am learning to desire and enjoy His glory.

The opposite of envy is not only a complacent heart. We also know that envy kills relationships, and so in combating envy, I must not only work on my gratitude, but move from it to a sincere and pure love for people. The older son had to enter the house, sit at the table with the one he was jealous of. He should have rejoiced at the wonderful return and tasted his father’s blessings together. So I, leaving the works of the flesh, pray to be empowered to walk in the Spirit and to love people, so that “our common faith may lead us to the knowledge of all the good things that we find in Christ” (Phil. 1:6) .

I look for reasons and ways to show real, tangible love to these people, relying on the power of the Holy Spirit to help us in our weakness.

Jesus ends the parable and I try to imagine the eldest son’s reaction to his father’s words. Did his face soften at those words and did he sit down at the table? Or did he prefer to remain jealous and left? Be that as it may, I know from the context of all Scripture what my answer should be:

“Speak, and your servant will listen to you” (1 Samuel 3:10).

“Look, here is the servant of the Lord, may it be done to me according to your word!” (Luke 1:38).

“Let me walk in the path of your commands, because I like it! Turn my heart to your testimonies, but not to greed! Remove my eyes from looking at nothing, quicken me in your ways!'” (Ps 119:35-37).

By Maya Johnson /


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