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The Seven Deadly Sins - Envy
When we had our first child, we enjoyed all the early stages of life she was experiencing. I got particularly excited when, one night, as she was beginning to eat more solid foods, we introduced her to steak. I’m not attempting to provoke any thoughts that lead you to the very sin we’re discussing, but let me tell you, it was grilled to perfection. We cut up pieces for her and watched her reaction to eating it for the first time. Her eyes got big as she chomped down loudly, yelling, “YUM YUM!”
The whole experience was caught on video, and it’s a fun one to look back on! Her behavior that followed was unexpected. As we sat at the table with our plates, our daughter noticed we had a few potatoes and other sides with the steak. Her face shifted from pure joy to a raised eyebrow and vicious stare down.
She began pointing at our plates and making the sign for “more.”
What is Envy?
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of envy is as follows, “painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage.”
Another definition of envy includes “being in a state of discontentment.” For now, I’d like to focus on the word “desire” within our first definition. There is a reason one of the most famous passages of Scripture, written by David and used to console many when facing life’s hardest situations, begins with the emphasis on God being enough for us.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Psalm 23:1
Many of us can read this verse and find comfort in the Lord being our shepherd. If you’re anything like me, that is not the portion of this verse that is hard to hold onto. “I shall not want” is much easier to read and say than it is to believe and live out. It demands to ask the question of myself, is God truly enough for me? A follow-up question may be: What in me makes me desire more?
The Root of Envy
Often, when we recognize a struggle, we gravitate towards the quick, easy fix. Sure, a social media fast is good for the soul. It will stop me from visibly seeing friends’ vacations, career milestones, and other kids’ birthday parties that rival Super Bowl quality resources. While time away from screens may be helpful, it is like applying a band-aid on a wound that requires further medical attention.
We have to address why we feel what we feel as we scroll.
We have to address what makes us desire more.
It takes me to a place deep within my heart where I have trouble understanding who I am in Christ. It may be momentary, or it may be monumental in a season of my life… but I’ve found myself insecure about my identity more times than I wish to admit.
Insecurity has a way of manifesting itself through envy. Listen to the words James writes, “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice” [James 3:16]. Jealousy and selfish ambition are a part of the “desire” to want more of what someone else possesses. This verse shows us a few things to note about envy.
Our selfish ambition can create disdain towards those we are envious of. If we’re not careful, we can allow ourselves to foster division amongst our family members, friends, neighbors, and within our churches. Have you ever found yourself creating an argument in your head with someone over hypothetical thoughts, words, and actions?
Envy, by definition, creates a restless heart full of resentment. This resentment can stir up a “rivalry” mentality that furthers our pain of dissatisfaction with who we are and what we have. The other side to this principle is that there promises to be disorder and vileness — a pattern of disruptiveness trails behind an envious person, leaving problems at every turn. Insecurity in our identity leads us on a pursuit for purpose, which brings us to our second point about this sin.
Solomon was considered one of the wisest men to walk this earth. In his conclusion of a man’s envy, he claims it is comparable to striving after the wind (Ecclesiastes 4:4). Chasing and capturing the wind does not sound like a fun attempt. It’s pointless. Thus, Solomon’s desire to communicate this cautionary principle to us.
The pursuit of possessing what others have will always leave us empty. I have to put a disclaimer on this next statement — it’s a harsh reality: There will always be someone with more.
Whatever it is, we find ourselves trying to overcompensate our insecurities, with will always return void.
The chase will never be over. The cycle will repeat itself. A misplaced or mistaken identity deters us from becoming who God has uniquely called us to be.
What do I do now?
Let’s go back to the question initially posed, “Is God enough for me?” Allow me to help you process this question with a few action steps to evaluate how to move forward in obedience.
1️⃣ Recognize Patterns
When is this sin most likely to surface in your life? There may be seasons, days, or interactions (if we’re being honest) in which envy dominates our minds and claims residence within our hearts. It is wise to take a quick audit of weak moments to assess areas we need to allow God access. He cannot transform that in which we do not surrender.
2️⃣ Reprioritize Values
Perhaps social media has been an area that causes you to struggle with envy. We each have the opportunity to evaluate when and how we use technology. A commitment you could step into is not to use a phone until you’ve spent time in prayer or reading God’s Word. It may be time to explore new spiritual rhythms that will help us build on our identity in Christ.
3️⃣ Rest in Truth
There is a saying that has been adapted over the years and attributed to many sources that serves as a great banner for our lives: Remember who you are by reminding yourself whose you are. Rest in who has redeemed you. You are His. And in this truth, there is peace.
“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” — Proverbs 14:30