Envy

A. T. Schofield

Let us now consider briefly the examples of this dangerous sin, that have been recorded for our instruction (1 Cor.10). I say dangerous because we shall see that such is its character.

The First Example

is that of Cain. He, seeing that his brother's offering was accepted (being with blood), while his was rejected, became envious of his brother; this led to anger, this to hatred, and this to MURDER; and in 1 John 3:12 this case is given as an express warning to us as Christians.

The next illustration we may take is in Genesis 26:14. The Philistines envied Isaac's earthly prosperity, just as Cain envied Abel's spiritual prosperity. (See Eccles.4:4.) Their envy was shown by MALICIOUSNESS (v.15).

We pass on to Laban's sons (Gen. 31:1), who became envious of Jacob; Laban also became full of ANGER against him, though God did not permit him to show it (Gen. 31:2,24). It is worthy of note that, though Isaac and Jacob were both envied for their riches, we do not find that Abraham (although equally rich) ever was, a fact that says a great deal for his character. The next example is that of Joseph's brethren in Genesis 37:11; and the result is, first they stripped him and threw him into a pit to perish, and next sold him into slavery for twenty pieces of silver, acts which we can only characterize as INTENSE CRUELTY, springing solely from envy.

We now pass on to Numbers 11:28,29, where we find the first instance of

Envy in a Child of God

Joshua is one of the last we should have expected to find this evil in, but the seed is, alas, in all our hearts; and we actually find Joshua here trying to HINDER GOD'S WORK, led on by this fearful and dangerous spirit. It is, however, only just to add that it is possible that the envy was not for his own sake, but for Moses', whose servant he was. We have only, however, to go on to the very next chapter to find an undoubted instance of envy, in no less a one than Aaron, the high priest, and in Miriam also. They did not like the growing nearness of Moses to God, and the difference of the way in which the Lord spoke to him and them; and envy led them to DESPISE GOD'S SERVANT. The Lord, however, did not leave Moses to fight his own battles, for Miriam became leprous, white as snow. The sin of Korah which follows closely in chapter 16, was also entirely prompted by envy (Psa.106:16), and led to still more awful consequences. Envy in this case led Korah, Dathan, and Abiram into fearful LYING against and REVILING of Moses and Aaron (Num. 16:13,14), and brought upon them a most appalling death (v.32), so swift was God to visit their sin upon them.

Envy Leads to Murder

Let us now pass on to Saul in 1 Samuel 18:8. Envy here seems to possess Saul so fearfully that it obtains a complete mastery over him, leading him three times to ATTEMPT TO MURDER David. To one who does not know how rapidly and fatally the poison of envy works, it seems almost incredible that for such a trivial reason Saul could have sought to kill the very one who had just delivered Israel. Yet I am sure there is not one of us who knows anything of his own heart, but can trace the seeds of great crimes in the feelings prompted by envy.

In Ezekiel  35:11 we find in the case of Edom that envy leads to HATRED. In the case of Daniel (chap. 6:3, 4) it is, I think, clear that envy prompted the presidents and princes to their cruel course, which cannot be called anything but WICKED and UNSCRUPULOUS. We now pass on to the most fearful thing envy ever accomplished, in Mark 15:10. Jesus, the Son of God, was delivered up to Pilate, from the wretched miserable feeling of envy, that had eaten away all that was even human in the hearts of God's professed servants, the chief priests. Here envy led them to CRUCIFY CHRIST.

In Acts 13:45 we find the same horrible sin, leading the Jews through hatred of the success of the gospel to LYING and BLASPHEMING; and in chapter 17:5, a similar company led away by the same feelings were guilty of RIOTING and VIOLENCE!

The Sins that Envy Leads to

Let us now just sum up from the few examples that we have selected, the crimes which are actually recorded in the Word, as having been committed through the sin of envy. We have seen that through ENVY

  • Christ was crucified
  • Abel was murdered
  • Joseph and David almost murdered
  • that it led at different times to hatred
  • wicked and unscrupulous conduct
  • lying and blaspheming
  • rioting and violence
  • hindering God's work
  • despising God's servants
  • lying and reviling
  • maliciousness
  • anger, and
  • intense cruelty.

Surely, now that we have laid some part of the horrible form of this vice bare from Scripture, our readers must shudder to think that the root of all these crimes lurks in their hearts. James does not hesitate to say that envy is a root of every evil work (ch. 3:16). It is worse than wrath or anger; none can stand before envy (Prov.27:4). It hinders growth in grace (1 Pet.2:1,2); is a proof of carnal mindedness (1 Cor.3:1-3); it is one of the works of the flesh (Gal.5:21); and one to which our spirits are especially liable (Jas.4:5), being produced by the prosperity and good deeds of others (Eccles.4:4), and also by arguments and disputes (1 Tim.6:4). Now to be forewarned is to be forearmed. Never let us give place to the devil, in allowing envy to sprout and germinate in our hearts; but let us ever check the first risings of an envious spirit.

A Cure for Envy

Seek to rejoice in the prosperity of others; seek to be unselfish, for, after all, envy is only a form of selfishness. Seek the good of others, not your own. Consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession—Christ Jesus—who was not envious like Adam (Phil. 2), but emptied Himself ( lit .), and ended a life of self-abnegation on the cross.

Ask yourself the question, Shall I allow for a moment in my heart the feeling of envy, a feeling which prompted the crucifixion of my Lord?

There is no saying to what length even a child of God may not be led, who once willingly allows this feeling. It grows so very rapidly that, from only beginning to be envious of the success, prosperity, and position of another, we may soon begin to hate him, and then plot against him.

As with pride, so it is with envy; its most horrible and deadly form is when it conceals itself under a cover of zeal for the Lord, and under this or some other religious subterfuge, seeks the evil of another. Oh, what unmaskings of all such actions will take place at the judgment seat of Christ!

Seek, beloved reader, to be pure from this vice at least, after the fearful warnings the Word of God has given us (remembering especially that it is one of the five sins that hinder our love of the Word of God itself (1 Pet.2)). Real occupation with Christ's glory and interests instead of our own, effectually, though unconsciously, checks not only this but many other sins. It is only the self-seeker who is envious. The servant who can truly say, like his Master, “I seek not Mine own glory,” is surely delivered from a spirit of envy.

May the Lord preserve us from this sin, which is, alas, by no means uncommon among young as well as old believers.

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