“How do I overcome envy?” That’s a paraphrase of a question I asked the Lord one day during my quiet time. I’d found myself feeling resentful against people who were doing well, especially in the creative arts. It made me jealous and wish they would get it wrong. Terrible thoughts and desires for a professing Christian.
The Lord gave me instant instructions that have been super helpful in my fight against this vice.
While writing this post, I’ve equally learned more about how to overcome envy as a Christian, which I pray will help you too. Envy is evil, and until we see it as such, overcoming it would be impossible.
Envy is the feeling of resentment towards other people’s blessings which we wish to have for ourselves. These blessings could be anything. Writers envy writers who write better than them, singers envy other singers, singles envy their peers in dating relationships or getting married etc.
Psychologists have classified envy into the malicious and benign types. Accordingly, malicious envy is a hostile feeling that causes the envious to bring down the envied, even at their own cost. On the other hand, benign envy involves the recognition that someone is better than you, but you work hard to be just as good.
For the purpose of this article, we will acknowledge the malicious envy.
The Greek word for Envy occurs first in scripture in Genesis 26:14, where the philistines envied Isaac after God blessed him abundantly in the midst of famine. They didn’t see how amazing it was that God could still bless someone in famine. No, they rather became resentful, and wished him ill.
As stated above, envy can be (I believe is usually) accompanied by malice, an evil intention to harm the person you envy. In the above scripture, the philistines, having no flocks to use the wells dug by Isaac’s father Abraham, filled the wells with earth to deprive Isaac of water for his flocks.
Another example where envy leads to malice is when the religious leaders envied Jesus and set him up for crucifixion.
In our world today, such actions might appear cruel, because our own manifestation of malice doesn’t usually go to that length. Yet a closer look would show that we may still hurt the people we envy just the same way. Same evil spirit in different packaging.
For example, someone gets more likes on social media. That stirs up envy in you, and the result is that you refuse to like or share the person’s content, even when it is good and beneficial for those who follow you. You deliberately or unconsciously block what God might have used that content to achieve in the life of someone whose contact with the content depended on you sharing or commenting.
You even block the same blessing in your own life. Bloated like a toad, your ears are too blocked and eyes too blinded by hate to hear or see what God wants for you through that person.
We envy people because we believe that their “betterness” equates to our “worseness”. This stems from a spirit of comparison and competition.
While envy doesn’t hurt our object (unless malice is added), it hurts us. Bitterness and resentment hurt our physical and spiritual health. It can strain our relationships if the object of our envy is an acquaintance.
To overcome envy as a Christian, you must see the sin for how ugly it is. It goes deeper than just being insecure or having low self-esteem when others succeed. No, it exposes the filthiness of our hearts. It is the manifestation of the flesh, the sinful nature (Galatians 5:21), a nature we are commanded in Christ to put to dead.
A Christian should not envy another Christian or another human being! It is ungodly, un-Christlike.
To overcome envy, you cannot approach the sin lightly. Malice is synonymous with hatred, a sin the Lord Jesus said is tantamount to murder (Matthew 5:22)
It doesn’t matter whether you envy a fellow Christian or a non-Christian. Sometimes, it may feel like our envy of the wicked is justified. No, it is not. Scripture has more warning against envy of the wicked than it does for envy of the righteous.
How should we respond to commands? A true Christian obeys. I believe that is why you came to this page. The first step to overcome envy is to believe it is a command, something you cannot and should not ignore.
Galatians 5:26— Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another
When I asked the Lord to show me how to overcome envy, He told me to face whatever causes envy in me instead of running away.
Naturally, when I felt insecure and envious, I would avoid the person I envy. I would resent them so much I didn’t want to see their work, I didn’t want to read about them.
The Lord told me I should learn to congratulate and wish people well instead of avoiding them when their success makes me resentful.
For example, as a writer, I need to read and congratulate other Christian writers who do better than me. And to do it sincerely. As an aspiring recording artist, I should patronize and promote those already in the field.
In the process of fighting envy, I have come to actually love and appreciate the people that I once avoided because of envy. God gave them a gift to be a blessing to countless people, including me.
Another powerful way to overcome envy as a Christian is to pray for the people you envy. Not good news for your flesh, but a powerful medicine against that carnality.
When you begin to pray for people whose blessings make you envious, jealous, and full of malice, these evil feelings and intentions give way. They can’t stand the Spirit of God that takes over you in sincere prayer.
You begin to see the uselessness of envy. Each life is unique. God created each of us for a special purpose. Envy or not, you can never be another person. But envy will stop the flow of God’s blessing in your own life. The people you envy may be the channel of God’s blessing to you, but malice would not allow you to receive.
The fear of the Lord (love, reference, zeal for God) will constantly keep you on guard against envy. It is self-deception to think you can love God and yet envy people. Your love for God shows through how you treat other people, including your thoughts towards their blessings.
An envious person is a proud person—self-centered. Humility helps you to accept and appreciate your portion in life. It helps you appreciate what God is doing in and through other people. It deals with your low self-esteem that stems from comparison.
Humility means there’s more of Jesus being manifested through you. You are becoming more and more conformed to the image of Christ, in accordance with the command in Philippians 2 that encourages us to have the same mind that was in Christ when he humbled himself, not considering equality with God something to be grasped. No, he became a servant, being found in the likeness of man, and going deeper by submitting himself to the humiliating death on the cross.
Our culture is counter-humility. We’re being flooded with messages of self-promotion and self-love. As such, we can’t stand to see others shine or come to the limelight. We want to receive the attention and applause. UnChristlike.
To overcome envy would not happen instantly. Neither would you overcome once and never be tempted to resent people when they prosper. To have successfully overcome envy means you recognize the sin for what it is, how ugly it is, and you know what to do when the temptation knocks on your door.
Face it, pray for the people you envy, appreciate them, promote them, get closer to them. Cultivate the fear of God. Learn humility.
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