It just seems no matter where we are in life we can always find ourselves comparing ourselves to others. I would think at my age and life stage this would be over but sadly it’s not. How often do I find myself in my head comparing the circumstances of my life to others – too many!
Even though it may be just in my head, it’s still a sin and it may seem subtle but it’s not – all sin is an offense against God and one we must continue to do battle with.
So what is the difference between jealousy and envy? Jerry Bridges, in a book I most highly recommended you read, Respectable Sins, describes jealousy of “intolerance of rivalry”. He shares there are legitimate times to express jealousy, like when someone is trying to win your spouse away from you. Our God declares Himself to be a jealous God (Exodus 20:5). Our jealousy becomes sinful when we become afraid someone is going to be more successful or honored over us. King Saul’s jealousy over David (Saul has struck down his thousands and David his ten thousands – 1 Samuel 18:7) is an example of Saul’s jealousy over David because honor was given to David and not him. At that moment he saw him as a rival and jealousy took root.
Envy is defined by Jerry Bridges as:
“the painful and oftentimes resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by someone else. Sometimes we want that same advantage, leading to the further sin of covetousness. And sometimes we resent the other person having something we don’t have. But we don’t just envy people in general. Usually, there are two conditions that tempt us to envy. First, we tend to envy those with whom we most closely identify. Second, we tend to envy in them the areas we value most.”
That was all worth quoting because it made me ponder and look deep into those moments when I find myself envying others. It isn’t talented musicians or celebrities or sports heroes I envy. We tend to envy the people just like us. They may have an advantage I don’t have or get recognized over me even though I’m doing the same things. It’s ugly because it isn’t only wishing I had what they have but that they didn’t.
What We’re Forgetting:
There are many things we are forgetting when we are sinfully thinking God has held out on us. Our eyes are only on ourselves. We forget that He ordains seasons and times for each of us. We forget that He is continually working all things out for our good. We forget it is God who sovereignly gives us all things. We forget that He is sovereign over all things. Basically, we leave God out of the picture.
“If we are to successfully combat the temptations to envy and jealousy, we must mentally bring God into the picture.We must remind ourselves that He determines not only what abilities we have but also the degree of those abilities and the blessing He will bestow on their use.”
~ Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins
Battling the Temptation:
It can be easy to excuse this sin in our lives because many times it is inward and doesn’t come out as visible to others. But I want to remind us it is listed as one of the vile sins Paul mentions in Romans 1:29-32 and Galatians 5:19-21.
They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
~ Romans 1:29-33
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
~ Galatians 5:19-21
Many times in these moments we’ve forgotten the Gospel. Every day, I’m doing better than I deserve. We forget how sinful we are and the only thing we deserve is God’s judgment for our sins and that is Hell (Romans 6:23). Sound harsh? It is a reality. If you are in Christ you have been shown undeserved grace and mercy from our Lord and been granted eternity in Heaven.
He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.
When I look to the Cross it should bring about humility in my life and make me less likely to compare but remind myself, what do I have that I deserve?
When we find ourselves dealing with jealousy comparing ourselves to others or envious of others, it’s like we’re saying to God that we’re not satisfied with what He’s given us. The Bible tells us to be content in all circumstances (Philippians 4:12) because our God will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Battling jealousy needs to be done by seeing more of Jesus and less of ourselves. Serving others and spending time studying the Word so our minds are transformed (Romans 12:2) is where heart change begins.
We are forgetting that as believers we are all part of the same family and on the same team (Romans 12:5). Paul reminds us to, “Outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10). Instead of showing jealousy or envy over their accomplishments or achievements we need to be rejoicing with them.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
Lastly, when we are so focused on others we lose focus on what the Lord may be actually doing in our own lives. We must trust that God knows what is best for us and He is continually seeking our best. May we continue to pray for the Lord to make us content in all the various circumstances and situations and relationships of our lives.
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
~ Philippians 4:11-12
The beauty of being in Christ is that as true believers we all win the prize. There is no need to have envy and jealousy lead to competitiveness in our lives with others. God has created each of us unique to fulfill His purposes in this world. We only have to fix our eyes on Jesus.
The cure for the sin of envy and jealousy is to find our contentment in God.
~ Jerry Bridges