“You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbot’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.” Exodus 20:17
Every time I read this commandment I twinge with feelings of shame because I have been so guilty of coveting “things” so many times in my life. The Bible uses the term “covet” which is a synonym for “envy”. Dictionary.com defines envy as, “a feeling of discontent aroused by the possessions, achievements, or qualities of others.” For God to identify it as one of the 10 commandments gives us a hint of how clearly He sees envy as being destructive to our well-being and our relationships with Him. He sees envy as being dangerous to our soul because we fixate on it sometimes in lieu of what else needs priority in our lives. This is so clearly stated in Proverbs 14:30, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” (NIV) A more secular definition that is truly straightforward comes from Betsy Cohen’s book, The Snow White Syndrome when she defines envy as “the unpleasant feeling of wanting what another person has and feeling bad that you don’t have it.” No matter how you define it, envy/covet is an insidious disease that can start off by nothing more than something that catches your eye and snowball into a deep-seated feeling that consumes your daily thoughts. We can be defined by our envy as both fools and disobedient, “Once, we too, were foolish and disobedient. Our lives were full of evil and envy.” Titus 3
I’ve done some soul-searching identifying what it is that triggers envy and I have come up with some not so-pretty reasons…pride, insecurity, greed, idolatry, frustration with our state in life and Christian immaturity. The stronger our walk with the Lord, the less we struggle with “wanting” what others have. Love drives out envy, true love of others allows us to be happy for the blessings of others. 1 Corinthians 13:4 says it best, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” (NIV) Simply defined envy is an absence of love. Randy Hamel stated in a sermon on envy that, “Envy and joy cannot co-exist in the same heart. Envy and peace cannot co-exist in the same heart. You can’t be envious and live a happy life at the same time. It’s totally impossible.” He goes on to say that although no one is immune to envy we can break its control over our life by using the Bible as our life guide.
So the $64,000,000 question would certainly be, “just how do I overcome envy?” To combat envy we must:
1. Admit/acknowledge that we are envious. Being honest with ourselves sometimes is the most difficult task, no one wants to admit that they are motivated in life by others fortunes…”Then I observed that most people are motivated to success by their envy of their neighbors but this too is meaningless, like chasing the wind.” Ecclesiastes 4, do you want to spend your life “chasing the wind”?
2. Apologize to God. When we envy others____?_____we are in essence saying to God, “You didn’t provide enough for me or that what you have provided me is not good enough.” Put in that context we can see just how evil envy is and how hurtful it is to our Heavenly Father.
I encourage you to stop and pray when you feel envy invading your thoughts, “God I know You don’t owe me. And God I’m sorrry for my arrogance. I know that I’m trying to seek satisfaction or contentment in other places rather than You. Forgive me. Would You give me the courage and the strength to celebrate others and help me defeat the envy that looms in my heart? God, thank You for hearing my prayers. And for loving me enough to cancel the debt that I can’t pay on my own.” Randy Hammel
Have a blessed day in Christ Jesus,