Let’s talk about envy.
The dictionary defines it as:
1. A feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck.
2. A desire to have a quality, possession, or other desirable attribute belonging to (someone else). Ex: “He envied people who did not have to work on weekends.”
We intuitively know we don’t want to be envious. Yet there it is, whispering as we scroll, rolling its eyes when someone else gets a promotion, clinging to us like every other leftover indwelling sin.
The Bible encourages us in 1 Peter 2:1 to “put away” envy, along with “all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and… all slander.”
Why should we take care to put — and keep putting — these sins away? The verse begins with the word “so,” which points us back to the preceding chapter.
1 Peter 1:22-23 says, “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart.”
This is the contrast to envy. This is the beautiful vision that supplants it: Loving one another earnestly, or fervently (with much effort!). How?
vs. 23 continues, “since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.”
You know what doesn’t last? That thing you’re envious of. Numbers of followers. Sales. Physical beauty. Bodily ability. You know what does last? The living and abiding word of God, and the souls that are powerfully purified by it to be changed.
In light of these truths, how can we practically respond to envy when it rises up in us?
- We can look away. Flee the temptation. Are you following someone on social media — whom you might never know in real life — and comparing the worst parts of yourself to their public image? Are you dwelling on the good work of others at the expense of your own? Take a break from taking it all in.
- We can confess sin to others and ask for accountability. We can put off and put on, more and more, however painfully slow, through the sanctification of the Holy Spirit.
- We can practice praising God for his common grace at work in that image bearer whom we are tempted to envy. We can pray that this rehearsal will, over time, change our hearts’ desires.
- We can focus on the good gifts and vocations God has given us, trusting his provision for our lives without comparing it with his provision for others.
Our God gives good gifts, and good work is one of them. Our prayer is that you would not be distracted from the good work He has for YOU by growing envious of the work He has for others. By grace, you can instead celebrate God’s goodness as you see it manifested in others, knowing that together we make up the multi-faceted kingdom of God.
Praise God that He is not like us — yet still chooses to work in and through us. May He grow His good workers in this gift of graciousness, for His glory.