The Evil of Envy – Part I

When you think of crimes that are committed, the following list would seem kind of silly.

  1. Murder
  2. Grand Theft
  3. Rape
  4. Jay Walking
  5. Drug Trafficking
  6. Child Pedophilia
  7. Driving with blinker out

Most would stop and say that something was off with the above list.  Murder and jaywalking are not comparable crimes and drug trafficking and driving with a blinker out are not the same type of crimes.  In a similar fashion, Christians put weights on differing sins. However, God’s list of sins sometimes take us aback as to what is included.  Let me give you an example.

“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (I Corinthians 6:9-11).

“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21).

“But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;  Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Ephesians 5:3-5).

Envy is one of the causes of unhappiness.  Biblically, we can trace its evil influence even before the fall of man.  We see it begin with Lucifer, Son of the Morning, who was envious of the praise that was directed to God.  He then was able to lead other angelic beings in this envy. It was envy that brought on the fall of our first parents.  The devil came and destroyed their happiness by tempting Eve, who tempted Adam and brought sin into the human race. It was envy that caused Saul to want to murder David because David was so popular and successful.  It was envy that caused the Scribes and Pharisees to persecute Christ, have Him condemned, and finally had Him crucified on Calvary. Envy is an age-old sin that can lead us as finite humans into a spiral that will bear evil fruit in our lives.

As far as background, most in America when you mention envy will say that it is one of the seven deadly sins.  For information purposes, that phrase is nowhere found in the Bible. There are lists of sins in the Bible, but never is the term “seven deadly sins” given.  This list was likely the creation of a Catholic monk around the 4th century A.D. which was retained by the church’s theologians starting in the Middle Ages (1913 Catholic Encyclopedia article on Sin).

There is a silly story that illustrates this:

There was a woman whose second grader had collected a fair amount of money from the “tooth fairy.” Every time her daughter Rachel lost a tooth, they would put it in a small envelope and put it under her daughter’s pillow, and behold, in the morning, the tooth was gone and in its place was $2. That was just great.  Two dollars is a lot of money for a second grader. At least it was until, one day Rachel visited a friend of hers. Her friend was telling how she had put her tooth under her pillow and found $10 the next morning. Rachel then asked her friend’s mother, ‘Mrs. Kraft, would you mind doing me a big favor? Would you please call my mom and tell her which tooth fairy you use?’” (copied from

Envy and Jealousy Defined

EN’VY, verb transitive [Latin invideo, in and video, to see against, that is, to look with enmity.]

  1. To feel uneasiness, mortification or discontent, at the sight of superior excellence, reputation or happiness enjoyed by another; to repine at another’s prosperity; to fret or grieve one’s self at the real or supposed superiority of another, and to hate him on that account.
  2. To grudge; to withhold maliciously.

EN’VY, noun Pain, uneasiness, mortification or discontent excited by the sight of another’s superiority or success, accompanied with some degree of hatred or malignity, and often or usually with a desire or an effort to depreciate the person, and with pleasure in seeing him depressed. Envy springs from pride, ambition or love, mortified that another has obtained what one has a strong desire to possess.

  1. Rivalry; competition. [Little used.]
  2. Malice; malignity. – Webster’s 1828 Dictionary

JEALOUS, adjective jel’us.

  1. Suspicious; apprehensive of rivalship; uneasy through fear that another has withdrawn or may withdraw from one the affections of a person he loves, or enjoy some good which he desires to obtain; followed by of, and applied both to the object of love and to the rival. We say, a young man is jealous of the woman he loves, or jealous of his rival. A man is jealous of his wife, and the wife of her husband.
  2. Suspicious that we do not enjoy the affection or respect of others, or that another is more loved and respected than ourselves.
  3. Emulous; full of competition. – Webster’s 1828 Dictionary

The Bible on These Subjects


“Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me” (Exodus 20:5).

“For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Exodus 34:14).

“For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God” (Deuteronomy 4:24).

“Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me” (Deuteronomy 5:9).

“And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the LORD: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins” (Joshua 24:19).

“God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies” (Nahum 1:2).


“For wrath killeth the foolish man, and envy slayeth the silly one” (Job 5:2).

“Envy thou not the oppressor, and choose none of his ways” (Proverbs 3:31).

“A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones” (Proverbs 14:30).

“Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the LORD all the day long” (Proverbs 23:17).

“Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?” (Proverbs 27:4).

“Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 9:6).

“For he knew that for envy they had delivered him” (Matthew 27:18).

“And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him” (Acts 7:9).

“But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming” (Acts 13:45).

“But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people” (Acts 17:5).

“Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers” (Romans 1:29).

“Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will” (Philippians 1:15).

“He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings” (I Timothy 6:4).

“For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another” (Titus 3:3).

“Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?” (James 4:5).

As you can see listed above, the Bible has much to say about this subject.  Biblically, you will not find that the word “jealousy” is used much in a bad light.  Over time in our culture, we have intertwined the idea of jealousy and envy. Here is an explanation that may help in differentiating envy and jealousy.

They differ in the fact that jealousy consists in an excessive love of one’s own good accompanied by the fear of being deprived of it by others.  A top ranked student, for example, upon noticing the progress of another student, may become jealous of him because he fears the latter will take away his rank.  Jealousy often abounds among professionals, among writers, and even among priests. The essential difference between envy and jealousy is this: we are envious of another’s good, and jealous of our own.
(See more at

Principles Drawn from Study

  1. God, according to Exodus 34 is called Jealous.  What does this mean?

John Gill in his commentary on this verse says:

“For the Lord whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God; his name and nature answer to one another; he admits of no rival or competitor in worship; he will not give his glory to another god, or one so called, nor his praise to graven images; and in this he is distinguished from all nominal and fictitious gods, who have many joined with them, and are rivals of them, which gives them no concern, because insensible; but it is otherwise with the Lord, who knows the dishonour done him, and resents it, and is as jealous of any worship being given to another, as the husband is of the honour of his marriage bed; for idolatry is spiritual adultery, as is suggested in the following verse.”

  1. The book of Proverbs deals heavily with wisdom for youth.  Repeatedly, there is an emphasis to a young person to not be envious of the wicked.  This is seen in Proverbs 3, 23, and 24. We also see David in the Psalms mentioning this plight for the righteous in Psalm 37 and 73.

“Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity” (Psalm 37:1).

“For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Psalm 73:3).

“Envy thou not the oppressor, and choose none of his ways” (Proverbs 3:31).

“Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the LORD all the day long” (Proverbs 23:17).

“Be not thou envious against evil men, neither desire to be with them” (Proverbs 24:1).

“Fret not thyself because of evil men, neither be thou envious at the wicked” (Proverbs 24:19).

The plea is simple that there will be a longing in the soul of the believer to see the prosperity and success that seems to come from living wickedly in this temporal world.

Consider the wicked entertainment industry.  The laughing and joyful appearances seem to lure our youth into immoral and debauched lifestyles.  What is the plight of these entertainers? Let’s list a few examples.

Marilyn Monroe

Monroe’s death caused a lot of controversy in the media, not just because of her celebrity status, but because of her curious relationship with President John F. Kennedy.  Her death was ruled a suicide by drug overdose. Many thought she was going to go public about an alleged affair with JFK, which would give someone the motive to silence her.  The actress and model was only 36 when she passed away.Bob Crane

Bob Crane was an actor and a drummer who was brutally murdered in 1978 in his apartment in Arizona with an electrical cord tied around his neck.  The main suspect was Crane’s friend John Henry Carpenter who had flown out to Arizona to spend time with the actor just days before his death. Smears of Crane’s blood were found inside Carpenter’s rental car.  Carpenter was acquitted in trial and Cranes’ murder still remains unsolved.Tupac Shakur

Tupac’s death still reigns as one of the most controversial celebrity deaths in history, simply because no one was ever charged for his murder.  Tupac was shot four times, sitting in his car at a red light in Las Vegas in 1996. A rival gang member named Orlando Anderson was the main suspect, but the police only questioned him once.  The rapper was only 25 years old when he died.

Phil Hartman

The Saturday Night Live comedian was shot in 1998 by his wife, Brynn Hartman.  Phil and his wife argued over her drug problems, which was a common problem between the couple.  Phil went to bed and soon after, Brynn followed him then shot him twice in the head and once on the side of his body.  She then locked herself in a room as police arrived and shot herself.

– Collected from (

The list could go on, but the end of the lives of these famous movie stars and musicians should help us to understand that we need to be careful of letting envy into our souls for the prosperity of the wicked.  We must continually seek the Lord’s guidance through Scripture to help us understand that evil does not ultimately triumph.

  1. Certain Traits will develop in the Envious Heart.  We find these traits expressed to us in the actions of those that acted upon their envy in the pages of Scripture.
  2. Self-Importance. The first act of envy is with Satan.  He desired the praise that alone was designated to God and this in turn caused him to raise a rebellion against heaven itself.  There is an important characteristic that is seen in this mutiny. The envious person will feel invincibility against even God himself.
  3. Family Hatred. The book of Acts records for us that it was envy that drove Joseph’s brothers to sell him into slavery.  This teaches us a very sad story of envy. We see this evident in this family for it is recorded in Genesis that Rachel was envious of her sister’s child-bearing and cried out to the Lord.  This evil of envy can be watched by our children in our home and be duplicated if we are not careful.
  4. Selfishness. Selfishness is one of the many roots that spread from this evil tree of envy and jealousy.  We must learn to crucify this old Adamic flesh that wants to have the preeminence. It should never be a joy to us to see either a friend or enemy go through hardship.  We must learn to have the spirit of Christ in us.
  5. Covetousness.  This is found in the list of the Ten Commandments. Consider the three areas that we need to be careful of with envy.

“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s” (Exodus 20:17).

Personal Possessions – A man’s house and anything that is thy neighbor’s can start to work us over in our flesh.  We start to ask God why they are getting this or that and not us.

Personal Relationships – This is shown by the statement, thy neighbor’s wife.  How often we have looked at someone and said why do they get to have those children or why do they get to get married and I don’t? Be careful of the spirit of envy!  It is deadly and can then lead to discontent.

Personal Achievements – “Nor his manservants, nor his maidservants, nor his ox, nor his ass (donkey).” What does this mean?  This man has been able to achieve a status that I may not have been able to achieve. This could be in the area of notoriety or position in a business.  The evil of envy is that we stop considering the goodness of God in our lives and start to think that God is not being fair to us by what others around us are getting.

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