This story is a familiar one to me because I’ve actually experienced it. I’ve struggled time and time again with comparison and envy.
One definition of envy is a mingling of a desire for something with the resentment that another is enjoying it and you are not.*
Based on this definition, I think we could all say we’ve been envious at least once in our lives.
When we’re envious, we’re not experiencing joy or peace in Christ. We’re not exercising humility or compassion for others. If left unchecked, the monster of envy will cause bitterness, dissatisfaction, and unhappiness to take root in our hearts.
As Proverbs 10:14 says, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.”
If envy is such a destructive monster, why do we envy? And how can we overcome envious feelings and thoughts?
Where Does Envy Come From?
Envy is not new.
Envy comes from pride and selfishness.
Both pride and selfishness are all about me. When we envy, even though we’re looking at another person - their life, their personality, their possessions - we’re still focused on ourselves.
Remember that definition of envy?
In it, we see both pride and selfishness at work: a mingling of a desire for something with the resentment that another is enjoying it and you are not.*
When we envy, we are selfish for something we want. Our desires are no longer God-given dreams focused on furthering His kingdom, but greed for our own comfort and convenience.
When we see others getting those things we desire, pride causes resentment of others, telling us we should have what they have.
We know what envy looks like, but what does it look like to live not envious?
The Opposite of Envy
I did a search on the inter-webs of What is the opposite of envy?
Here’s what I found:
The opposite of envy is generosity to others and being glad for others.
Generosity to others is the opposite of the selfishness that causes greed and coveting, while being glad for others is the opposite of the pride that wants to make everything all about ourselves.
We see examples of this “opposite of envy” in Scripture as well:
In Christ, we too can overcome envy and live generously to others and be genuinely glad for them.
Vanquishing the Green Monster
How will the story end? Will we vanquish the Green Monster of Envy, or be consumed by it?
In Christ, sin has been overcome. The monster has already been defeated. We are made new, and through His Spirit in us, we can live a new way.
So when envy stirs in your heart, here are some ways we can uproot it:
Confession + Repentance
When you find yourself envying someone else, confess this sin to God and repent of it.
Confessing means acknowledging you have sinned and repenting means turning away from sin to godly living.
The Holy Spirit will help you do this, and as you listen to Him, you will be more able to spot envy before it takes root in your heart.
So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. Galatians 5:16
Gratitude + Generosity
Replace envious thoughts of what you wished you had with gratitude for what God has already given you.
Often, envy comes hand-in-hand with discontentment, so cultivating contentment leaves no room for envy.
Be thankful. Colossians 3:15
With gratitude for the blessings in your life comes generosity in sharing those blessings with others. Look to the needs of others and serve them in love.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Rejoicing + Mourning
Being glad for others is the opposite of envy, but the Bible takes it a step further.
In Scripture, we are called not only to celebrate with others in their successes and blessings, rather than competing with them, but to also grieve with them in their heartache and sorrow, rather than gloating over them.
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Romans 12:15
How will the story end?
I believe through Christ this story will have a happy ending with the Green Monster becoming smaller and smaller as we put these things into practice, replacing envy with generosity and gladness for others.