Confronting Envy

The story is told of two shopkeepers who were bitter rivals. Their stores were across the street from one another, and they spent their days sitting in the doorway keeping track of who had the most customers. If one got a customer, he would smile in triumph at the other. One night an angel appeared to one of the shopkeepers and said, “God has sent me to teach you a lesson. He will give you anything you ask for, but I want you to know that whatever you get, your competitor across the street will get twice as much. Would you like wealth? You will get whatever you ask for, but he will get twice as much. Do you want a long and happy life? It is yours, but he will live twice as long. You can be famous, your children can be famous, whatever you desire. But whatever you get, he will get twice as much.” The man frowned, thought for a moment, and said, “All right. My request is this: Strike me blind in one eye!”

There is the power of envy, and the Bible strongly warns us against it. The Bible makes it crystal clear: “Envy rots the bones” (Proverbs 14:30). It churns up your insides as you look at others wanting their stuff, their house, their car, their life. It’s often internal and therefore unseen, but it is no less harmful to yourself, your relationships with others, and your relationship with the Lord. James writes: “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” (James 3:16)

Here are some suggestions for overcoming envy. First, acknowledge that envy is a spiritual issue. It’s not just about what someone has that you don’t; it’s about your heart!

Second, confess that envy is a sin and ask God to set you free. Hiding things from God has never been a good idea. He already knows, so confess it. God is not waiting to slap you down but to cleanse you and free you from the burden of guilt.

Third, pray for the person you envy. That’s right! Pray for them. Remember, envy is a heart issue. It’s hard to envy someone you truly love. Let God change you from the inside by praying positively for your rival rather than thinking negatively about him or her.

Finally, count your blessings. Part of the problem with envy is that you magnify your neighbor’s blessings and minimize your own. In so doing, you become ungrateful toward God. By looking at what God has given you and finding contentment there, your envy has no fertile ground in which to grow.

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