“So put away… envy…”

1 Peter 2:1d

By Pastoral Apprentice Di

I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed that babies don’t need to be taught to grab others’ toys. I can remember how envious I was as a child when I saw my classmate showing off his new pencil case. This kind of envy does not decrease as I get older, but grows more and more. I envy others who have good jobs, good cars, and so on. Envy is one of the weaknesses of human nature.

When someone else has something I don’t have or if others also have what I have, discontent and greed arise in my heart. This is a manifestation of envy. In reality, envy is easily underestimated as a harmless personal emotion, but it is accompanied by other negative emotions such as resentment, hurt, and anger. If you let this emotion go, it can have serious consequences. Not only will you hurt yourself, but also others. We can even see many cases of murder in this world because of envy.

The Bible says, “A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot” (Prov. 14:30). It tells us that envy is a serious sin. “I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:21). We can find many examples of envy in the Bible, such as when the Philistines envied Isaac (Gen. 26:12-14), Leah and Rachel envied each other (Gen. 29:30 – 30:1), and Joseph was envied by his brothers (Gen. 37:6-11, Acts 7:9). The chief priests handed Jesus over to the Roman governor because of envy (Mt. 27:18, Mk. 15:10). Envy rises up from deep within the sinful human heart (cf. Mk. 7:22). All of these verses remind us not to tolerate envy, but to resist it.

“We ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another” (Tit. 3:3). Perhaps as Christians we think we will not commit the same sins as non-Christians. But because of the old self, we are still tempted to envy. Yes, maybe we won’t envy others who have nice cars and houses. But could we be equally envious in the church of those who are more gifted than ourselves? Why does s/he get more recognition for leading worship, while I feel I am doing better than s/he? Why does s/he get more praise than I do for doing the same ministry? Don’t forget that Satan will not miss an opportunity to tempt us to sin in any way he can.

An envious person does not know how to be thankful because s/he thinks s/he deserves more. An envious person does not truly know how to love another because envy breeds hate. To put away envy, Paul tells us what we should do. First, ask for humility. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Ph. 2:3). Second, ask for love. “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant” (1Cor. 13:4). Paul reminds us that we are members of one another in Christ, and that each member has a unique function that is irreplaceable (1Cor. 12:27-30). If we have a humble attitude and compensate for each other’s shortcomings with love, envy will dissipate.

In these two respects, Jesus Christ is the best example for us. And the humility and love of Jesus Christ reached its highest peak on the Cross. “Being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Ph. 2:8) and “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

We cannot put away envy by our own willpower, but only by letting the humility and love of Jesus Christ fill us so that there is no place for envy in our hearts. Let us meditate during this week on the fact that Jesus Christ paid for our sins with his life and rose again three days later. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).