Prov 23:17 says, “Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day long.”
It’s so easy to envy other people. The working mom envies the stay-at-home-mom. And vice versa. The mom with no kids envies the mom with kids. And vice versa. The single lady envies the married lady. And vice versa. The ministry wife on the mission field envies the ministry wife in America. And vice versa. The non-ministry wife envies the ministry wife. And again vice versa. The list goes on and on. But then you say, “Well, this verse says we are not supposed to envy ‘sinners.’” Ok well – I’m a sinner, and I’m pretty sure you are too. I think the Bible says we are all sinners. So I think we qualify.
We always think the grass is greener, don’t we. But here’s the thing. Every person’s life has easy bits and difficult bits. We can’t just envy the easy bits. We envy the lady with no kids when our kids are driving us crazy, but we don’t envy her when she wakes up every morning to an empty house. We envy the stay-at-home mom when our job is exhausting and stressful, but we don’t envy her when she has gone several days without leaving her house and has had no adult interaction. We envy the ministry wife who gets recognised at church for all the ministries she helps with, but we don’t envy her when there is a conflict in the church and her husband has to sort it out. So the truth is, envying is not only a sin, but it’s pointless.
Considering this verse in Proverbs 23, I think we can see that it comes from our ignorance of Who God is and our lack of fear of Him. God put us where we are. God has a plan for our life. If He wanted us to be like “her,” He would have made us like her. If we aren’t happy with that, we need to change our heart. We need to recognise that we aren’t the boss. We need to submit our life and everything about it to our Heavenly Father.
Envying also shows that we have the wrong perspective about the world. We need to realise that if we have a little money in our bank account and a little food in our fridge, then we are considered rich by the world’s standards. And blessed by God’s standards. We think we aren’t blessed because we don’t have the living room suite that we want. We think we aren’t blessed because we don’t have the kind of washer and dryer that our friend has. We think we aren’t blessed because our laptop is 5 years old. I wish we could see the way people live in other parts of the world.
The last thing we can learn about envying, and I think the most important thing is that it turns our eyes off of the needy and onto ourselves. There is a world out there that is dying and going to hell, and all we can think about is what we “don’t” have. It’s like if you can imagine all these wealthy people living in a city. They have everything they need to have a comfortable life. And all they do is talk about how jealous they are of all the other wealthy people around them. But right outside their city is a massive mob of poor, hungry, needy people. But the wealthy people never see the poor people, because they are so busy looking around at the wealthy people. You may not think you are wealthy, but you are. Not only physically, but spiritually wealthy, if you are saved. And we serve a God who has asked us to reach out to those in need, spiritually. We have the good news of the gospel to share with those who’ve never heard. Wouldn’t it be better to spend our time doing just that!