By Basilea Schlink
Envy is a poisonous root in our soul that can kill others. Jesus Himself was delivered up to this murderous power, for it is written: Pilate "knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up" (Matt. 27: 18). Envious people cannot bear to see their neighbours-especially their equals or those they live with-get something more or better than themselves. That is especially true in the areas that interest us most, for instance, intellectual endowments, physical beauty and strength, or recognition and popularity, material advantages and various blessings at home or at work. For instance, it hurts the envious mother when she sees that her neighbour's child is more popular than her own, or if he has a happy marriage when her child does not. How often do we look askance, just because the other is getting along all right!
In such situations, when God has given someone else something that He has denied us, we seldom stop at just having hurt feelings. This poison oozes out of our hearts in word and deed. In the more harmless cases we are unfriendly to others; we repel them; we quarrel with them and make life difficult for them. But often-just as the Pharisees took revenge on Jesus-we take revenge on others, because they have taken honour, recognition and popularity away from us through their own popularity. We try to humiliate them somehow, to take them down a peg or two in the sight of others, or to put them out of the limelight as best we can. Sometimes we are unconscious of this, because we pretend that we have impartial reasons for fighting against them. And if we become conscious of our envy, perhaps we try to make it seem harmless or we even feel sorry for ourselves, because God has not given us something that He has given to others. If we do so, we are justifying our envy.
In our blindness we do not see that when we are filled with envy we will come under God's serious judgement. For envy is one of the sins that can exclude us from the Kingdom of God according to the Holy Scriptures (Gal. 5: 20 f.). For the envious this means a devastating fate in the future. They will be denied entrance into the kingdom of Jesus Christ, even if they are Christians. In the face of eternity we cannot tolerate envy at any price. This poisonous, sinful root has to be eradicated if we wish to be with Jesus forever. Because the Word of God speaks so clearly about envy, we have to take the Apostle Peter's admonition seriously: "So put away all malice and envy" (1 Pet. 2: 1).
Now it is a matter of making every effort to get rid of this sin. But how? First we have to pay homage to the truth and admit that we are envious because another has something we do not have. We have to record such feelings and thoughts soberly as sins. The judgement of God is upon them. Then we will be frightened and abhor this sin and will let ourselves be shown the roots of envy. The main roots are usually in our selfishness or in our cravings, whether they be for physical or spiritual goods. Therefore, we must ask ourselves, "Are we willing to surrender our selfishness and our claims on possessions and talents to Jesus and to be poor with Him in the way of material goods, abilities, love and respect? Are we willing to believe that God will always endow the poor and that they are the ones who are really rich?"
The second root of envy is mistrust against God. It is comparing ourselves with others, as though the Father in heaven had been unjust when He distributed His gifts and burdens. Therefore, it is a matter of renouncing our rebellious, mistrustful thoughts. Instead we must trust that God, because He is Love, always gives us what is best for us. He always leads us the best way. If He had a better way for us, He would have chosen it.
No matter how He leads us, whether He gives us something or not, it is always best for us, because it comes from the hands of the Father who loves us. We must believe that firmly. Besides, we can never judge the pleasures and burdens of others, because we cannot see the background! Perhaps we envy someone for something that is merely a difficult task for them.
The third root of envy is ingratitude. Therefore we must begin to give thanks for everything that we have received, and then there will be no more room for envy. If we give thanks to God for the gifts that others receive, the poison of envy must yield.
No matter what it costs, Jesus wants to free us from envy, if we will take the first step as a sign of our willingness and surrender our envious desires to Him. He has come to burst our chains. His blood is sufficient to heal this sinful ailment. He wants to transform us until we can remain at peace in situations where, formerly, our envy would have torn us to pieces. Yes, until we can even rejoice when others have more talents than we do. When we are redeemed from this tormenting envy, we will become happy and able to taste His kingdom of peace and joy here, and one day we will dwell there eternally. Therefore, "fight the good fight of faith!" It is worth it!