Satan wants us to focus on what we don’t have. God wants us to be grateful for what we do have.
The Victory in Virtue Series
Hello Readers, hope all’s well. Today I present another entry in the Victory in Virtue series. Today is the third part of Fight the Vices. This is where we look at the vices we need to avoid as Christians. Today’s post is on the vice of envy.
Envy. Jealousy. Discontentment. These emotions cause so much pain in our lives … and for what? Why be envious of anyone? This world and everything in it is temporary. If we stay focused on God, and are content in Him and what He provides, we have no reason to envy anyone. And yet the vice of envy still creeps into our lives, because it takes a few forms.
So today we’re going to look at how the vice of envy works against us in our lives, and how to counteract it. Let’s get right into it.
What Is the Vice of Envy?
Envy. Noun: A feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck.
Envy. Verb: Desire to have a quality, possession, or other desirable attribute belonging to (someone else).
Besides this discontented desire for what others have, envy can also take the form of wishing they didn’t have what they do. And we need to remember that envy isn’t always about money. Oftentimes we envy another person’s abilities, talents, gifts, and so on.
The vice of envy is a deadly one, because it breeds discontentment and resentment that will turn us bitter, and one day lead us to be bitter toward God. If the vice of envy isn’t stopped, that’s how it ends: Resentment toward God. Once that resentment festers and grows, a resentful, envious person will turn away from God. And the devil will have gained another damned soul (as long as they don’t repent and turn back to God).
The vice of envy is deeply ingrained in human nature. If we look in the Bible, we can see characters suffering from envy in both Testaments. This shows people have been envious of each other since the very earliest days after the fall. Since the dawn of mankind. Envy was probably the main motive for Cain to kill his brother Abel in Genesis. The vice of envy is a part of our human nature.
Why is that? Well, humans are social animals. We’re meant to gather in groups. It’s only natural that when we’re around other people, we compare ourselves to them. Comparing may be natural because it’s one way to see how we’re doing compared with the rest of our group. Are we more, less, or equally successful as everyone else? What are the other members of the group doing with their life, and what are we doing? But just because this instinct to compare may be natural doesn’t mean we need to do it, use it, or follow it.
Comparing ourselves with others is the root of the vice of envy. The vice of envy is a comparative vice. It begins with not being content with what we have, and envying others.
Whatever we have in life, God has given us. And God has given us everything we need. We may see things we don’t have, or how we fall short in some areas. For example, we may see our poverty, and understand we have less resources than others. And yet, despite all that, God has given us what we need, and that’s it. If God hasn’t given it to us, we don’t need it to do what He wants us to do.
Whatever God has given us, we need to be grateful for it, and satisfied with it. If we aren’t satisfied with what we have, we’ll always want more. Always wanting more is a cycle of endless desire that has no escape besides being satisfied with what we have.
And this happens because when we compare ourselves to others, we can always find someone who has more than us. We can always find someone with more money than us. Someone with a bigger house, or more houses. Someone with a fancier car. And so on and so on, forever, until the end of this fallen world.
So if we aren’t satisfied with what we have right now, we will always be envious of others. There will always be someone who has more.
We must be content with whatever we have, and our circumstances. God has given us everything He wants us to have, and placed us in circumstances He wants us to be in. He may not want us there forever, so perhaps He wants to teach us how to improve our circumstances. The point is, wherever we are in life and whatever we have, we must be grateful to God and praise Him. If we aren’t satisfied with what we have right now, we will never be satisfied, even if we get our hands on what we think is the one thing we really want more than anything!
No material wealth can make us content. Look at the rich people and celebrities who die from things like drug overdoses and suicide. On the surface, it looks like they have everything a person could want. They have money, nice houses, cars, women, and whatever else. But they’re not satisfied with what they have. They want more money, more houses, more women, more, more, more. When they die of a drug overdose or maybe even suicide, it shows they were never happy inside, the whole time. If they were happy with their life, they wouldn’t have ruined their body with drugs, and they wouldn’t have committed suicide. And if they weren’t happy, what was even the point???
Only we have the power to make ourselves happy. We can be happy right now; it’s free and we don’t need anything to get it. This is called being content, and it’s something God calls us to do. The Bible teaches us to avoid that pointless life in pursuit of anything worldly (riches, parties, or whatever). God teaches us through the Bible to live a life focused on all that really matters—God, our relationship with Him, and our quest to seek Him.
Our life is short, and every treasure we can gain in this world is temporary. Our wealth and prosperity here means nothing. Never be envious of anyone else. Be content, and stay focused on what matters: Following God and reuniting with Him in Heaven.
There’s a famous passage about being content in the LORD in Philippians 4:11-13. Paul explains that he can be content at all times, good and bad, because He’s content in the LORD. That’s all that matters. God gives him (and us) the strength to endure anything, every circumstance. What more do we need? Nothing. If we have God we don’t need anything else, knowing our life in this world is short and our circumstances (good or bad) are temporary. So we have no need to envy anyone.
(11) I’m not saying this because I need anything, for I have learned how to be content in any circumstance. (12) I know the experience of being in need and of having more than enough; I have learned the secret to being content in any and every circumstance, whether full or hungry or whether having plenty or being poor. (13) I can endure all these things through the power of the one who gives me strength.Philippians 4:11-13 (CEB)
Another famous passage is in 1 Timothy 6. In this passage, Paul talks about false teachers and how they sin because they seek profit instead of God. He says we can’t take anything from this world with us when we die, so we must be focused on what really matters: God. Paul tells us people fall into sin and mess their whole lives up in the pursuit of money. The love of money is the root of all evil.
But for us Christians, in verse 11 Paul tells us not to pursue what the world pursues. We must not pursue a life of prosperity, but one of Righteousness, Faithfulness, love, and more. If we live like this, we won’t feel envy toward anyone.
(6) Actually, godliness is a great source of profit when it is combined with being happy with what you already have. (7) We didn’t bring anything into the world and so we can’t take anything out of it: (8) we’ll be happy with food and clothing. (9) But people who are trying to get rich fall into temptation. They are trapped by many stupid and harmful passions that plunge people into ruin and destruction. (10) The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some have wandered away from the faith and have impaled themselves with a lot of pain because they made money their goal.1 Timothy 6:6-11 (CEB)
(11) But as for you, man of God, run away from all these things. Instead, pursue righteousness, holy living, faithfulness, love, endurance, and gentleness.
These are only two Scripture passages, there are more on this topic I could use. The Bible is very clear that we need to live a life of contentment in the LORD. If we aren’t content with what we have, we will be jealous of others. We will fall to the sin of envy.
Satan is always trying to tempt us into the vice of envy. Satan does this by tempting us to be discontent. How can he do this?
Satan wants us to focus on what we don’t have. God wants us to be grateful and content for what we do have.
If we compare ourselves with others, we can see what they have that we don’t. This won’t be any problem at all if we’re content and satisfied with what we have. But if we aren’t content, we fall to the vice of envy, and covet what the other has.
This state of discontentment shows that we aren’t content in the LORD. This is a very serious offense, because it shows God that we aren’t happy with what He has already blessed us with. So the vice of envy is dangerous and must be stopped when detected. If this discontentment is allowed to grow, it ends with us being resentful and angry toward God. Once that happens, we walk right into every kind of sin imaginable.
This is Satan’s goal, and this is also why the vice of envy is such a powerful weapon in his arsenal. Remember that envy is a natural part of our human nature, and has been ever since the fall. We have a natural instinct to compare. But if we live a Christian life, we can ignore that instinct because we know that things on earth don’t matter. Only following the LORD and reuniting with Him matters. So when we see someone with more than us, we can be happy for them out of Christian love! Satan will hate it when we learn to do that, haha!
We also need to remember that envy isn’t always about money. Oftentimes it’s about another person’s talents, skills, gifts, abilities, and so on. We wish we were good at what they’re good at, or even worse, we wish they weren’t so good at what they’re good at. This is also discontentment, this is also the vice of envy. We must be content not only with whatever material prosperity we have, but with our talents and abilities too. All these talents (etc.) were given to us by God, same as any material wealth. So we must be content with what He gave us and always be grateful for it.
It’s possible a Christian struggling with this point has not yet realized the talents God gave them.
On that note, it’s time to look at the vice of Spiritual envy, because it’s closely related to the envy of people’s abilities and talents.
Every vice has a Spiritual element, so what is the vice of Spiritual envy?
This too, is a vice as old as the Bible. I’ll turn to Scripture in a moment. But first, to describe it in only a few words, the vice of Spiritual envy is envying other people’s Spiritual growth and progress in the LORD.
As usual, John of the Cross had something to say about Spiritual envy in his classic, Dark Night of the Soul.
For, with respect to envy, many of them are wont to experience movements of displeasure at the spiritual good of others, which cause them a certain sensible grief at being outstripped upon this road, so that they would prefer not to hear others praised; […] because the same is not said of them, for they would fain be preferred in everything.John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul, Page 18
Remember the vice of envy is a comparative vice, a comparative sin. We fall to the vice of Spiritual envy when we compare ourselves with others, in the same way we fall to regular envy.
If we compare everyone in the Body of Christ, we’ll find different people at different stages of progress and growth. Some will be young in the Faith, recent converts maybe. Whatever the reason, they’re still immature in Spiritual growth and inexperienced in the Faith. Others have been doing this Christian Walk for decades. They will be experienced in the Faith and Spiritually mature in the LORD.
A Spiritually immature new believer could compare themselves to someone living this Walk for decades, and feel Spiritual envy. It would be a sad thing if they do though. We all have the same goal of seeking God, getting closer to Him, and living a life that honors our LORD. Right? If we all have the same goal, no one has any reason to envy another for their progress. We should be happy for the Spiritual progress of all our fellow believers, because stronger believers benefit all Christians. Stronger believers mean we will be better able to glorify God here on earth. This is no reason to envy.
As far as falling behind others, “getting outstripped on this road” as John of the Cross says, that’s not something to envy either. We grow at the pace God wants us to grow. We learn God’s lessons at the pace He wants us to learn them. If we compare ourselves to others and see that they’re far outpacing us, what does it actually mean?
It could mean we have some sins in our life that hold us back, and slow our Spiritual growth. Realizing this could be the lesson God wants to teach us to begin with! Or it might not mean that. It might be that the others who are Spiritually growing faster than us aren’t actually strong and secure in their growth. Their progress might not be as genuine as they think. If some hardship hits them later, they might stumble and fall into serious sins because their Faith wasn’t as strong as they thought. They crash back to the ground, undoing their Spiritual growth and progress, because their Spiritual growth wasn’t strong enough to support them and stop them from backsliding. Both scenarios are possible.
We grow as fast as God Wills it, if we’re doing this right. There is no ‘falling behind.’ Reject any thoughts of being too slow compared with others; this will lead to Spiritual envy. If we wait on God’s time, we can never be late for anything.
Now, I said that the vice of Spiritual envy is as old as the Bible. Paul writes about Spiritual gifts a few times in the New Testament. These gifts of the Spirit are things like: Prophecy, speaking in tongues, healing, miracles, and so on. These gifts caused Spiritual envy, and caused early believers to fall to this Spiritual vice.
In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul explains to Christians that all gifts come from the same Spirit. The Spirit gives what He wants to each person as He sees fit. Since all these gifts come from God, and are to be used in His Service, there’s no need to be envious of them.
(4) There are different spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; (5) and there are different ministries and the same Lord; (6) and there are different activities but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. (7) A demonstration of the Spirit is given to each person for the common good. [Verses 8-10 describe the different gifts]1 Corinthians 12:4-7; 11 (CEB)
(11) All these things are produced by the one and same Spirit who gives what he wants to each person.
Never be envious of another believer’s Spiritual gifts or Spiritual growth. We are all on the same team, so when another teammate grows stronger it only means good things for us and for God! And no one is outpacing us. If we’re doing this Walk correctly we will be growing Spiritually, but we’ll be growing at God’s pace. That means we’re never falling behind; we’re going at exactly the right pace!
And now, it’s time to discuss the “antidote” for the vice of envy. How do we counteract this vice?
What’s the Antidote?
There’s at least one Virtue that can cancel out any vice. There is no vice that can’t be conquered.
The Virtue of Piety is about loving God, obeying Him, and following His Commandments. God wants us to be grateful and content for what we have. If we envy and covet what others have, we suggest that God hasn’t given us enough. Preposterous! God gives us exactly what we need. If we aren’t satisfied with what He has given us, we aren’t being Pious. Once that happens, we invite the vice of envy (and more).
Don’t get distracted with what others have. First, understand that it doesn’t matter; God is all that matters, so focus on Him. Second, when it comes to material wealth, things often aren’t truly how they appear on the surface. So don’t fall to the vice of envy over it!
God commands us to be grateful and content. The Bible says this many times. Being grateful to God and content with what we have is part of the Virtue of Piety.
(16) Rejoice always. (17) Pray continually. (18) Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (CEB)
Even if God didn’t command it, being content is Wise anyway. If we listen to envy, we will never be satisfied. If we compare ourselves to others, we will always be able to find someone who has more. It’s a meaningless contest that never ends. The only way to escape it is to be content.
And when we do see someone who has more than us, whether it’s wealth or it’s talents, we must be happy for them! When we choose to be happy for them and give it no more thought, it stops the vice of envy right in its tracks! Feeling genuine happiness for others’ success comes from genuine love for others. To grow in this kind of love, we need the Virtue of Charity. The Virtue of Charity is a “supplementary” antidote for the vice of envy.
We can’t be envious of others if we love them and are happy for their success!
And of course this includes being happy for their Spiritual growth and progress. Their Spiritual growth is everyone’s gain; be happy for them and encourage them.
God has given us all we need. And if we have God in our life, we need nothing else. Don’t envy anything else that people have. And don’t envy other people’s progress either. If we’re truly following the LORD, we’re going at His speed. That’s the only speed we want to move at!
So these are the Virtues that counteract and conquer the vice of envy. But our most potent weapon against envy is prayer. So let’s now move on to some prayers we can use to guard against the vice of envy, and fight it in our own lives.
Prayers against the Vice of Envy
There are many prayers we could pray to combat the vice of envy. The best ones of course will be the ones that we create ourselves—the ones that come straight from the heart. Remember: When we pray we aren’t trying to say the right combination of words to unlock something in Heaven. No, that would be magic, which is an abomination to the LORD. Prayer is much simpler. Simply tell the LORD what you want, what you need, what’s on your mind, what’s bothering you, and so on.
Praying for help in fighting a vice is the best way to fight it. So here are a few short, simple prayers to combat the vice of envy that you can try adding to your prayer routine.
Help Me Be Content
The vice of envy starts when we aren’t content in the LORD. Wanting to have more than others starts a pointless quest that never ends. If we’re content with what we have, and content in the LORD, then we’ll be happy and won’t need anything else. Everything else the LORD blesses us with will be bonus icing on the cake.
But if we aren’t content with what we have, and the LORD isn’t enough for us, we can fall to the vice of envy. When we see what other people have, we’ll be jealous, bitter, and resentful. Holding onto these kinds of feelings will lead us into sin, and embitter us toward God.
To avoid this, we must be content. So here’s a prayer asking the LORD for help being content, for those times when we feel something’s missing. Never forget that anything we can gain in this world is temporary and meaningless. If we have the LORD, we will have eternal joy, and we don’t need anything else. Nothing else can compare.
LORD, thank You so much for all Your blessings. I know You have blessed me so much in life with [state God’s blessings in your life here]. When the devil tempts me to think of what I don’t have rather than Your blessings, it makes me feel bad. Please help me to be content with all I have, and with all Your blessings. Please help me to see and feel that You are all I need, and that none of the short-lived prizes of this temporary world mean anything in the end. Amen.
A Prayer against Spiritual Envy
Every Christian on this Spiritual journey of growth is moving at God’s pace. We’re all going as fast or slow as God Wills us to. And we’re all on the same team, with the same goal: Glorify God here on earth, until we reunite with Him in Heaven. If any believer on our team is blessed with rapid, impressive Spiritual growth, that’s a good thing for everyone! We all want the same thing, so the stronger our teammates are, the better.
There’s no need for Spiritual envy, because we want all Christians to grow Spiritually in Christ. If you feel like other believers are outpacing you, don’t worry; you’ll have your season of growth too. One thing that could be holding you back is sin. You could pray to the Holy Spirit and examine your life for any sins, see if that shows you something. Other than that, be patient, and be happy for the Spiritual progress of other Christians.
So here’s a prayer asking the LORD for help with the vice of Spiritual envy. This prayer asks for His help in rejoicing at the Spiritual progress of others.
LORD, thank You for the blessing of being able to follow You and draw closer to You. Thank You for the blessing of being able to grow Spiritually in Christ. Please grant me the Wisdom to be content with my state of Spiritual growth, and to not envy the progress of others. Grant me the Wisdom to see that we all grow at God’s pace, for the same Holy purpose, and that whenever a believer grows in the Faith, it’s a blessing to us all. Amen.
A Prayer against Comparison
We invite the vice of envy when we compare ourselves to others. But even if it’s part of human nature, what’s the point of doing this? Comparing ourselves to others only makes us feel bad for what they have that we don’t, or it gives us a false and sinful sense of superiority because we’re ‘doing better than them.’ Comparing ourselves to others only leads to vice, sin, and sadness. It does nothing positive for us.
There’s no point in comparing ourselves, because my life isn’t your life and vice-versa. Our life is our own, not anyone else’s, and everyone’s life takes its own unique path. So never feel envious of others for what they have (including talents, etc.). Their path is not ours. So here’s a prayer asking the LORD for help to stop comparing ourselves to others:
LORD, Thank You that You have blessed all people in different ways. Some people are blessed with this, others that. And thank You for my own blessings, which are [state blessings here]. Please grant me the mental and emotional Discipline to stop comparing my life and blessings with others. Please grant me the Wisdom to be happy with what I have now, including my talents and abilities. Please grant me the Virtue of Charity to rejoice for others, out of love, for all their blessings. Amen.
Again, there are so many ways to pray against any vice. I could go on and on and on. Everyone is always welcome to leave a comment with prayers of their own.
But once we’re done praying, it’s time to act (in the physical world). Let’s move on to that now.
Fighting the Vice
To fight a vice, we must change our behavior and be consistent about that. We can’t do something new a few times and stop there. We must stick with our new ways, turning our back on our old sins. This consistency is how we build up a habit. It’s also how we cultivate and strengthen a Virtue, which are the “antidotes” to vice.
So how can we do that to fight envy? Let’s look at a few practical ideas. And remember: These are only a start! The possibilities are endless. I welcome any comments with good ideas about this.
Here are just a few ideas of how we can fight the vice of envy in our own lives:
- Write down your blessings to see all that God has given you, including talents (etc.)
- Volunteer to serve the homeless, those less fortunate, or disaster victims to reset your perspective and see how blessed you are
- And other ideas you can think of!
If we’re content in the LORD and with what we have, we’re less likely to fall to the vice of envy when we see the fortunes of others. And we also know that the LORD is all we need, since anything we can gain in this fallen world is temporary, and can’t hope to compare to our eternal reward in Heaven with the LORD. But when we’re not content in the LORD and with what we have now, we’ll feel envy when we compare the blessings in our life to those of others. We’ll see what we don’t have, and feel like we’re not as blessed, not as successful, not as happy, and so on.
But the LORD has blessed us in so many ways, many of which we take for granted. I have shoes on my feet. How many people in this world don’t share that blessing? I have food; every day I get up, I know I’ll eat that day. How many people in this world don’t share that blessing? I have a roof over my head, I’m not homeless. How many people in this world don’t share that blessing?
The blessing of shoes on our feet, food in our stomach … these are big deal blessings!! So many people in the world don’t have these blessings. If we have them, we must thank the LORD for them.
When we don’t have have one of these blessings, we’re desperate for it and can think of nothing else. We beg the LORD for food in our stomach, a roof over our head. When these blessings are gone, then we appreciate them.
But if we write down all the ways God has blessed our life, especially blessings we often take for granted, it helps us keep things in perspective. This is a good way to focus on what God has given us instead of what we don’t have. Remember that Satan wants us to focus on what we don’t have, and feel bad over it. So we can write down a list of ways God has blessed us and hang it up somewhere. That helps keep us focused on the right thing: Gratitude to God.
The next idea is volunteering, hands-on service where it’s needed the most. Performing the Christian works of mercy and compassion. We can do things like serve at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen, help a non-profit that serves the poor, or help with disaster recovery and clean-up, and more. The possibilities for volunteering in service of those less fortunate are almost endless. Praise the LORD! Praise Him for all these chances to glorify Him through good works!
In this world, there is always someone less fortunate than us. When we volunteer and serve them, we see the pain of their circumstance and understand how blessed we are in our life. Many disaster victims, for example, have lost those crucial blessings I listed above: food, shelter, and clothing. Serving people going through such tragedies will always help us keep our perspective healthy. We become well aware of our own blessings when we see their pain.
Is this a human failing? Is it part of our sinful human nature to not see what we have until we see others who don’t have it? To my great shame, I struggle with this myself sometimes. We can all lose our perspective like this if we’re not careful.
I wrote about a disaster volunteering experience I had in January, 2020, in The Bahamas. The post is called The Patient Faith of Marsh Harbor. We were helping clean up in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian. I was going though personal problems at the time, and my mind was focused on those. As I worked to clean up debris and sanitize the ruined interiors of flooded houses, I understood that my problems were nothing. I didn’t have any need for volunteers to come and clean out my house, or sanitize it for mold. My ruined, waterlogged worldly possessions weren’t piled up in a trash heap out front.
It’s a testament to my moral weakness and lack of Virtue that I needed to see the tragedy of others to understand my personal problems meant nothing. But that’s what I needed to do, so God moved me to do what I needed to fix my perspective. Volunteering and service can help everyone fix their perspective, see their blessings, and be grateful like God wants us to be.
The bottom line on how to fight the vice of envy is this: Be grateful and be content with the LORD!
Envy Is for Nothing
The vice of envy is pointless, if we think about it. Why envy anything people have in this world? Any item they have is temporary, and so are they. And so are we. There’s no need to envy anyone for what they temporarily have. Anything we can gain here in this world is meaningless!
This world and our desire for anything in it will fade away (1 John 2:17), but those who serve the LORD are forever. So instead of looking at what others have, we must be grateful for what God has given us, and be focused on all that matters: Living a Holy life and reuniting with God in Heaven. Whatever pain we feel from lacking something on earth won’t matter when we die here and go to Heaven, where there is pure contentment for all eternity. This is all that matters, all we should focus on.
When we’re content with all we have in the LORD, which is everything, then we don’t need anything else. Contentment protects us from the vice of envy. We don’t need to compare ourselves to others then, but if we do, we can feel happy for them and their blessings.
This includes being content with the talents and abilities God has blessed us with. Everyone has different talents and strong points. No one has them all. We may not have an exact talent we want, but God has given us others. We must find them and be grateful for them. God made each of us unique, to do good works. Don’t envy another for their talents and their good works—when we find what God calls us to do, we’re going to be as happy as anyone else!
God has given us all we need, and we’re growing at the exact pace He wants us to. Everything is alright! So stay focused, stay grateful, praise God, and be content.
The vice for next time is wrath. Stay tuned for that and Subscribe to my FREE weekly newsletter with the link below so you’ll never miss a post!!
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Until next time, be strong and do good!
Your new best friend in Christ,
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