Is Envy a Sin?

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Do you celebrate other people’s success or do you moan and cry, “Why not me?” There was an interesting discussion that took place on an Internet listserv group – the topic for that week had been envy.

My mother had raised me to be happy for others when they did well. She not only taught this, but she still lives it today. My mother’s own happiness is increased when those she loves succeed. She often sends notes of congratulations, attends ceremonial events, and buys gifts to show her joy.

I remember my mom buying me a beautiful red and black training outfit the day I registered my health and fitness business. Although I imagine she may have preferred me to take a nine-to-five secure job, she put her own longings aside, and celebrated my excitement of sole proprietorship. I could count on my mom to share my joy.

Her example has permeated my life. I, too, now get excited when a friend passes an exam, gets married, has another child, or buys a cottage. There is, however, sometimes a pang of envy that tries to rise. If I allowed this pang more than a passing, it might grow into resentment and discouragement. It might easily become a sin of covetness. I would no longer be feeling happy for what this other person has, but instead would want it for myself. The danger, of course, is when this little green monster takes over and my thoughts become ugly and angry. “You shall not covet” sears my conscience (Exodus 20:17).

On the other hand, if I recognize this jealousy quickly it can instead be turned into inspiration. Instead of coveting what this person has, I can aspire to it. Instead of shuffling my feet and grumbling under my breath, I can set goals and make plans.

What the enemy meant for evil God can change to good. An emotion such as envy can be changed to make me a better person. First, in sharing in the other person’s joy and secondly, by having a goal to work towards.

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other (Galatians 5:25-26 NIV).

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