In the Greek the meaning of envy is …
Envy = pain felt and malignity conceived at the sight of someone else’s excellence or happiness. Envy can degenerate into a desire to make war upon the beneficiary, and thus to trouble their good and diminish it.
James 4:5 tells us that the spirit in us lusts to envy. That is, we are born with the inherent trait to want the best for ourselves in preference to what’s best for others. God defines this inherent characteristic as pride, and regards it as the top level of sin. There’s nothing you can do about the fact that you are born with sin, but there is a solution to your sin. However, you have to see that you are a sinner before you can be free from your sin. Most people regard themselves as ‘not too bad’ because they have good behaviour, but all they’re really doing is displaying their learned responses to gain value in the eyes of others.
When you’re good in your own eyes it’s impossible to see that there’s pride in your heart. God therefore brings circumstances across your path for you to see your pride, but few see it because good people think they should get good back, so when bad comes their way they have a mood, complain and blame, and can’t see that the mood is actually God’s exposure of their pride. Instead of addressing their sin they can only see what bad thing someone has done to them, and ignorantly defend and reinforce their pride, making it even harder to crack.
God’s strategy is …
1st, repent of your pride, and then 2nd, forgive the person that has hurt you. Until you own your pride you can’t forgive; that would be a contradiction; how can you forgive when you are in pride?
In the human kingdom, everyone is born with the desperate need to have self-value through their father’s favour. It’s the root of envy and it stirs sibling rivalry. In the spirit kingdom, the same applies; everyone wants the favour of God (consider the arguing of rank between the disciples when they walked on the earth with Jesus). Satan allowed himself to be envious of Jesus’ higher position of favour with God-the-Father, and rebelled against God, and in response Jesus chose the unnatural opposite path of no envy and full submission to the Father’s will. Thus the trait of envy is inherent in everyone’s spirit.
Consider Jacob and Esau, Genesis 27
Esau was his father’s favourite, so Jacob hooked up with his mother for self-value. His mother manipulated him to get the birthrite and Esau reacted with justifiable anger. Jacob had to separate himself from his mother and run for his life. The birthrite was simply a means of exposing who had the law in their heart. Esau had a mood, chose hatred and went and fornicated himself with Canaanite women in defiance to his father’s principles. Jacob copped back his own deception from Laban and in the process God opened his eyes to his sin. Jacob was saved not because he was good, but because he repented of his sin. Esau was damned because he chose sin, not forgiveness. Everyone gets caught up in the rights and wrongs of the brothers and can’t see that the issue God was really searching for was their willingness to see their sin and repent. If you argue the case for the unfairness of Esau, you show the law is not written in your heart, and you verify this because you are inadvertently opposing God and the favour He showed towards Jacob. It’s interesting to note that their course was set from the womb because God knows the spirit in us.
Consider, the prodigal son
In Luke 15:11, the prodigal son got the huffs that his father favoured his older brother. He wanted equality of favour and position. That’s envy; that’s pride; that’s sin! He grabbed his share of the inheritance and went and wasted it on his selfishness. You can’t tell me the older brother wasn’t angry with his younger brother’s behaviour. There is no doubt that the older brother judged his younger brother and considered him stupid. When you judge someone from a superior position you confirm your own pride, yet the older brother couldn’t see he was proud, he could only see his good works and the bad his brother was doing. He had camouflaged his pride with good behaviour.
The prodigal woke up to his pride, came back to his father, and repented. He was restored to his former status. His sin was forgiven. You can’t tell me the older brother wasn’t angry that it wasn’t fair. Fairness and equality are always arguments used by those who are envious that others have something they don’t. Homosexuals argue that they should have the same rights as married members of society. Their argument is equality, but that’s a diversion lie. The real issue is ‘homosexuality is sin’, full-stop.
Also, you can’t tell me the older brother wasn’t angry that he now had to share the remaining half of the inheritance with his wasteful brother, leaving him with only a ¼ of the original for him to get. That’s envy; that’s pride; that’s sin.
Envy is exposed in two ways.
1st … by rebelling because a sibling seems to get the father’s favour more than you.
2nd … by being good in order to impress the father for his favour. This envy is more subtle. It’s generally only exposed when you have to share the father’s favour. Clearly, even though the older brother is the good brother, his heart is envious, he judges and blames, and he is ultimately disrespectful of his father’s opinion and authority. His heart is proud. The issue is not his’ good’, it’s his ‘sin’.
The bible says it doesn’t matter how much good you do, God is interested in your heart, before He respects your actions. Everyone’s heart is inherently black; it can only be washed clean when you see your sin and realise you can’t save yourself from it. There’s only one solution; look to Jesus as the Saviour of your sin and repent.
God instigated the Ten Commandments as His measuring stick for sin. When you break the commandments you have sinned. The punishment for sin is eternal separation from God; therefore, it’s important to recognise your mood as sin and stop harping on the other person’s offense against you. The consequences for defending your pride are horrific.
When you set yourself up as the judge of what’s right you raise your position above others (Romans 12:3) and expose the fact that the law is not written in your heart, James 4:11. If the law is not written in your heart then you are not under the new covenant, Jeremiah 31:33,34; you are not saved. Like the rich young ruler, you might do all the right things and on the surface never appear to fracture the commandments, but God measures everything from your heart.
You say ‘I’m a good person; I don’t think I do anything really bad.’ But what if someone was given a compliment and you weren’t? What if someone wins and you lose? What if someone gets picked and you don’t? What if someone is more popular than you? What if someone was nasty to you without any provocation on your part? What if someone had a girlfriend or wife and you didn’t? What if someone earnt more money than you and had a big house, fine clothes and a modern sports car? What if a friend wasted their money and then came to you for help? What if your husband was corrected as you think he deserved? What if you were asked to give up your house and share your resources with the needy?
You see, the issue isn’t good or bad; the issue is sin. It’s your inner heart that must be addressed, not your outward behaviour. You outward behaviour is always a lie unless it’s the fruit of the laws written in your heart.
The law is designed to expose your heart
The Ten Commandments are in you to convict you of sin so that you find and stay on the narrow path. They can’t save you until you own and repent of your sin. If the law is not in your heart, the law can’t work on your heart, so when your sin is brought to your attention you can’t address it with repentance. If the law makes no conviction to your inward conscience you don’t have God in your heart. If I tell you the truth from God’s Word and it doesn’t convict or stir your spirit to the truth, then there’s something wrong in your spirit. If you can’t hear the truth then you don’t have the truth in you.
If an authority exposes the law to your spirit and you respond with ‘I think I’m ok’, then you have a problem, because the law exposes sin, and if it’s not showing up any to you, you don’t have the law written in your inward parts, 1 John 1:8 . Nathan challenged David about his sin of murder and adultery. David could’ve reacted with anger, but he had the law in his heart. It’s interesting to note that we can still sin even though the law is in our heart. The law doesn’t stop us sinning, it convicts us when we do, and without it you’re already lost. Fortunately, David owned his sin and repented and was restored to favour with God. If he hadn’t owned his sin he would have threatened the law staying in his heart.
When you allow envy to live in your heart you come under the fear of what others think of you; you’ll unknowingly seek your father’s favour and live for the good opinion of others. The pathway of God’s righteous conviction will lead you to separating your heart from needing the position of your father’s favour, your mother’s favour, your siblings favour, and the favour of your friends, Luke 14:26. Until you cross this bridge you are not fully surrendered to the will of God and thus are not under the covering of the New Covenant and are thus not saved.
There are two phases to being a Christian …
1st … searching for the Truth. If you’ve opened your heart to Jesus, the Ten Commandments will work on your heart. His laws will operate in your heart to bring you to a point where you die to the need for the self-value of what your parents, family and friends think of you. If you choose to surrender to His will on this issue then you’ll begin to see your sin and God will free you from your ‘self’. Then the laws will be written (branded) in your heart; then you’ll be protected and saved as part of His chosen remnant.
2nd … unconditional surrender at the cross when you finally see your sin and repent, and you’re not saved until you reach this phase.
May God open your eyes to your sin and His plan for saving you.
Dr. David Cousins