Envy leads us into sin for we see that others prosper by doing various unlawful things and we are enticed to do the same. In the Ekklesia envy can also manifest as wanting the chief seats and positions belonging to others. Such envy along with pride and a desire to be admired has resulted in more splits and schisms than anything else.
Asaph the psalmist who wrote Psalm 73 recorded the struggle he had with his envy of the wicked.
Psalm 73:2 But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. 73:3 For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 73:4 For there are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm. 73:5 They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men. (Please see whole chapter Psalm 73)
To be envious is a work of the flesh, and the fruits it brings forth lead us away from a zeal for God into a zeal to be like those who appear to be successful or have what we desire to have.
When this desire is frustrated it often develops into bitterness and hatred or into attempts to usurp and take what is their’s; which things result in many other sins.
- If we envy a person and we allow our desire to be like him to become our main focus in place of trying to be like God. we have placed that person above our zeal for God.
- If we envy him his possession and we desire to also have such a possession; then if that is unobtainable our envy often turns to coveting that person’s possession directly. This can then lead to hatred and all manner of sins, an example being the sin of Jeroboam against Naboth (1 Kings 21).
Genesis 4:4 And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: 4:5 But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.
Cain envied Abel because God accepted Abel’s offering for it was righteous; he felt slighted because his offering was rejected by God. He therefore felt envious toward Abel even though it was his own fault that God favored Abel’s sacrifice over his.
Genesis 4:6 And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? 4:7 If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. [sin crouches at your door; its desire is for you, but you must master it. AMP Bible]
The apostle John explains that envy is of the devil and envy in the heart can manifest itself as hatred toward a brother and leads to murder. If we harbor envy, hatred and murder we are not of God.
1 John 3:10 In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. 3:11 For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 3:12 Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.
We can find many examples in both the Old and New Testaments of the consequences of envy; and we see vivid proof that it is a manifestation of a cruel and hate-filled mindset, a malicious work of carnal-mindedness.
The Pharisees and Sadducees hated Christ because He excelled them in his teachings, gifts, miracles and had more honor among the people than they. They saw Jesus as a threat to their high offices in the religious community and they envied Him. They sought to destroy him, first by speaking evil against Him and by trying to ruin His reputation. They persecuted any who put their trust in Him and then they plotted to have Him falsely accused and arrested. Then they had Him nailed to the stake, taking away His life and it all was because of thier envy of Him.
The brethren in Corinth were having difficultly with this carnal attitude toward each other and Paul had to rebuke them for it. Paul told the Corinthian church that they were spiritually immature and acting petty.
1 Corinthians 3:1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. 3:2 I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. 3:3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?”
Envy is something we all must face and recognize for what it is and then overcome it quickly. It can rise up suddenly in our emotions without us realizing what is happening. And if we have it in our hearts, its going to come out eventually in spiteful, malicious words or deeds. Envy in our heart is something that we cannot hide even if we try, so it behooves us to be cognizant of it when we begin to feel the slightest tinge of enviousness and then ask God to remove it.
Luke 6:45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.
When we truly come to understand the “SOVEREIGNTY of God” and we see God as the supreme Ruler, governing all His creation in righteousness; then envy will not get its grip on us. For if we know that God is in charge of all things and working things out for His ultimate purpose and glory, then we will not have a need to ever envy anyone.
One example of God’s sovereignty and the fact that He has an end in mind for His people, is when God prophesied through Jeremiah that even though the Jews had been taken into captivity, that God had special plans for them. Even though life was hard for the Jewish people in their captive state, God already had their future worked out and He made this promise:
Jeremiah 29:10 For thus saith the Lord, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
Also in Romans 8:28 it says “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
Likewise, even Jeremiah who was God’s prophet, had a problem with envying the prosperity of the wicked, not realizing that God not only had a specific purpose in mind for Jeremiah, but for the whole nation of Israel as well.
In the following verses we find Jeremiah beset by enemies and opposition, appealing to God for swift justice, but got a completely different answer than he expected from God. There are several places in the book of Jeremiah that give us particular insight into the prophet’s feelings about his call, his life and God. This is one of them.
Jeremiah 12:1 Righteous art thou, O Lord, when I plead with thee: yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously? 12:2 Thou hast planted them, yea, they have taken root: they grow, yea, they bring forth fruit: thou art near in their mouth, and far from their reins.
Jeremiah complained to the Lord about how the wicked seemed to be prospering. They dealt very treacherously with Jeremiah, himself, and yet they seem to be getting away with it and were living fairly happy lives. They talked the talk about living for God, but in their actions they were far from living according to God’s ways, and yet it seemed to Jeremiah that they are increasing in fruitfulness not decreasing.
Jeremiah then reminds the Lord of his own dedication to doing God’s work and that nothing seems to be going well for himself. Jeremiah had a very hard life and even lived through some horrific life and death situations, in spite of the fact that his whole life had been dedicated to doing the work of God. He expresses his feelings of frustration and wants God to bring these people down and let them see a day of slaughter rather than being blessed in their wickedness that is devastating the country.
Jeremiah 12:3 But thou, O Lord, knowest me: thou hast seen me, and tried mine heart toward thee: pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, and prepare them for the day of slaughter. 12:4 How long shall the land mourn, and the herbs of every field wither, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein? the beasts are consumed, and the birds; because they said, He shall not see our last end.
Jeremiah 12:5 If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? and if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?
Jeremiah found that being God’s prophet was not all that enjoyable and it was not winning him many friends; even his own family and close neighbors were persecuting him. And we know that this is often the experience of those who follow Christ and want to live His ways rather than in the ways of the world.
We too live in a world where everyone is seeking to live a prosperous, happy life in a culture where most live ungodly lives, and there are always some who seem to be successful at doing just that. Look at the Hollywood crowd and some of those in high office who are seemingly living the good life and breaking every law in the book [God’s Book]. It is tempting for those who are trying to obey God, for we too still just naturally desire to be blessed while we live out our lives; so we are tempted to envy those who seem to be living the “good life”.
When Jeremiah complains about this to God, he doesn’t get the answer he thought he deserved. Rather he’s told to keep up with all that is happening, to just take it and buck up for his mission ahead. Jeremiah had to just trust that God knew exactly what He was doing and that it would all work out exactly as God had planned. Jeremiah had a difficult life as a prophet for the Lord, but now we can look back and see the great things that God accomplished through him in bringing about God’s plan “to root out, pull down, to destroy, to throw down, to build and to plant”.
Jeremiah 1:10 See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.
Jeremiah did not have the things in life that most men take for granted, or even security for his life at certain times. It was only normal and human for him to complain at times, but God in his tenderness comforted him and gave him the strength to keep moving forward.
Isaiah 46:9 Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, 46:10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:
My point is that we as limited humans just do not see the whole picture as God does and that even if we think that others are getting a better deal in life than we it could cause us to become envious. But God wants us to just trust Him and He has given us wonderful promises for the future if we will just believe what He tells us and then wait patiently for His plan to unfold for us according to the plans He has in mind.
Isaiah 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.
Those who are God’s people and are seeking to live according to His every Word will definitely not endear themselves to the people of this world. We will likely not be given the opportunities, jobs, relationships that others in this world enjoy because we do not tow the line for them but rather we have chosen to walk in God’s paths. And if we suffer lost opportunities and material riches because we do so; it is all the more reason to commit ourselves to TRUSTING God and knowing that he is sovereign and that He will work all things out in His perfect timing.
Jeremiah may have suffered greatly and sacrificed throughout his whole life for his life’s work for the Lord, but he will most likely be in the first resurrection and will be greatly rewarded and have unimaginable blessings for all eternity. He may have expressed envy for a while but with God’s help he overcame this work of the flesh and went on to become one of God’s greatest prophets.
Habakkuk was another one of God’s prophets that envied the success of the wicked until God showed him just what the ultimate outcome of the wicked would be. This was a prophecy for his day and also is a prophecy of end time events. This helps us too to understand when we see so much wickedness and debauchery in our times.
Habakkuk 1:1 The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see. 1:2 O Lord, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save! 1:3 Why dost thou shew me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance? for spoiling and violence are before me: and there are that raise up strife and contention. 1:4 Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth: for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth.
God sent words of comfort to his prophet when he was distraught over the success of the wicked in his day. God told Habakkuk that He [God] was going to do a marvelous work that would be almost unbelievable and that it would be brought to pass in God’s perfect timing.
Habakkuk 1:5 Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvelously: for I will work a work in your days which ye will not believe, though it be told you.
Habakkuk overcame his envy and replaced it with profound trust as we see in the rest of the book.
Habakkuk 2:20 But the Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.The Lord sees everything and knows everything and nothing is going to slip by Him and not receive recompense when evil men prosper for a while.
At the end of the book, Habakkuk composed this beautiful hymn:
Habakkuk 3:17 Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be inthe vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: 3:18 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.3:19 The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.
We can read the book of Habakkuk and be inspired and comforted when we face injustice and trials of all sorts from carnal men, including from those of our own family members who spurn us for our faith; and sometimes it is our own church brethren who reject us
Remember the hatred/envy of Saul against David and how Saul persecuted David and made his life miserable. But David overcame and came out the victor.
“David did prove to be better than Saul by how he showed that he was a man after God’s own heart, and did not let any kind of bitterness or spirit of hatred take root in his heart even when others had that spirit toward him. God uses those who are on a path to destruction in this life, to help sharpen and strengthen those who are being trained to be wise and righteous leaders under Christ in the soon to be here Kingdom of God, where righteousness will reign supreme” (1 Samuel 24).
When we are tempted from time to time to be envious of others, especially when we have suffered and sacrificed in this life, it is a test that we must pass. When our beloved friends and family members persecute us or abandon us and seem to be getting away with it, we have to see that it too is part of our training to become future kings and priests in the Kingdom of God . Just as Saul was used to fine tune David and prepare him to be the king of Israel God is fine tuning His Ekklesia.
Appreciate the Function of Other Members of Christ’s Body
Each member of Christ’s body is just one small part in the body of Christ, but we are interdependent upon the other parts for the survival of the whole body. It is imperative then that we appreciate the roles of the other members and not envy them or try to compete with them. Just like in the human body where every organ is vital for the smooth operation of the whole, so every member is vial in the body of Christ.
God is perfectly fair and He knows that we all have different needs, we are at different levels, we have different learning methods, different callings, different ministries and different gifts. We must realize also that we are all in different seasons and therefore it would be improper to compare ourselves with others. Since it is God that made us, He knows exactly what each one of us needs to be perfected into the kind of priest and/or king He wants in His Kingdom. And if we are answering God’s call on our lives and we are yielding to his fashioning and molding of us, He will form us into a suitable vessel just like the Master Potter does with the clay.
He will see to it that we become what He has purposed us to be. He will place us in His body and it will be exactly where we are supposed to be, the place that God designed especially for each one; just as the body of a fetus is formed in the mother’s womb, each cell is guided to exactly where it is supposed to be and begins to form the specific organs of the baby’s body.
1 Corinthians 12:4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.12:5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.
12:6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.
12:7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.
12:8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
12:9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
12:10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
dividing to every man severally as he will.
12:12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
12:13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
12:14 For the body is not one member, but many.
12:16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
12:17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
12:19 And if they were all one member, where were the body?
12:20 But now are they many members, yet but one body.
12:22 Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:
12:23 And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.
12:24 For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked.
12:26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.
Whatever gifts we have received or whatever ministry has been given to us is because it has been given by God and we have no reason to boast of anything nor should we envy whatever has been given to others.
1 Corinthians 4:7 For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?
There is no need to envy what anyone else for God is in charge of it all. He has determined where He wants each of His children and in the end it will be the very best place for each of us to be in. God is very brilliant and is putting together His holy temple; we are NOT wise enough to know where we or others would excel the most and do the very best for God’s purpose and for His Work in His Kingdom. Except we should always do our part in yielding our wills to His will and purpose for us and do the very best we can with whatever gifts and talents He has given to us.
Each member is needed to contribute to the whole body, so our job is to help each other rather than envy each other and wanting what others has. In many other places we are admonished to be edifying and building up the temple of God and not trying to tear it down with envyings.
“And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.”
When church members see their roles as perhaps less important than those of others, and then begin to compare themselves, Paul addresses this by explaining that all the parts are important even if some stand out more than others. Some parts of the body are covered and some are seen, but this does not mean that the parts that are covered are not as important. If we let this insecurity of who we are in the body lead to a feeling of discouragement then we may begin to envy others and actually want to be them.
“There are many keys on a piano, and some are sounded more than others, but this does not mean that the keys that are used less often are not important. What would a piece of music sound like if certain keys were missing?” (Quote by Dr. Paul G. Caram)
Envy Over “Who is The Greatest?”
When true Christians have motives that are pure their total objective is to bring glory to Jesus Christ and to the Father alone. They never exalt themselves but rather point others to the glory of God and what He is like and how they too can receive salvation. We are to preach the gospel and teach all nations but to do it discreetly and without fanfare about ourselves. When people have pure motives, they will never be tormented with feelings of envy. Paul had to deal with envy of him from others, but his own reaction showed that he did not envy others who were preaching the gospel.
Philippians 1:15 Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: 1:16 The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: 1:17 But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. 1:18 What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.
It is God’s intent that His people cooperate with each other in doing the work, all of us helping one another and never competing with each other or envying each other as some envied Paul. In the church of God today, many group leaders are not seeking to exalt God’s name alone but are driven with ambition and seek to make their own name and/or legacy great. This is a clear example of the work of the flesh!
I am not saying we should cooperate with any group that clearly strays from teaching the unadulterated Word of God or those that promote their own leaders and traditions above God! Rather we are to expose decievers and false teachers and warn the brethren to help them from being mislead. This is not “envyings” but godly love to warn against the abuse that is taking place in the COG’s.
The apostle John did just that and warned the brethren about a certain individual who was envious of the apostles and was hampering the work that the apostles were trying to do, even expelling the zealous, righteous brethren out of the assemblies! They were forewarned that this person was evil and not to follow after him. And as we know from some of our own experiences this is still happening in all the COG groups in our time as well.
3 John 1:9 I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. 1:10 Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church. 1:11 Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.
As Christian we are not to care who gets the credit. This is part of a quote of Former US president, Ronald Reagan: “There is no limit to what a man can accomplish, if he does not care who gets the credit.”
Now if we are only seeking to draw attention to God, and not to ourselves, why should we care who gets the credit for anything that is accomplished for God? Jesus told us to do our work for Him as low keyed as possible and then His Father would do the rewarding.
Matthew 6:3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: 6:4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. 6:5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 6:6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
Even the twelve apostles were not exempt from the spirit of competition, as they argued that night at Christ’s last Passover “who should be accounted the greatest”.
Luke 22:24 And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.
And Jesus rebuked them by saying:
Luke 22:25 And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. 22:26 But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. 22:27 For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth.
But once they had received God’s spirit, they worked together and mighty works were done by the hand of the apostles. (Acts 5:12)
As church members we are not to compare ourselves with others which also reflects envyings.
2 Corinthians 10:12 For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.
Scripture commands God’s children NOT to compare themselves with each other. Peter looked at John one day and said, “Lord, what will this man do?”
John 21:20 Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? 21:21 Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? 21:22 Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.
Jesus in effect said to Peter just as He says to us, “It is not for you to know what your brother is doing, make sure you are following me.”
The Bible speaks of another aspect of what envy does to the health of the one who carries it around in his heart. Not only does envy end up sometimes hurting the objects of our envy, but envy if not repented of and released, can destroy the one that harbors it.
In our modern times researchers have discovered what the emotions do to our bodies and how many diseases are caused or aggravated by toxic emotions; but God through Solomon revealed this principle in ancient times way before this was discovered by the modern medical field.
Proverbs 14:30 A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones.
“Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” (quote from Carrie Fisher)
“Envy corrodes the vessel that contains it.” (author unknown)
Clarke’s Commentary has this to say about Proverbs 14:30 “A sound heart is the life of the flesh – A healthy state of the blood, and a proper circulation of that stream of life, is the grand cause, in the hand of God, of health and longevity. If the heart be diseased, life cannot be long continued.”
A pure and wholesome heart free from envy and inordinate passions promotes long life, it keeps the body functioning properly, and it helps to maintains the health and vigor of the body. Rather than envy in our hearts we are to let the peace of God RULE in our hearts and if we are grateful for what we have we will not envy.
Colossians 3:15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.
As we see from examples from the Bible and in the everyday happenings around us, this work of the flesh called “envy” leads to anger, hatred, ill-speaking, conspiracy, and in some cases even murder. It is the cause of many schisms in the church and leads to discord and disharmony among the brethren.
1 Corinthians 3:1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. 3:2 I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. 3:3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? 3:4 For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? 3:5 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?
Envy toward others results in confusion, turmoil, hurt feelings and can take root and become a bitterness embedded in our beings and the longer it remains there the harder it is to eradicate.
Hebrews 12:15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;
What is the spiritual remedy for this vicious attitude? We must begin to see how foolish envy really is and recognize that it is a sign of immaturity. It is a carnal work of the flesh and we need to mortify the works of the flesh and walk in the Spirit.
James 3:14 But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.
We then must seek God with all our hearts and replace envy (just like the other works of the flesh) with the fruits of God’s Spirit. As soon as we recognize that we have an envious spirit, we can then take it to God and confess it with much prayer and fasting until we release it. We must pray that He then replace it with His PEACE and have an unequivocal TRUST that God is working out His plan that will have the best outcome eventually for all involved, and we just need to be PATIENT!
God requires that we overcome this spirit, it is commanded for us to do so. We must make the choice that we will obey Him and strive to remove all vestiges of envy from our hearts by the power of God’s Holy Spirit.
Here are some very applicable Scriptures that address how we can overcome this deonic work of the flesh.
Titus 2:11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 2:12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
Ephesians 4:31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
Leviticus 19:18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.
James 4:11 Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. 4:12 There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?
John 15:12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. 15:13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
The Originator of Envy
Just as the other works of the flesh, this one too traces back to an original source which is Satan. Envy began with Satan envying God and wanting to be like Him, wanting to usurp Him and take over God’s position. Satan then envied the first two created humans, Adam and Eve and the fact that they were God’s new children with the potential to become God’s spiritual children that would, under Christ, rule the world someday.
Satan used his superior cunning skills to tempt our first parents with the idea that they could not trust God and that God had lied to them. The resulting partaking of the forbidden fruit has doomed mankind to rebellion and the consequences of that rebellion ever since. The spirit of envy and the consequences of what it does is everywhere and has infiltrated all peoples and all segments of life. It was this satanic spirit of envy that prompted Cain to do what he did to his brother.
In Galatians 5:18-21 all these works of the flesh together and unless the first sign of them is quickly brought into check, one usually leads to another. The work of wrath that we studied a few weeks ago is something that can spring up suddenly and is soon over if it is dealt with quickly but if not it morphs into envy and can become deep rooted, and it will not dissipate until it takes out its feeling in some form of retaliation. It so deeply wants the offending party to hurt as it hurts, often even to the ultimate hurt which can expedite into murder. “Who is able to stand before envy?” (Proverbs 27:4)
Envy is a like poison that wants its pound of flesh from its victims. The prophet Ezekiel prophesied against Edom who has had a perpetual hatred toward Israel because of envy
Ezekiel 35:55 Because thou hast had a perpetual hatred, and hast shed the blood of the children of Israel by the force of the sword in the time of their calamity, in the time that their iniquity had an end:
Envy is ever cruel and can show up as vicious brutality to settle the score. No wonder this attribute is listed as one of the wicked works of the flesh and is condemned by God. These are the ways of this present world but will be a thing no more when Christ sets up His Kingdom and pours our His spirit on all flesh and gives the inhabitants of the earth a NEW HEART.
Ezekiel 36:26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
If we can only recognize that this present evil world is just not cracked up to be what we humans think it is, we would never envy for the things in it. Many people, and especially in the prosperous western nations, work hard all their lives so they can retire and live well. Once they attain it they still have to pay out high property taxes, insurance, security systems, maintenance, etc. They may enjoy it for a few short years and then they pass away and leave all that they have worked for all their lives behind to someone else that did not have to work for it. And if we envy those who live in million dollar homes, we shortchange ourselves for the longing is for things that just do not last and all of it comes to nothing in a few short years
1 John 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
Luke 12:16 And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: 12:7 And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? 12:18 And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. 12:19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. 12:20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? 12:21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
1 Corinthians 13:4 tells us that Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 13:5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own [is not self-seeking which is the root of envy], is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 13:6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
Envy and jealousy are the exact opposite of divine love. Love is unselfish, but envy and jealousy are self-seeking and self-centered. We are to become complete as our Father in heaven is complete and grow into spiritual perfection, which is reflected by the unselfish, divine nature of brotherly kindness, goodness, and unity. (Please see 1 Corinthians 13, whole chapter)
John 13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 13:35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
Envy can be a form of fear for sometimes we fear what we don’t have or we fear what others can take away from us. The remedy is the love of God, which is keeping all of His commandments and then showing kindness and goodness to others including those who have hurt us.
1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
1 John 5:4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. 5:5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?
Esteem Others Better Than Ourselves
The remedy for envy then is to esteem others better than ourselves and to rejoice with those who do rejoice, rather than envying them. This is the setting aside of our ego and putting on the garments of humility and brotherly kindness as we read in other places. Here, Paul exhorts:
Philippians 2:33 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 2:34 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
Romans 12:10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;
Romans 12:15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
Humility is the key to deflating our egos, and it is the key to conquering this embittering “work of the flesh” called ENVY.
Philippians 4:10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.
4:11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
4:12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
4:14 Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction.
4:15 Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only.
4:16 For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.
4:17 Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.
4:18 But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God.
4:19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:10-19 Commentary
Contentment ~ The Remedy for Envy
In Philippians 4 we find a very good Biblical example for “contentment” in Paul’s own approach to life in which he demonstrated throughout his ministry. To have contentment is the opposite of having envy.
Contentment is a peaceful, satisfied state of mind and is the remedy for being envious. We become content when we submit our whole lives to the will of God and realize with our whole being that He is sovereign and is in control of all things. When we are content with what we have, who we are; and when we know that we are living in God’s will, we then have no need to envy others.
What is contentment and what are its fruits? The Greek word for contentment or content is autarkeia (Strong’s #841) and simply means “sufficient’ and self-satisfaction..
Contentment is a disposition of mind in which one is at peace with the situation in which God has placed him and is not sinfully striving for change all the time. It is living without complaint and submitting to whatever God gives. A person who is content is thankful for life and knows that his future in is the hand of his all knowing and wise Almighty Savior.
This does not mean this person is satisfied with this present evil world as their permanent dwelling, but sees it as a training camp and looks forward to the day when Christ returns and sets up His Kingdom. God does not expect us to be content with living in the physical state forever. He taught the disciples to pray “thy Kingdom come”. And even Paul said earlier in this same letter, that to die is gain and that he had a desire to pass from this life and to be with Christ in his next conscious moment, but that it was more needful for the time for him to remain in the flesh, and he was content with that.
Philippians 4:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 4:22 But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. 4:23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: 4:24 Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.
We also know that God’s people groan from within while we are waiting in this life for the resurrection to spirit.
Romans 8:23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
To be content is also not denial about our true conditions or the evils that are in the world. We don’t go around pretending that all is well and that we live in some kind of utopia; but if we look at the opposite of contentment, which is ENVY, we can get an idea of what real godly contentment entails.
When the heart is filled with malicious envy it causes a person to be jealous of the blessings and accomplishments of others because he is not content and is not trusting in God. This also fills him with hatred for the objects of his jealousy and brings misery and ruin to all involved. On the other hand, a person who is content is satisfied with his own lot in life, knowing that he is in God’s care and that he has a glorious future ahead. He knows that the time he has on earth is short and that his life is for the purpose of on-the-job training (character building) that will endow him with all the qualities he will need to be a valuable member of God’s family some day.
Paul had learned from his many trails how to live in contentment no matter what situation he found himself, even locked away in prison which is where he wrote his epistle to the Philippians. He did not envy others who were preaching and teaching even though some of them were doing so out of spite for him. (Philippians 1:12-18)
*Philippians 4:10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.
The Philippians had again given Paul a gift and with exuberant joy he wanted to express his gratefulness to them. He says that their care “flourished” depicting a plant that shoots up or is thriving indicating prosperity and abundance. Paul is in essence praising their generosity toward him.
Perhaps because of their poverty (2 Corinthians 8:1-2), however, they may have not had the opportunity to be able to help Paul in this way until recently. Thus Paul rejoices and gives praise to God that the chance to show their concern for him has returned, possibly, because God had blessed them with abundance and they wanted to share with him
*Philippians 4:11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
Paul says that he is not really in need for he says that in regard to his poverty he has learned to be “content”. Paul had gone through many trials and had suffered much for the cause of Christ. These experiences had taught him to be content in every circumstance and Paul was an example for the Philippians, encouraging them to cultivate this virtue as well. The Greeks used the term “content” to indicate that a person stoically accepts whatever circumstances he finds himself in. The Greek word “content” (autarkes,) was used by Stoic philosophers of Paul’s time to mean “self-sufficient,” and in their view this characteristic was a valuable quality to have. But Paul is going beyond that definition by implying that his true sufficiency is not in himself but in Christ and in His provision of his needs.
*Philippians 4:12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
Verse 12 does not deny the reality of Paul’s need, but rather he attests to the fact that he is able to be content whether the situation is in abundance or in poverty; whatever may be his lot at any given time. Therefore in spite of his need he lets the Philippians know that his real joy does not depend on the having his needs met but he can be happy and content whether he is living in plenty or is in want.
Paul is not flustered when he lacks, but stays connected to the source of all his provisions knowing that he is in God’s care no matter what.
Paul reiterates what Jesus taught in his sermon on the mount “Do not be anxious for your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor yet for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life more than food, and the body than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25).
*Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
This does not not mean we can do anything we want to do and God will back us with strength to do it, but rather God will strengthen us to do His works, keep His commandments and to fulfill our calling.
We must depend on God for our strength and try not to do things in our own strength. It is Christ that supplies all our needs, including the strength we need to be able to bear whatever circumstances that come our way if we are faithfully looking to Him. And if God has given us work to do, He will supply everything needed to fulfill that work. We must not look to our own limited human strength but have faith, just as Paul, that God is the one who supplies and enables us to live for Him.
Also, by saying “I can do all things” means that God will supply the greatest need of all, the strength to face all circumstances and to carry all our burdens. This is a promise not just for Paul or just for the Philippians but for all who would become followers of Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 10:13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
*Philippians 4:14 Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction.
Paul again commends them for their well doing in helping him with provisions in his poverty and imprisonment.
*Philippians 4:15 Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only.
The Philippians not only supported Paul with their gifts while he was with them, but when he departed from Macedonia they sent tokens of their generosity after him; and this when no other church would help him. None of the other congregations in the other cities looked after his needs in tithes and offerings only the Philippians. They were willing to give, in return for what they had reaped spiritually from Paul and to show their appreciation to him for his devotion to them in working hard and sacrificing to bring them to Christ.
*Philippians 4:16 For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.
These people saw the importance of the work that Paul was doing and wanted to be a part of that work in supplying for his necessities even as he traveled to other cities such as Thessalonica.
*Philippians 4:17 Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.
He is explaining that he is more glad for their sakes that they are willing to give than for his own sake in receiving the gifts. They by their giving are showing that they are growing into spiritual maturity and faithfulness and as their teacher, this alone is gratifying to Paul.
*Philippians 4:18 But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God.
Paul compares the giving to supply his needs to the sacrifices that were offered to God on the altar at the temple, for in their giving to him which enabled him to do God’s work, they were in reality giving to God and God was pleased with their offerings.
*Philippians 4:19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
In response to the generous gifts the Philippians gave to Paul, he says that God will meet all of the Philippians’ needs. Even though they gave out of their own poverty, Paul is saying that it is God that will recompense them for their kindness and consideration of Paul’ s needs.
Proverbs 11:25 The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself.
Matthew 6:32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 6:34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
Paul learned the secret to being content (with God’s help) and God was able to use him to bring many people to Christ, not only in his day, but throughout the past 2000 years by the inspired letters that have been preserved for us that he wrote to his own dear brethren that made up the congregations he established.
If we too can learn to be content in all things, God will use us to teach and to help bring others to the true knowledge of God soon in His coming Kingdom on earth; and what a wonderful privilege that will be!
Hebrews 13:5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
James Malm and Constance Belanger
Note- Constance submitted the original rough draft of this article in 2016, which I then completed for posting.