Are You Sick with Envy?

“A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.” Proverbs 14:30

8350807501_72d94a2300_zThis proverb contrasts contentment and envy.  Contentment is a heart at peace and it gives life.  Envy is a heart at war.  It rots a person to the bones like a malignant cancer.

Here are 5 symptoms that indicate you may be sick with envy:

Envy kills joy. I was in a good mood as our family left for a day trip to visit friends. When we arrived, I walked into their kitchen and gasped with admiration. But, as I gazed lustfully upon their stainless steel Bosch dishwasher my good mood died. Before that moment, I had been perfectly content with my raucous, energy hog of a dishwasher. As I drove home, I ruminated on spending money I didn’t have for a new machine I didn’t need. My wife noticed my grumpy attitude and asked, “Is everything okay?”

“I’m fine!” I lied.  But envy had murdered my good mood.

Envy wastes time.  Have you ever lost sleep comparing yourself to others? It’s good to admire another’s strengths and humbly learn from them. But, there’s no benefit to spending time entertaining resentful feelings toward people you otherwise appreciate and enjoy. The vigor you would otherwise use to pursue happiness is siphoned off by distracting thoughts of jealousy.

Envy wrecks community.  Envy is isolating.  It’s sad when we allows ourselves to grow distant from friends simply because they excel in areas we struggle. Envy is unloving. It keeps us from truly rejoicing with people, even though we desire them to rejoice with us. Envy is illogical — especially if we desire to be on a winning team and partner with people capable of great work. Envy whispers, “Just as long as their work is not too great!” Envy insists that our star shine the brightest. It undermines our ability to joyfully participate in something bigger than ourselves.

Envy alienates us from God. Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the Lord all the day.” (Proverbs 23:17) This proverb warns us that bigger sinners will receive the blessings we covet but are denied. My wife, Marty, worked for years as a nurse in labor and delivery. We struggled with infertility, so my anger spiked whenever she recounted the behaviors of her patients and their boyfriends. Their denial of reality and indifference toward the gift of a new life was nauseating. I never envied their messy lives, but I envied their easy pregnancies. Why would God give healthy babies to people who didn’t want them, and withhold a baby from us? Since God seemed so unfair in his dealings, I questioned if he actually cared much about justice — about right and wrong. My conscience slowly hardened. Rather than fear what the Lord might say, I thought the Lord should fear what I might do. I avoided God and I started acting like a person I didn’t enjoy being around.

Envy causes exhaustion and prevents true rest. Shops and restaurants provide a good example. They rarely close because they’re all afraid to lose customers to the competition. Envy for bigger profits drives owners to bribe employees away from their families. Recently even Thanksgiving Day was sacrificed to the god of envy. We may pick on businesses, but the problem of envy runs deeper in the human heart. It can trap people anywhere and at any time. I see it on vacation when a family member yells, “Put that cell phone down” because someone is preoccupied with work emails. I also see it in the glazed eyes of those sitting in the pew on Sunday, worrying about their week ahead rather than beholding the God who holds them in His hand.


Are you sick with envy? What symptoms do you have? Jesus, the great physician, came to heal this deadly disease. His life, His death, and His resurrection guarantee He has the ability to cure all disappointment and restore all loss. Because of Him, we will experience blessings beyond our imagination. Heavenly creatures will stand in awe of us. As we rest in that coming reality, our hearts will stop warring and grow tranquil.  We’ll begin to sense a recovery from this debilitating disease. And one day, when we see Jesus, and He takes our hand in His, we will be fully and permanently cured.

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