Truths for Young Christians: Envy

 •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 10
Let us now consider briefly the examples of this dangerous sin, that have been recorded for our instruction. I say dangerous because we shall see that such is its character.
The First Example
is that of Cain. He, seeing that his brother’s offering was accepted (being with blood), while his was rejected, became envious of his brother, this led to anger, this to hatred, and this to murder, and in 1 John 3:1212Not 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. (1 John 3:12) this case is given as an express warning to us as Christians.
We next pass on to Laban’s sons, (Gen. 31:11And he heard the words of Laban's sons, saying, Jacob hath taken away all that was our father's; and of that which was our father's hath he gotten all this glory. (Genesis 31:1),) who became envious of Jacob; Laban also became full of anger against him, though God did not permit him to show it (Gen. 31:2, 242And Jacob beheld the countenance of Laban, and, behold, it was not toward him as before. (Genesis 31:2)
24And God came to Laban the Syrian in a dream by night, and said unto him, Take heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad. (Genesis 31:24)
). It is worthy of note that, though Isaac and Jacob were both envied for their riches, and we do not find that Abraham (although equally rich) ever was, a fact that says a great deal for his character. The next example is that of Joseph’s brethren in Genesis 37:1111And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying. (Genesis 37:11), and the result is, first they stripped him and threw him into a pit to perish, and next sold him into slavery for twenty pieces of silver, acts which we can only characterize as intense cruelty, springing solely from envy.
Envy in a Child of God
Joshua is one of the last we should have expected to find this evil in, but the seed is alas! in all our hearts; and we actually find Joshua (Num. 11), trying to hinder God’s work, led on by this fearful and dangerous spirit. It is, however, only just to add that it is possible that the envy was not for his own sake but for Moses’, whose servant he was. We have only, however, to go on to the very next chapter to find an undoubted instance of envy, no less an one than Aaron, the high priest, and in Miriam also. They did not like the growing nearness of Moses to God, and the difference of the way in which the Lord spoke to him and them; and envy led them to despise God’s servant. The Lord, however, did not leave Moses to fight his own battles, for Miriam became leprous, white as snow. The sin of Korah which follows closely in Numbers 16. was entirely prompted by envy (Psa. 106:1616They envied Moses also in the camp, and Aaron the saint of the Lord. (Psalm 106:16),), and led to still more awful consequences. Envy in this case led Korah, Dathan, and Abiram into fearful lying against and reviling of Moses and Aaron (Num. 16:13, 1413Is it a small thing that thou hast brought us up out of a land that floweth with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, except thou make thyself altogether a prince over us? 14Moreover thou hast not brought us into a land that floweth with milk and honey, or given us inheritance of fields and vineyards: wilt thou put out the eyes of these men? we will not come up. (Numbers 16:13‑14)), and brought upon them a most appalling death (Num. 16:3232And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. (Numbers 16:32)), so swift was God to visit their sin upon them.
Envy Leads to Murder
Let us now pass on to Saul in 1 Samuel 18:8-118And Saul was very wroth, and the saying displeased him; and he said, They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands: and what can he have more but the kingdom? 9And Saul eyed David from that day and forward. 10And it came to pass on the morrow, that the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied in the midst of the house: and David played with his hand, as at other times: and there was a javelin in Saul's hand. 11And Saul cast the javelin; for he said, I will smite David even to the wall with it. And David avoided out of his presence twice. (1 Samuel 18:8‑11). Envy here seems to possess Saul so fearfully that it obtains a complete mastery over him, leading him three times to attempt to murder David. To one who does not know how rapidly and fatally the poison of envy works, it seems almost incredible that for such a trivial reason (ver. 8) Saul could have sought to kill the very one who had just delivered Israel. Yet I am sure that there is not one of us who knows anything of his own heart, but can trace the seeds of great crimes in the feelings prompted by envy.
In Ezekiel 35:1111Therefore, as I live, saith the Lord God, I will even do according to thine anger, and according to thine envy which thou hast used out of thy hatred against them; and I will make myself known among them, when I have judged thee. (Ezekiel 35:11) we find in the case of Edom that envy leads to hatred. In the case of Daniel 6:3, 43Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm. 4Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him. (Daniel 6:3‑4) it is, I think, clear, that envy prompted the presidents and princes to their cruel course; which cannot be called anything but wicked and unscrupulous. We now pass on to the most fearful thing envy ever accomplished, in Mark 15:1919And they smote him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon him, and bowing their knees worshipped him. (Mark 15:19). Jesus, the son of God, was delivered up to Pilate, from the wretched miserable feeling of envy, that had eaten away all that was even human in the hearts of God’s professed servants, the chief priests. Here envy led them to crucify Christ.
In Acts 13:4545But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming. (Acts 13:45), we find the same horrible sin, leading the Jews through hatred of the success of the gospel to lying and blaspheming; and in 17:5, a similar company led away by the same feelings were guilty of rioting and violence!
(Continued and to be Continued).