The Pitfall of Envy

By nature, people are often discontent with what they receive, whether it is their job, finances, possessions, and yes, even their relationship with others. However, this condition is not limited to those of the world; it also exists within the church. Such Christians find themselves discontent with their roles in the church as they look at how God works through others’ lives. When left unchecked, this condition can lead to resentment and brokenness in the church’s fellowship and fellowship with God.

As the book of John draws to a close, we see a glimpse of this condition emerge as Jesus recommissions Peter by the Sea of Galilee. Jesus also shared with Peter how he, in his old age, would glorify God by his death at the hands of man. Then He said to Peter, “Follow Me!” (John 21:19). The knowledge that he was to die by crucifixion must have been quite shocking to Peter, so looking at his fellow disciple, John, he asked, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!” (John 21:22).

In modern terms, Jesus told Peter to mind his business, to follow Him, and to focus on what He calls him to do. Both Peter and John had distinct roles to fill in the life of the early church. Peter provided the church with courageous leadership while John provided the church with theological explication. 

Those roles were vital to the early church, and they are just as essential in the church today. Neither Peter nor John could have done the other’s job effectively because God did not gift them in that way. Likewise, not everyone in the church today is called to pastor, teach, sing, and so on, yet, every role is vital to the church’s overall success. 

Apostle Paul described it this way in a letter to the Corinthian church. He wrote, “For the body does not consist of one member but many… The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable…” (1 Cor. 12:14-22). In other words, our foot is no less critical than our hand, and our eye is no less vital than our ear, yet, each works together in harmony for the good of the body.

So it is in the church today whereby an usher is no less important than a deacon, or a teacher is less vital than the pastor for each member has a role to play according to their gifts. Problems arise when we take our eyes off of Jesus, as did Peter when he walked on water (Matt 14:22-33). Like Peter, we, too, begin to sink into a sea of despair and sin; we begin to deceive ourselves. The problem with people is that we can become ungrateful with what God has given to us and envious of those others’ posses.

In “The Art of Thankfulness,” the author, Brenda, lists ten items or behaviors that can easily lead people into a sea of despair and draw them further from God.1 Those behaviors, and others, serve to fuel our state of anxiousness, impatience, and our need for instant gratification. Number two on her list advises us never to forget to be thankful for our past and present blessings, while number three warns us never to envy others’ blessings. Number four, which speaks volumes, urges us not to have a sense of entitlement where we feel as though we deserve God’s favor, and if you cannot say amen to that, you ought to say ouch!

Another essential point is that envy is often motivated by worldly desires, not a desire to serve God. For example, a person aspires to be a pastor because he longs for prestige and the attention of others though he was not gifted or called by God to serve in that role. His jealously is stoked by his lack of appreciation for his role as a deacon, an usher, or janitor. Yet, without those roles filled, the pastor’s role would be mostly ineffective. Now, let’s be honest; we have all been envious at one time or another and were not thankful for what we did have.

The good news is that even in times when we fail the Lord, as we all do from time to time, He will never fail us; He loves each of us equally and will always be at our side with an outstretched hand to pick us up, dust us off, and strengthen us to press on when we turn to Him with a repentant heart. The key to avoiding Satan’s snare of envy is to keep our eyes focused on Jesus for the Lord Himself says to us, “You follow Me!”

1. Brenda. (2020, June 23). The Art of Thankfulness [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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