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Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology

Envy

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Sin of jealousy over the blessings and achievements of others, especially the spiritual enjoyment and advance of the kingdom of Christ freely and graciously bestowed upon the people of God. Old Testament examples of the sin of jealousy include the rivalry of Joseph's brothers over the favor that Joseph received at the hand of God (Genesis 37:12-36 ; Acts 7:9 ), and Saul's animosity toward David for his physical and spiritual prowess (1 Samuel 18 ). Envy inevitably leads to personal harm and debilitation, affecting one's physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being (Job 5:2 ; Proverbs 14:30 ). Unchecked, it gradually leads to a destructive and remorseful way of life (Proverbs 27:4 ), and ultimately, to estrangement from God (Romans 1:28-32 ).

Envy manifests the insidiousness of sin and human depravity apart from the intervention of God's redeeming grace. As a sin of the flesh, envy characterizes the lives of the unregenerate. Envy is one of the traits of the Christian's former way of life (Romans 13:8-14 ; Titus 3:3 ). Those who practice envy and strife are barred from the kingdom of heaven (Galatians 5:19-26 ). Indeed, the unregenerate nature ever tends toward envy, manifesting the unbeliever's rejection of God, his truth, and his will for human conduct (James 3:14,16 ).

The way of true wisdom counsels the faithful to avoid the company of such godless people (Proverbs 24:1 ). Envy is listed among the sins of the flesh that must be conquered through the power of the Holy Spirit (1Col 3:3; 2Col 12:20; 1 Peter 2:1 ). "Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord" (Proverbs 23:17 ). Love is to have majesty over envy (1 Corinthians 13:4 ).

As an example from former days, the righteous judgment of Yahweh against Edom was measured out in accordance with the measure of Edom's jealousy toward the people of God (Ezekiel 35:11 ). But the mercy of God brought about the healing of animosity between Ephraim and Judah by means of God's righteous act of salvation (Isaiah 11:13 ). In the time of Messiah's earthly ministry it was the envy of the Jews that led to the rejection and betrayal of Jesus into the hands of Pilate for crucifixion (Matthew 27:18 ). Nevertheless, in the providence and foreordination of God, what the wicked intended for evil was destined to be the instrument of God's redemption of his elect through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

Paul points out how the good news of the gospel was preached at times out of envy and strife (Philippians 1:15 ). Yet in spite of the envious motives of the false apostles, Paul rejoiced that Christ was being proclaimed. Like Christ, the apostle in his ministry of the gospel experienced the hatred and jealousy of the Jews (Acts 13:45 ). This did not deter him from his divinely ordained mission. There were other times, however, that false teaching led to controversy and envy among the people of God (1 Timothy 6:4 ). Genuine, unfeigned love for God and his word prompts the disciples of Christ to proclaim and defend the full counsel of God's truth. Loving and consecrated devotion to Christ and his kingdom dissipates the sins of envy and jealousy.

Mark W. Karlberg

See also Covetousness


Copyright Statement
Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of Baker Book House Company, PO Box 6287, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49516-6287.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.
For usage information, please read the Baker Book House Copyright Statement.

Bibliography Information
Elwell, Walter A. Entry for 'Envy'. Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/bed/e/envy.html. 1996.

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