Christian Biblical Counsel: ENVY, JEALOUSY, COVETOUSNESS

Background

Envy, jealousy, and covetousness are interrelated evils. Discontent with our position and possessions often indicates a self-centered attitude which leads to intolerant, resentful, and even malicious feelings toward a real or imagined rival. We may covet the success, personality, material possessions, good looks, or position of another. Then, in order to compensate for a frustrated ego, we make unkind and destructive remarks and submerge ourselves in self-pity, anger, bitterness, and depression.

Cain envied Abel because Abel’s offering was accepted by God while Cain’s was not. He became jealous, coveting what had been denied him (Genesis 4:3–8). Anger, bitterness, depression, and murder followed: “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice” (James 3:16, NIV).

Envy and jealous ambition motivated Lucifer to rebel against God: “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God. . . . I will make myself like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:13–14, NIV).

The apostle Paul gives the all-time antidote to the sins of envy, jealousy, and covetousness: “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12–13, NIV).

 

Helping Strategy

 

For the Non-Christian:

1. If you detect envy, jealousy, or covetousness in the inquirer, carefully but firmly point out that these attitudes are displeasing to God. Explain the gospel – Christian Biblical Counsel: STEPS TO PEACE WITH GOD..

2. Encourage the inquirer to seek deliverance from envy, jealousy, and covetousness. Now that Christ has come into his or her life, the inquirer can begin learning to redirect thoughts and actions in ways that reflect newness of life in Christ. Envy, jealousy, and covetousness should be confessed as sin, and daily forgiveness and cleansing claimed.

3. Envy, jealousy, and covetousness should be converted into “fruits worthy of repentance” (Luke 3:8; see also Philippians 2:3–4):

• Pray for those once envied.

• Look for the good in others.

• Get to know those once envied; learn to appreciate their assets and qualities which formerly produced negative responses and sin in you.

4. Suggest Bible reading, study, and memorization. As the Word of God begins to occupy our thinking, it crowds out the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:17–21).

5. Discuss the value of daily prayer.

6. Recommend becoming involved with a Bible-teaching church for worship, fellowship, and opportunities for service.

7. Pray with the caller for victory over envy, jealousy, and covetousness. Pray also for a transformed life through commitment to Christ.

 

For the Christian:

1. Encourage breaking his or her vicious line of thinking by openly recognizing the problem. He or she should focus on the real causes for the sin rather than on other people, circumstances, “bad luck,” lack of acceptance, or failures to “get ahead.” He or she should develop a mindset which will enable facing issues squarely.

2. Help him or her to repent and confess this sin. Share about spiritual Restoration – Christian Biblical Counsel: SEEKING FORGIVENESS AND RESTORATION, emphasizing 1 John 1:9 and 2:1. He or she should be open and specific with God.

3. Encourage getting into the Word of God, reading and studying it. Dwight L. Moody said: “Either sin will keep you from this Book, or this Book will keep you from sin.” Suggest searching for texts that speak to the problems, then praying over them, asking God to reinforce their truth. God’s Word brings conviction, but also relief, as we learn to obey it.

4. Treat these sins as “bad habits” that need to be broken. Begin to practice the “put off—put on” principle (see the chapter on “Bad Habits”). This will be of great help. He or she should start with one aspect of the problem, focusing on it until it is under control, and then tackle successively other aspects until further progress is noted. It is often helpful to enlist one’s spouse or a Christian friend to help monitor progress. Praying with this person on specific issues is also helpful.

 

5. Recommend getting involved in some form of Christian service through a Bible-teaching church. This could lead to more objective and constructive thinking which will aid in bringing his or her attitudes under control.

6. Encourage developing a thankful attitude toward life and toward the people who cross his or her path. Substituting praise for criticism is a good practice that provides encouraging results.

7. Pray with him or her personally for victory and a newfound joy in the Christian life.

 

Scripture

“A sound heart is life to the body, but envy is rottenness to the bones” (Proverbs 14:30).

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1–4, NIV).

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24–25, NIV).

“Let your conduct be without covetousness, and be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5).

 

Other suggested Scriptures:

Proverbs 27:4

1 Corinthians 3:3

The Billy Graham Christian Worker’s Handbook; World Wide Publications, 1984, 1996

Envy & Jealousy

Taming the Terrible Twins

by June Hunt

“Envy is the greatest of all diseases among men.”

—Euripides

I.     DEFINITIONS

A. What Is Envy?

•     Envy is resenting the advantage of another, with a desire to possess the same advantage.

•     Envy is coveting what another has.

•     The Latin word for “envy” is invidere, which means “to look at with enmity.”

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

(Exodus 20:17)

Q   “Is envy always wrong?”

Yes. Scripture never portrays envy in a positive light. God is never depicted as an envious God.

“Now it was the governor’s custom at the Feast to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas. So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, ‘Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?’ For he knew it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus over to him.” (Matthew 27:15–18)

B. What Is Jealousy?

•     Jealousy is resenting another’s rivalry or unfaithfulness, with a desire to guard or maintain what one possesses.

•     Jealousy is possessiveness.

•     The Greek word for “jealousy” is zeloo, which means “zealous or burning with jealousy.”

“When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with tambourines and lutes. As they danced, they sang: ‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.’ Saul was very angry; this refrain galled him. ‘They have credited David with tens of thousands,’ he thought, ‘but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?’ And from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David.”

(1 Samuel 18:6–9)

Q   “Why is God called a jealous God?”

Jehovah God initiated a special covenant relationship with the Israelites. Because of His love for Israel, God felt jealous pain when they threatened to destroy the covenant relationship and became disloyal.

“Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” (Exodus 34:14)

Q   “Is jealousy always wrong?”

No. It is natural and normal for feelings of jealousy to surface when a meaningful covenant relationship is threatened by unfaithfulness.

“This, then, is the law of jealousy when a woman goes astray and defiles herself while married to her husband, or when feelings of jealousy come over a man because he suspects his wife. The priest is to have her stand before the Lord and is to apply this entire law to her. The husband will be innocent of any wrongdoing, but the woman will bear the consequences of her sin.” (Numbers 5:29–31)

”I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:2–3)

C. The Difference between Envy and Jealousy

•     Envy

—  burning desire to have

—  coveting what another has

—  empty hands that crave to be filled

—  usually involves two people

•     Jealousy

—  burning desire to keep

—  possessive of what one has

—  full hands that fear being emptied

—  usually involves three people

II.    CHARACTERISTICS

A. Surface Symptoms

Envious

“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.”

(Proverbs 14:30)

Encourages envy in others

—boastful

Needs to put down others

—critical

Vengeful feelings toward others

—resentful

Internal pain over the success of others

—begrudging

Overachiever

—competitive

Unfulfilled desires or cravings

—greedy

Self-exalting

—demanding

Jealous

“Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?”

(Proverbs 27:4)

Judgmental of others

—performance-based acceptance

Exclusive expectations

—not allowing outside relationships

Anxiety/anger over potential loss

—threat of losing relationship

Leaning on the identity of others

—emotionally dependent

Overly possessive of others

—controlling spirit

Unable to trust God

—insecure

Suspicious of the normal behavior of others

—distrustful

B. Disguises for Masking Envy or Jealousy

•     Making an issue of the unfairness of life

•     Pretending apathy or indifference to people or situations

•     Feeling self-pity

•     Avoiding problems or people that could produce envy or provoke jealousy

•     Idolizing certain people by placing them on an unreachable pedestal

•     Offering false praise and congratulations

•     Dropping unnecessary, negative information about another

•     Projecting jealousy or envy onto another

•     Developing a superior attitude toward another

•     Becoming a martyr

“For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.”

(James 3:16)

III.   CAUSES

A. Surface Causes

•     Envy

—  desire for selfish gain

—  comparison

—  emphasis on personal rights

—  unrealistic expectations

•     Jealousy

—  lack of trust

—  low self-image

—  guilt

—  fear of loss

“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.”

(Proverbs 14:30)

B. Situational Setups

•     Envy

—  affluence (money)

—  achievement (honors, awards)

—  appearance (looks, clothes, etc.)

—  abilities (talents)

—  advancement (promotions)

—  activities (trips, social invitations)

•     Jealousy

—  sibling rivalry

—  friendships

—  marriage relationships

—  adult parent/child relationships

—  competitive work environment

—  legalistic church environment

“I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man’s envy of his neighbor.”

(Ecclesiastes 4:4)

C. Root Cause

Wrong Belief:

For Envy:

“I have a right to have what others have because I need to feel more significant.”

For Jealousy:

“I have a right to keep whatever I have to fulfill my need for significance.”

Right Belief:

I will trust God and choose to be content regardless of what I have or do not have. He will fulfill my need for significance through His life lived within me.

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:11–13)

IV.  STEPS TO SOLUTION

A. Key Verse to Memorize

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”

(Philippians 4:11)

B. Key Passage to Read and Reread

Galatians 5:13–26

“You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”

(Galatians 5:13–26)

C. Responding to Jealousy—Speaking the Truth in Love

•     Confront in love—speak in love.

•     Attempt to determine the source of the jealousy—selfish or godly jealousy.

•     Decide whether the jealousy is justified or a product of the imagination.

•     Encourage disclosure of the pain without placing blame.

•     Ask for forgiveness for any possible offenses—do not be defensive.

•     Affirm jealous people by declaring their value—give praise and encouragement.

•     Work on a plan together.

•     Withdraw from one who is demonstrating open hatred or destructive manipulation.

“Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.”

(Ephesians 4:15)

D. Replacing Destructive Emotions

•     Face your feelings and use them as indicators to change.

“If you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.” (James 3:14)

•     Recognize the source of these emotions.

“Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” (James 3:15–16)

—  Envy is an outgrowth of desire and a result of sinful patterns.

“Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’ ” (Luke 12:15)

—  Jealousy is an outgrowth of love and a natural emotion—but is it godly or selfish?

“I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.” (2 Corinthians 11:2)

•     Agape love says that you can transcend your natural jealousy and envy.

“You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” (Galatians 5:13–14)

—  Agape is a commitment to seek the highest good of another.

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)

—  Agape keeps us from expecting too much from another.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” (1 Corinthians 13:4–5)

—  Agape keeps us from expecting everything in this life.

“We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18)

—  Agape keeps us from idolizing another person.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5)

—  Agape diminishes the pain of these emotions.

“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” (Proverbs 14:30)

—  Agape is the power to admit you cannot meet all the needs of another person or even all your own needs.

“My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

•     Pray, pray, pray.

—  With contentment

“Thank you, Lord, that I can be content in every circumstance.”

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” (Philippians 4:11)

—  Without fear

“Thank you, Lord, that I do not have to be afraid.”

“The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)

—  With love

“Thank you, Lord, for Your unconditional love. May I love others the way You love them … with Your love.”

”I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)

—  Without interruption

“Thank you, Lord, for promising to meet my needs and the needs of others. I pray that they will look to You to meet the unmet needs in their lives.”

“Pray continually.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

—  With a guarded tongue

“Guard what I say, Lord, so that I build up, not tear down others.”

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)

“Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.” (Psalm 141:3)

•     Change your focus to pleasing Christ rather than on pleasing people and their desires.

—  Self-worth

“Thank you, Lord, that my significance comes from You.”

“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.” (Colossians 2:9–10)

—  Strength

“Thank you, Lord, that You will enable me to do what You call me to do.”

“The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24)

Praying for the one toward whom you   feel jealousy or envy is the key that unlocks the prison door. When I have   found myself locked in the jail of jealousy, my only hope for freedom has   been prayer—praying for the one who is the focus of my jealousy. When I   “prayed for my enemy,” Christ set the prisoner free—and that prisoner was me!—June Hunt

 

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

Arthur, Kay. Lord, Where Are You When Bad Things Happen? Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 1992.

Carlson, Dwight, and Susan Carlson Wood. When Life Isn’t Fair. Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1989.

Cohen, Betsy. The Snow White Syndrome: All About Envy (New York: Macmillan, 1986).

Freeman, Joel A. When Life Isn’t Fair: Making Sense out of Suffering. Trusting the Master Series. Green Forest, AR: New Leaf, 2002.

Fryling, Alice. Reshaping a Jealous Heart: How to Turn Dissatisfaction into Contentment. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1994.

Haugen, Gary A. Good News about Injustice: A Witness of Courage in a Hurting World. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1999.

Hunt, June. Counseling Through Your Bible Handbook. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Forgive … When You Don’t Feel Like It. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Handle Your Emotions. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Hunt, June. Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008

Swindoll, Charles R. Killing Giants, Pulling Thorns (Portland, OR: Multnomah, 1978).

Yancey, Philip. Disappointment with God: Three Questions No One Asks Aloud. Carmel, NY: Guideposts, 1988.[1]


[1] Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Envy & Jealousy: Taming the Terrible Twins (1–12). Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.

One thought on “Christian Biblical Counsel: ENVY, JEALOUSY, COVETOUSNESS

  1. D. Pike

    You have NO idea how this Godly counsel has helped me today.
    I’m a follower of Christ and have been dealing with these damaging emotions for past few years. It’s hard to know which ones are sinful or normal though.
    Thank you so much for this blog. I went to main page and it loads very slow. Also, all the different devotions have the same date of today.
    But the content is supreme! I hope that some tweaks can be made so that the blog can be read easier?

    Reply

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