We spend way too much time comparing ourselves to others. Out of this activity comes torment and sometimes some really bad decisions. At their worst, envy and jealousy have led to gossip, slander, stealing, adultery, murder, and so many more awful actions. But, even short of that, comparing ourselves to others and feeling we come up short leads to misery. The good news is that God wants to help us lose jealousy. He leads us with healing love and has given us scripture, a biblical guide to overcoming envy.
You Can Overcome Jealousy and Insecurity
According to the Bible, you can and must break free from envy. It is a destructive emotion that can cause us to do things we would not normally do. Here are some words from James 3:14-16 about this state of mind:
“But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your heart, don’t brag and deny the truth. Such wisdom does not come from above but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where envy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every kind of evil.”
Examples of the devastating effects of envy are in scripture as we think of stories such as Cain killing his brother Abel (Genesis 4), Joseph’s brothers selling him into slavery (Genesis 37), or King Saul pursuing David all over various deserts trying to kill him (1 Samuel 23:7 – 24:22).
It is so important to get to a spiritual state of not yearning for other people’s lives or their belongings, and of being utterly content with our own life.
Here are 7 ways to free yourself from envy:
1. Put your focus on God’s love for you.
There are two things underneath our envy. They are fear and rejection. Because those things are in our hearts, we anxiously struggle to feel as good as everyone else. And, we feverishly work to “rank” as well as others. But, God loves us with the love of the best parent or grandparent imaginable. Countless scriptures tell us this truth. If only we can get to the place of really embracing his steadfast love as true, we will cease worrying about what others are doing or if they are better off than us. There is a beautiful website, The Father’s Love Letter, with a video presentation of scriptures that share the heart of God for you and me.
God is love, and He loves you as if you are the only one in the world. Therefore, He has good thoughts towards you:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV
2. Find Your Identity in Christ
There is a beautiful song by Hill Song Worship called Who You Say I Am. In it, there are several ideas simply presented about who we become through relationship with Christ. Our sins are forgiven because He died on the cross. Therefore, we don’t have to carry shame and guilt when we trust Him. “In my Father’s house, there is a place for me. I’m a child of God, yes I am.” These words are taken straight from the Bible – that we are “chosen, not forsaken,” and totally set free by Jesus,
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!” (John 8:36 NIV)
We don’t need to envy others, watch them jealously, thinking they have more and that they have it better. If you have chosen Christ, or if you make the decision to do so, “all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.” (2 Corinthians 1:20 NKJV) As a believer, you become “blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing through Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3 NIV).
3. Worship Helps You Overcome Envy
Because we’re blessed with every spiritual blessing, when we have a rising awareness of that in our hearts, we want to speak praise. In singing, praying, and adoring God, our remembrance of how much we have rises. Hearts lift up above earthly conflicts and comparisons. Our love for God as a good, good Father is emphasized and His constant concern for us is recalled. We have no time for envy in the glorious atmosphere of worship. Instead, what rises is thankfulness, hope, and good spirits. Worship contains so many biblical references in its songs, prayers, and teaching. Those truths drive away the lie that we are forgotten and must wrestle with one another for a place of value.
4. Know You Are Uniquely Made
There are two verses that so encourage us to think, “there’s a specific place for me in the world.” I do not have to fear or compete with others in order to have a place and a purpose. These two verses are:
Psalm 139:13-14 ESV “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” There is no one else like you in the world.
Ephesians 2:10 NLT “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” That’s a wonderful word, isn’t it? In Christ, we are God’s masterpiece! And, He planned a specific set of things for us to do long ago. You and I have a destiny no one else can carry out. It doesn’t matter if it is grand or humble. God made each of us to be unique, irreplaceable in His grand plan.
5. Gratefulness Drives Envy Away
The Bible says, “A joyful heart is good medicine!” (Proverbs 17:22a ESV) One of the attitudes that most sets us up for joy and an absence of envy is gratefulness. When we have gratitude, we look at what we have with appreciation and stop dwelling on what we don’t have. Consequently, we have more positive emotions. What we have is treasured. The health of grateful people is often much better as are their relationships.
Let’s face it. Marketing is a cleverly used tool in this age. Television ads, online ads, and so on, can stir up our longing for what we don’t have. Looking at friends, neighbors, and strangers’ posts online can make us feel that everyone else’s life is a “fairy tale dream of happy vacations and large unified families.” We know only too well our own struggles. But believe me, those with lovely Instagram posts have heartache, trials, medical problems, and rebellious kids too. Remember much is not what it seems on the surface.
We recently watched the miniseries The Crown on Netflix and were struck repeatedly by the heartache and struggles of the very wealthy royal family of Queen Elizabeth of England living in multiple castles with much splendor. Their heartache behind the scenes has often been great. Don’t be fooled. The Bible says:
“Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife.” (Proverbs 17:1) Some who seem so much better off than you, perhaps, would give anything to lead your life. Think about that.
6. Celebrate the Blessings of Others
This is a wonderful spiritual practice for freeing us from envy and insecurity. Be excited for the good fortune, the blessings of others. If you can learn to say, “Yay!” when your friends and neighbors experience blessings, the chances are that you’ll be next. It is not an easy mindset to learn, but with practice you can master it. We have so much less envy when we learn to be genuinely happy for others. The Bible has something to say about this too:
“Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15 ESV)
7. Giving To Others Frees You from Envy
Finally, when we give to others generously and out of kind hearts, envy flees. Something about giving makes us feel very strong and so satisfied. You have probably noticed this. When you give a gift to someone and they are delighted, the joy is even greater for you. And as a result, you’re not thinking about what you don’t have or who has more than you. Giving generously makes you feel enormously satisfied and at peace. The Good News Translation has a beautiful way of presenting 2 Corinthians 9:11:
“He [God] will always make you rich enough to be generous at all times, so that many will thank God for your gifts…”
In these difficult times of a virus, economic fluctuation, and political battles, our capacity to stay level-headed, peaceful, and content in the Lord is very important for us and for others. We must drive out envy in Jesus’ name. And so, a final scripture text from Philippians 4:12-13 NIV:
“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 all this through him [Christ] who gives me strength.”
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