But if you harbour bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. James 3:14-18 (NIV)
A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones. Proverbs 14:30 (NIV)
Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. Galatians 5:26 (NIV)
We have been considering what love should look like within the context of Christian marriage. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 sets out the attributes which should be evident in a marriage where God is at the centre and the partners seek to become more Christlike.
The third attribute or characteristic is ‘love … does not envy’. So how should we define envy? A dictionary definition states that envy is ‘… a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, status, etc.’
Envy might focus on your partner, or could focus on other people and their marriages. What might be the focus of this envy? It could focus on career, income, sporting prowess, good looks, great personality, home, possessions, lifestyle, children – the list could go on and on. The point is that the spouse has taken their eyes off Jesus and looked at their partner or someone else in a way that makes them feel discontented with their own life. What starts off small as an envious thought could end up as James puts it in the verses above (James 3) as ‘bitter envy’. Once the bitterness becomes established it can be very hard to shift, primarily as the embittered person is focusing on themselves and their needs, rather than on Christ. James provides further insight into this issue and its resolution. He talks about ‘harbouring’ bitter envy. This conjures up the picture of someone who not only feels envious of others, but actively nurtures it.
So what is the solution? I don’t want to oversimplify things, but the start of the healing process must be repentance. Repent for (literally turning your back on) the envious thoughts and make a decision not to give them the opportunity to corrode your life and your marriage.
Secondly, specifically pray that God would refocus your thoughts onto Christ and away from others.
[Archives – click on the icon at the top of the page]