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The Poison of Envy


When I was growing up, my parents used to buy my shoes at a little shop at the end of our block. Getting a new pair of shoes was always a big deal, an event that warranted a family expedition. Maybe that’s why I remember being very upset when the new shoes were intended for my brother or sister instead of me.

Envy is the devil’s little hammer, bending our hearts until it turns us against anyone who possesses what we want. Envy poisons our desires and weaponizes them. Envy is the indignation we feel toward those who have what we think should have been ours. But ultimately, it is an outrage that is directed at God Himself. This sense of outrage is fueled by a conviction that the prosperity, opportunity, or blessing that we desire has gone to the wrong person.

Satan used envy to turn Saul against David after he had won the hearts of Saul’s son and the people of Israel. When Saul heard the women singing of David’s victory over Goliath (v. 7), he became angry. “They have credited David with tens of thousands,” he thought, “but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?” (v. 8). At that point, Saul began to distance himself both emotionally and physically from David. His actions turned against him, and he sent David out to fight in the hope that the Philistines would kill him (v. 25).

David’s success was a reminder to Saul that the Lord’s favor was no longer on him. Envy gave way to fear. Saul “remained [David’s] enemy the rest of his days” (v. 29). Envy not only made Saul David’s enemy but God’s as well.

>> Recovery from envy requires that we redirect our focus and reprioritize our desires. We don’t need to stop desiring. Our desires need a conversion. Envy cannot be tamed; it can only be put to death by the cross.

BY Dr. John Koessler

Dr. John Koessler, who retired as professor emeritus from Moody Bible Institute, formerly served in the division of applied theology and church ministry. John and his wife Jane enjoy living in a lakeside town in Michigan. A prolific writer, John’s books include Dangerous Virtues: How to Follow Jesus When Evil Masquerades as Good (Moody Publishers), The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody), and True Discipleship (Moody). John is a contributing editor and columnist for Today in the Word.

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