Overcoming Envy

Philippians 4:12–13

SHAKESPEARE CALLED IT “the green-eyed monster.” Bacon admitted it “keeps no holidays.” Horace declared that “tyrants never invented a greater torment.” Barrie said it “is the most corroding of the vices.” Sheridan referred to it in his play, The Critic, when he wrote, “There is not a passion so strongly rooted in the human heart as [this].” Philip Bailey, the eloquent English poet of yesteryear, vividly described it as “a coal [that] comes hissing hot from hell.”

Envy finds acceptable ways of expressing its resentment. One favorite method is the “but” approach. When I talk of someone I envy, I may say, “He is an excellent speaker, but he really isn’t very sincere.” Or, “Yeah, she has a brilliant mind, but what a dull teacher!” Or, “The man is an outstanding surgeon, but he doesn’t mind charging an arm and a leg.”

Envy in Scripture? From Cain to Nero. Envy sold Joseph into slavery, drove David into exile, threw Daniel in the den, and put Christ on trial. (If you question that, better check Matthew 27:18.) Paul tells us that it’s one of the prevailing traits of depravity (Romans 1:29) and a team member that plays in the same backfield with jealousy, suspicion, and slander (1 Timothy 6:4).

The answer to envy? Contentment.

I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.


Are you having some big struggles with envy? Eating your heart out because somebody’s a step or two ahead of you in the race and gaining momentum? Relax! You are you—not them! And you are responsible to do the best you can with what you’ve got for as long as you’re able.

I don’t care how many trophies or awards or dollars or degrees may be earned or won on earth, you can’t take it with you.

So it isn’t worth the sweat.

Be content with what you have and with who you are. Period.

Devotional content taken from Good Morning, Lord . . . Can We Talk? by Charles R. Swindoll. Copyright © 2018. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved. The full devotional can be purchased at tyndale.com.

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Accuracy, clarity, and practicality all describe the Bible-teaching ministry of Charles R. Swindoll. Chuck is the chairman of the board at Insight for Living and the chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary. Chuck also serves as the senior pastor of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, where he is able to do what he loves most—teach the Bible to willing hearts. His focus on practical Bible application has been heard on the Insight for Living radio broadcast since 1979.