Psalm 73:1-6 (TNIV)
Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills.
Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence.
The psalmist brilliantly describes one of the chief problems with envy: It distorts our perceptions. In his moment of misery, the psalmist looks at the people who have what he desires, and all he sees is the happiness and well-being that escape him. Those people, he believes, are all healthy and strong and beautiful; they glide through life without the worries and obstacles that plague the rest of us. They’ve been given a free pass, and it’s not fair.
Envy has the mysterious power to cloud our reason and open us to believing fantastic things. Savvy marketers take advantage of our vulnerability to sell us their products. “If you buy our product,” they boast, “you can be just like these people in our advertisement: attractive, confident, sexy, successful, skinny, popular, perpetually happy…enviable!”
When we suffer from envy, we cannot be “pure in heart.” Scripture aligns envy with hypocrisy, selfish ambition, disorder, and “wickedness of every kind” (James 3:16). Its green-eyed passion corrupts relationships as well as individuals because it makes us spiteful and unkind. Envy prevents us from seeing ourselves or the other person realistically. We may fall into extreme positions of worship or judgment: Either the person is everything wonderful that we admire and want to be like, or we deny the envy that’s eating us alive and declare that we despise this other person for everything we are glad we are not!
The psalmist’s means of correcting his green-eyed vision is to seek God’s presence. “It troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny” (vv. 16b-17). He confesses the power of envy to distort his reason: “When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you” (vv.21-22).
If you are experiencing conflict in a relationship, check to see if envy might be playing a role. If so, ask God to replace your green-eyed perceptions with clear-sighted vision so that you can see people and situations realistically, not as you fear or desire them to be.
FATHER, help me to recognize how often envy gets in the way of my relationships with others. Help me to discover that sweet center in you where all my hunger and thirst can be satisfied. Give me a discerning spirit so that I can dismiss the world’s wisdom that tells me I can never have enough or be enough to find true joy and contentment.
Proverbs 23:17; James 3:13-18
Watch a television commercial and ask yourself, “Who or what do they want me to envy? What does their product promise to give me if I buy it?”