Is There an Antidote for Envy?

(woman scrolling on her phone)

Warning! Continuous scrolling on social media may cause soul damage.

Have you ever started your day by scrolling through social media while sipping coffee on the couch?

Checking out a few curated images on Instagram?

Reading personal opinions on Twitter?

Looking for recipes on Pinterest?

Checking out status updates on Facebook?

I may have a time or two or three or maybe more. But, typically, I walk away from these sessions feeling considerably deficient in my ability to “live my best life.” Social media is a fantastic tool that can be used in wonderful ways, but there is nothing quite like it to encourage envy.

In Psalm 73, the psalmist shares wisdom about the corrosive effect of envy on my relationship with God and others.  

1 Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.

2 But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped.

3 For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

Psalm 73:1-3 ESV

The dictionary defines envy, “to feel unhappiness over the good fortune of (someone) and desire the same good fortune: feel envy toward or because of, I envy you for your talent.” (Merriam-Webster)

How does envy affect my heart and soul?

It leads to:

  • Dissatisfaction
  • Distraction
  • Disaster

What is the antidote for envy?

First, the psalmist lists in detail what is wrong with those he envies.

4 For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek.

5 They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.

6 Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment.

7 Their eyes swell out through fatness; their hearts overflow with follies.

8 They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression.

9 They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue struts through the earth.

10 Therefore his people turn back to them, and find no fault in them.

Psalm 73: 4-10 ESV

I really like this method myself as it creates comfortable distance.

Those people over there are wrong in every possible way. So even though I envy them, they are so much worse than me.

However, this does nothing to counteract envy effectively.

11 And they say, “How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?”

12 Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches.

13 All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence.

14 For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning.

Psalm 73:11-14 ESV

Dissatisfaction

Judging those I envy continues to fill the well of deep and disturbing dissatisfaction with my life, and guilt hangs over me all day and night. Using this method is like using one sin to cover another. Holy Spirit conviction hounds me at every turn. This judging method fails me. So, what can I do?

15 If I had said, “I will speak thus,” I would have betrayed the generation of your children.

16 But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task,

17 until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.

18 Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin.

19 How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors!

20 Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms.

Psalm 73:15-20 ESV

Distraction

To continue carrying envy in my heart will lead to exhaustion (vs 16). Moreover, the corrosive nature of envy affects my children and will be passed down as a toxic inheritance. This will keep me in a constant state of distraction away from what is giving me life.

Where should I focus most of my attention? Where can I go to find peace?

Finally, in desperation, the psalmist “went to the sanctuary of God.” In God’s presence, things become so much clearer. Waking up from envy is like putting down a heavy load I didn’t even realize I was carrying. However, I will need to do more to avoid picking the weight back up. The world pushes me every day to compare and contrast my life to what I believe I see around me through the lens of social media platforms. However, those images are highly curated and not accurately depict real life.

What does a person look like that has become consumed by envy?

21 When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart,

22 I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you.

(Psalm 73:21-11 ESV)

Disaster

The disaster is how envy affects my relationship with God. The psalmist readily admits he has become ignorant, brutish, and a beast. I know I have felt this way too. A low-key irritation mushrooms inside my heart and becomes a mine of bitterness. Just when I might feel utterly discouraged, God shares wisdom and an escape plan to find a way out of this trap. The following verses reveal how God responds to me when I seek to be near Him.

23 Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.

24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory.

25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.

26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

27 For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.

28 But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.

Pslam 73:23-28 ESV

Deliverance

God offers me deliverance when I make Him my home. I can counteract the destructive force of comparison culture and envy by spending time with Him. He’s the only truly effective antidote. If I spent as many minutes in God’s word as I do scrolling social media, I would likely live in a state of awe and gratitude. God is always present with me if I only open my eyes to Him. He will provide trustworthy guidance and advice.

Sadly, I will fail (vs 26). However, God forgives and never leaves me. He is my accurate guide for life. The psalmist reminds me, “God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” When I focus on God’s promises to me, my cup truly overflows because my portion is more than enough.

What else could I possibly need or want?

How can I tend my soul this week to avoid envy?

3 thoughts on “Is There an Antidote for Envy?

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