by: FCC Staff
A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh,
but envy makes the bones rot.
Envy, wanting what someone else has, even to the point of feeling they don’t derisive it themselves, is a dangerous mindset. A study done in England showed that when young children were made to envy their peers, they were less likely to be able to focus on anything other than the object of their envy. Clowns would enter the room, puppies, a man in a sheet like a ghost… all unseen to the kids who were envious.
The more envious they became, the worse it got, to the point where the young cherubs soon began to complain of headaches, stomach aches and fatigue. Some became despondent, giving up on a task they were given which would reward them WITH the object of their envy. No, they wanted it now, like what the other kids got. Some even resorted to manipulation or bullying to try and get what they wanted.
In other ways, envy can be more subtle, but just as harmful. The Germans have a term, “Schadenfreude” which literally translates as “harm joy.” When we envy what others have, we can delight in seeing them come to harm. Like when a celebrity marriage fails, a politician is disgraced or a successful athlete from a rival team has a bad game. We like seeing people who have advantages we don’t, taken down a notch.
The Hebrew word that we translate as envy in this proverb is also translated elsewhere as jealousy. They are very similar emotions, but there is a key difference: Envy wants what others have, jealousy wants to keep what others would take. In fact, there are times when God himself says he gets jealous. When forbidding the people of Israel from worshiping idols, God tells them, “You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God,” (Ex 20:5) Our hearts belong to God, and he’s going to have an opinion when we choose to offer it to something or someone else. Especially in this case, a dumb piece of wood or metal, shaped like a false god.
We can’t see into the hearts of others, so often our jealousy can be misplaced and sinful. Or we can become jealous when we are told to be generous and bless others with what we have. But, no... we want to keep it all for ourselves. These are examples of the sinful jealousy that James condemns,
“But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” (James 3:14-16)
This “bitter jealousy” that James deicides does not have its origins in godly wisdom. No it is “earthy, unspiritual, demonic” It takes a bit of wisdom to know if we are feeling jealous or envious. And further wisdom to know if we are jealous, if that jealousy is godly or sinful.
So we can see that we should avoid envy, and stay away from bitter, sinful jealousy. How do we maintain a godly focus, avoiding these two harmful mindsets? Our proverb for today tells us, “A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh” so what does that look like in practical terms?
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”(1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
A tranquil heart is a loving heart. And why Jesus taught us to love even our enemies. Envy simply isn’t good for us, body or soul. A peaceful, loving heart… is just what The Great Physician ordered.
Prayer for Today
Father, keep me from envy and sinful jealousy. Keep my eyes focused on you and all the blessings you have for me, not on what others may have. Help me to be generous with all I have, not selfishly guarding what I feel is mine. Jesus, teach me by your example how I can love my enemies and not give the devil the opportunity to inject more sin, chaos and suffering into my life. By your Holy Spirit, grant me your peace, so I can bring love, peace and life to those around me in your name. Amen.