I still remember, and may never forget, the first time I stopped to consider envy. I was reading a book by Os Guinness and was blindsided by a section on that particular sin. I immediately understood that it was prominent in my life and immediately began to take steps to address it. The process took some time and the sin still lingers, but its power has been broken and its grip diminished. I am still prone to occasional bouts of envy, but, by grace, I have learned to identify it and counter it.
Because I know I am prone to the sin of envy, I find value in pausing to consider it from time to time. Most recently this took the form of Mike Fabarez’s new book Envy: A Big Problem You Didn’t Know You Had. That one little word envy, he says, “represents an injurious threat to your sanctification. It has probably already racked up a multitude of hits in your life. And much of the pain it has caused has been lamented and grieved. But I find we all too often fail to connect the dots.” It is, after all, a sin that has a way of flying under the radar. We identify its consequences and lament them, but rarely identify the sin, admit its presence, and put it to death.
Every book on envy makes it clear that envy is a particularly insidious sin. They all make it clear that it has long been considered among the worst when it comes to the evil it works within our hearts and lives. They all make it clear that Christians of bygone eras were far more concerned about it than we are today and far more dedicated to dealing with it. It’s for good reason that it appears on the list of the “seven deadly sins” and that it is the father of many other transgressions.
Fabarez’s purpose is to provide some biblically guided exposure to this sin—to show where it may exist in our lives, how it may be manifesting itself, and where it may be reaping evil consequences. For it is only when we are familiar with the sin that we can identify it and put it to death.
What is envy? Envy is begrudging another person their joy or success. It is being resentful and frustrated at what another person has received, has earned, or has been blessed with. It is not merely wanting what another person has, but wanting that other person not to have it. It is feeling low, diminished, and hard done by when another person receives some good. And it always expresses itself in other forms of sin—hatred, gossip, ingratitude, and even murder.
Fabarez begins his book by showing where and how envy exists in the Bible, beginning in the opening pages of the Old Testament and continuing well into the New. He considers how it exacts a heavy internal cost to those who allow it to put down deep roots, then how it exacts a relational cost and even a societal cost. It turns out that much of the sin that mars the church and much of the sin that causes conflict in the world can be traced back to envy.
Having shown the ugly consequences of the sin, Fabarez provides instruction on countering it. He calls Christians to diligently examine themselves to see if and how this sin is present in their lives. Then he calls them to combat the sin with love and rejoicing—to love other people and to rejoice in their happiness, joys, and successes.
This is a short book, but one that packs a punch. It is a helpful examination of a particularly deceptive and odious sin and it offers a biblical solution to it. Those who read Envy may just find themselves grappling with a big problem they didn’t know they had. Even better, those who read it will be equipped to repent of that problem and to put to death that sin.