The Seven Deadly Sins: ENVY!

In his book, Maxims for a Modern Man author Paul Eldridge writes that our envy is “the yeast that swells the fortune of others.” People caught up in the sin of envy are always comparing themselves to others. They exaggerate the blessings others have and minimize their own. In other words: Envious people keep score.

This is the situation in Saul’s life. Saul is king. He is a powerful man. He commands the armies of the nation. He has wealth that the common man cannot begin to imagine. The pleasures and accommodations that palace life afford him are luxurious. But Saul is an unhappy and anxious man.

Let me tell you the story: Saul has given a teenaged boy named David a high rank within his army. What else could he do after the ‘Goliath incident’? Verse five of our text tells us that whatever assignment the king gave David, the young man successfully accomplished it. As the years go by, David’s reputation as a military leader and a man of integrity grows by leaps and bounds. As his successes pile up so do Saul’s anxieties. After some notable military victory over the Philistines, the women of the capitol give David an ovation, and declare in their songs that he has achieved a success ten times as great as the king’s. The result was an outburst of ill-will in Saul’s life toward David. Saul increasingly became aware that David’s popularity had supplanted the king’s in the popular esteem of the people. The result was that envy filled his heart.

Envy is blind to one’s own gifts and good fortune. The envious person may have some wonderful assets and abilities, but all he or she can see are the gifts or blessings or fortunes they don’t have, but that another does. What another person has always seems larger or better or more special.

Had Saul been the high-minded, spirit-filled man he was when appointed king by the prophet Samuel, he would have thrust such thoughts from his thinking. But his mind had become cankered with envy and brooding thoughts.

Envy is one of those transgressions that have come to be called the Seven Deadly Sins. Of the seven, envy is probably the meanest, nastiest, and most vicious. Envy only looks at what we do not have and poisons what we do have. An old proverb says, A person who is green with envy’ will be ripe for trouble.’ So why is envy so deadly to your spiritual life?


  • ILLUS. There was once two shopkeepers who were bitter rivals. Their stores were directly across the street from each other, and they would spend each day keeping track of the other man’s business. If one got a customer, he would smile in triumph at his rival. At then end of the day they would measure their success, not by their net profits, but by weather-or-not they had made more money then the competitor across the street. One night an angel appeared to one of the shopkeepers and said, “I will give you anything you ask, but whatever you receive, your competitor will receive twice as much. Would you be rich? You can be very rich, but he will be twice as wealthy. Do you wish to live a long and healthy life? You can, but his life will be longer and healthier. What is your desire?” The man frowned. He liked the idea of being rich, but hated the idea of his neighboring shopkeeper being even richer. He liked the idea of living a long and healthy life, but hated the idea of his competitor living even longer and healthier. He thought for a moment, and then said, “Here is my request: Strike me blind in one eye!”
    1. envy made Saul see the achievements of David as a threat to his authority and his kingdom
      1. envy turns friends and family or co-workers into your competition
      2. it makes you see them through eyes of mistrust instead of with love
    2. now, was David ever really a threat to Saul and his throne?
      1. absolutley not
      2. the Scriptures tell us plainly that David repeatedly refused to lift his hand against King Saul because he knew that God had anointed Saul as king
      3. but envy often makes us see schemes and conspiracies and plots against us that are not really there
    3. Saul looked at the accomplishments in David’s life and winced and worried
    4. Saul could have and should have rejoiced in the achievements and successes of David’s life
      1. instead he became green with envy
    5. what happens when we see the success of others as a threat?
      1. well, lets continue looking at Saul’s life


  1. Saul saw David’s success and popularity and thought to himself, “How do I bring this guy down?”
    1. the answer came through a relationship
      • 1 Samuel 18:20-21 “Now Saul’s daughter Michal was in love with David, and when they told Saul about it, he was pleased. 21 “I will give her to him,” he thought, “so that she may be a snare to him and so that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.” So Saul said to David, “Now you have a second opportunity to become my son-in-law.”
  2. the Scriptures tell us that envy has a sinister progression to it
    1. envy, if not confessed, repented of and controlled leads to bitterness
    2. bitterness leads to friction and strife
    3. strife leads to division
    4. division can lead to violence
  3. this was the progression in Saul’s life
    1. as rust corrupts iron, so envy corrupts man
      • ILLUS. A Jewish proverb says, “Envy is like a disease – it consumes the soul.”
    2. we see this is very true in Saul’s life


  • 1 Samuel 18:22 “Then Saul ordered his attendants: “Speak to David privately and say, `Look, the king is pleased with you, and his attendants all like you; now become his son-in-law.'”
    1. envy is a sin no one confesses to, but one many of us are guilty of
    2. in public Saul honors David, but privately he can’t stand him!
      1. envy is Saul giving his daughter to David in marriage, but then sending him into battle with the hope that his daughter will become a widow
      2. envy is congratulating your co-worker for the promotion and salary raise she received, but then hinting to others in the office that she got it by providing sexual favors to the boss
      3. envy is giving a high-five to a teammate for an outstanding play, but complaining to friends that he’s the coaches favorite
      4. envy is putting out a contract to have the mother of your daughter’s rival for the cheer leading team killed so that your daughter’s competition will drop out
    3. but do we admit our envy and jealousy?
      1. no way!
      2. we hide behind the facade of well-wishing and congratulatory pats on the back while wishing there were a knife in our hand!
    4. we tell our colleagues how deserving Joe is of the promotion . . .
    5. we stand with the rest at the honors banquet and applaud the student he receives all the rewards the school has to offer . . .
      1. but once we get home, once the door is closed, once it is just us alone the poison of envy comes out
      2. in our hearts we secretly hope that these people will stub their toes, lose their Midas touch, or be discovered for who we think they truly are
    6. envy makes you see the achievements of others as a threat
      1. is it any wonder that the psalmist wrote: “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.”(Proverbs 14:30)


  • 1 Samuel 18:9 “And Saul eyed David from that day and forward.” KJV
    1. the word eyed in this verse is a verb that means an unbroken action
      1. in other words, Saul constantly eyed David – he never took his eyes of suspicion off of him
    2. envy is the painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another
      1. envy forces us to always watch the other guy
    3. ultimately, if we indulge envy’s yearnings and cravings, it begets ill-will and maybe even violence
      • 1 Samuel 18:10-11 “The next day an evil spirit from God came forcefully upon Saul. He was prophesying in his house, while David was playing the harp, as he usually did. Saul had a spear in his hand 11 and he hurled it, saying to himself, “I’ll pin David to the wall.” But David eluded him twice.” NIV
    4. envy can be a powerful force in a person’s life
      1. the Bible is full of stories where jealousy turns nasty
        • ILLUS. Look at the relationships between Cain and Able, Sarah and Hagar, Jacob and Esau, Rachael and Leah, Joseph and his brothers, and the Prodigal Son and his older brother.
      2. even the disciples of Jesus were not immune from the green-eyed monster of envy
        1. several times in the gospels we see them jockeying for positions of authority and arguing over who among them would be the greatest in the coming kingdom
      3. envy was what crucified our Lord
        • Mark 15:9-10 “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, 10 knowing it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him.” NIV
    5. envy forces you to keep your eye on your competition when it should really be on the Lord


  • ILLUS. A legend from the fourth century tells the story of inexperienced demons who are having great difficulty in tempting a very holy man who lived as a hermit in the desert of north Africa. They lured him with every manner of temptation, but he could not be enticed. Every attempt had met with the demon’s failure and the hermit’s victory. Frustrated, the demons returned to Satan who became angered with the incompetence of his subordinates. So Satan decided to become personally involved in the case. He told his demons, “The reason you have failed is that your methods are too crude for one such as this. Now sit back and watch a pro work.” With that Satan approached the holy man with great care and whispered softly in his ear, “Your brother has just been made Bishop of Alexandria.” Instantly the holy man’s face showed that Satan had been successful. A scowl formed on the hermits’ face, and his eyes tightened up. Envy had gripped his soul.
    1. what is the source of envy in our lives – from where does it well up?
    2. I think part of it lies in our own insecurity of who we are and our desire to play the game of “one-ups-man-ship” with those around us
    3. envy makes us compare ourselves and what we have with those around us and what they have
      • ILLUS. If I’m honest with myself, I have to admit that I’m envious of the way skinny people can eat anything they like. I’m envious of how most athletic people are good at every sport they try while I can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. I’m envious of at the way smart people don’t have to study as hard to learn things. Sometimes I think that the whole world would be a much better place if my parent had given me some better genes.
        1. I know that none of you every have feelings like these
        2. instead of seeing and appreciating what we’ve got, we are tempted to see only what another has or owns that we wish we could have or acquire
        3. the result is that our urge to acquire things is due less to the passion to possess them than to the vanity of feeling superior to those who envy our possession of them
    4. but what happens when we meet that person who owns more than we do, or has a talent we don’t have, or who has the kind of relationship we wish we had?
    5. at those times Satan comes and whispers in your ear, “They don’t deserve what they got, but you do!”
    6. David had rescued the nation of Israel from the Philistines
      1. it was a time of rejoicing and Saul should have been David’s head cheerleader
        1. after all, Saul is King
        2. Saul might have congratulated himself that it was his wisdom and foresight that put David in the position he had
        3. David’s success was rightly Saul’s success
      2. instead, he broods over the response of the crowd to David’s achievements instead of rejoicing in his own accomplishments
    7. as you go through life, chances are good that you may well have a sister or a brother or a cousin who will make more money, have nicer cars, or own a bigger home than you . . .
      1. as you go through life, chances are good that you may well have friends who will get better promotions or more awards than you do . . .
    8. when these situations develop how do you respond?
      1. will you rejoice in their success our will you allow envy to rear it’s ugly head and wallow in its bitterness?
        • ILLUS. The Medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas said, “Love rejoices in our neighbor’s good, while envy grieves over it.”


  • 1 Corinthians 13:4 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.”
  • ILLUS. Francis Schaeffer, one of the great Christians and theologians of our century, once said, “I am to love God enough to be contented; I am to love men enough not to envy.”


  • Psalm 49:16-19 “Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the splendor of his house increases; 17 for he will take nothing with him when he dies, his splendor will not descend with him. 18 Though while he lived he counted himself blessed and men praise you when you prosper 19 he will join the generation of his fathers, who will never see the light of life.”
    1. one day all men will stand before a holy God and what will matter is not your possessions, but your relationship with Jesus Christ
      1. if we remember this, it will help us to keep our priorities right
    2. the way to keep envy on a leash is to live out a Christ-like love toward those around you
    3. rejoice at another’s good fortune
      1. write letters of congratulations
      2. make a call and compliment the person for his or her accomplishment
      3. tell them you are proud of them and proud to know them
      4. be the first in line to shake their hand
      5. be the first up off your seat to applaud them
    4. envy hates these things and cannot successfully live in
      1. life that exhibits genuine love and appreciation for others
      2. genuine love and appreciation will enable you to keep your priorities right

Envy is more of a problem in our lives than most of us are willing to admit. In a recent survey in Discipleship Journal, believers ranked envy in the top ten list of spiritual challenges they struggle with. With abundant help from the media, we are encouraged to focus on what others have that we don’t. Instead of giving thanks for our vacation by the lake, we’re encouraged to envy the person who owns lake property. Instead of appreciating your apartment, you find yourself looking at your colleague’s four-bedroom home.

Envy is an attitude that must be purged from a Christian’s life. Reduced to its basic components, envy is simply self-centeredness. How many churches have been wrecked, how many missionary organizations have been riddled with dissension, how many families have been destroyed, all by envy?

In his letter, the Apostle James warns Christians about the demonic influence of envy: “But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” (James 3:14-16) NIV


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