Murder & Envy

Question 107. But is it enough that we do not kill any man in the manner mentioned above?

Answer: No: for when God forbids envy, hatred, and anger, he commands us to love our neighbour as ourselves; to show patience, peace, meekness, mercy, and all kindness, towards him, and prevent his hurt as much as in us lies; and that we do good, even to our enemies.

Whitman’s sampler of Envy in Scripture

Genesis 26:14 for Isaac had possessions of flocks and possessions of herds and a great number of servants. So the Philistines envied him.

30:1 Now when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister, and said to Jacob, “Give me children, or else I die!”

37:11 And Jacob’s brothers envied him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

Psalm 106:16 When they envied Moses in the camp,
And Aaron the saint of the Lord,

Isaiah 11:13 Also the envy of Ephraim shall depart,
And the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off;
Ephraim shall not envy Judah,
And Judah shall not harass Ephraim.

Ecclesiastes 9:6 Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished;
Nevermore will they have a share
In anything done under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 4:4 Again, I saw that for all toil and every skillful work a man is envied by his neighbor. This also is vanity and grasping for the wind.

Proverbs 14:30 A sound heart is life to the body,
But envy is rottenness to the bones.

27:4 Wrath is cruel and anger a torrent,
But who is able to stand before envy?

Deutero-Caononical Book — Wisdom of Solomon

2:23 For God created man incorruptible, and to the image of his own likeness
he made him. 24 But by the envy of the devil, death came into the world:

I Corinthians 3:3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?

Philippians 1:15 Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill:

Matthew 27:18 For he knew that they had handed Him over because of envy.

Galatians 5:21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Definition of Envy — Envy is the sin of jealousy over the blessings, prosperity, character, and achievements of others, but more than jealousy it is the positive anguish over the good of others and joy at the anguish and misery of others even if that anguish and misery does the envious no discernible positive good. While being indignant might find its roots in the injustice of the well being of evil persons, envy finds its roots in the happiness of good people. In brief envy is pain at the good in others, and it is most commonly found in those whom wish to lower others, even if that lowering of others does not mean that they will rise.

Well we can understand why God says in Proverbs that it is a rottenness to the bones.

Envy is wounded by our neighbors prosperity. Envy finds pleasure in the ruin or harm of those of whom we are envious. Envy is sickened at hearing praises of those of whom are envied and recoils at the virtues of those upon whom our envy is pointed. And the irony, which we will explore more next week, is that envy only grows more intense the more it is assuaged by those who are being envied. That is to say, that should the envied seek to practice charity towards the envious, with thoughts of reducing their reasons to be envious, the envious envy them all the more because of the their own sense that as being inferiors they had to be assisted by those they believe to be their superiors. The envious hate those who help them because it confirms, in their minds, their lower position. If the envious receive favor from the fortunate the envious suffers even more and the envy grows because the one in the favored position has the power to dispense favor while the envied does not. Envy is not concerned so much with reaching the happiness of others as it is in making everyone as miserable as the envious. Envy is complicated by the fact that it is slow to be self-diagnosed or confessed because of the shame involved in this vice.

This vice is executioner to itself so that the envious have their punishment in themselves. However, it is not enough to let it alone at that for as we shall see next week envy will not rest until it pulls down those who are envied that they might be as miserable as the envious. As such Envy curses both those who have it (its subjects) and those it is pointed towards (its objects).

The destructive power of envy in the Scripture

It was the animating action of the Devil in His work against God and man in the fall (Wisdom 2:23-4)

It was there when the first blood was spilled (I John 3:12)

It was the disposition that propelled Jesus enemies to hand Him over to be crucified (Matthew 27:18)

If present in us without repentance it will bar us from the Kingdom of God (Gal. 5:21)

It is present against every person who does skillful work (Ecc. 4:4)

It is a mindset that brings about physical illness (Proverbs 14:30) (Mind body relationship)

As we trace what others have written about “envy” through history (diachronic study) we discover the following.

Church Fathers

Clement —

In his epistle the first 6 chapters are dedicated to “the unjust and impious envy though which death entered the world. He reminds his audience that because of envy Cain killed his brother Abel, Jacob had to take flight, Joseph was sent into slavery, Moses had to leave his people, Aaron was set aside … Saul and David were at war. Clement offers that envy was the cause of the persecution of the Apostles, the sufferings of St. Peter, of the many martyrs under Nero. Clement holds that envy is in sum the root of the most wicked happenings against humans.

Justin — 165 AD (Apologist for the Church)

Following Mt. 27:18 Justin, presents envy as the reason for the supreme crime of Christ’s crucifixion. Justin advises,

“Wash your souls of ire, avarice, envy and hate and your body will stay clean.”

Cyprian — Writes a treatise on envy

To envy according to Cyprian is to “suffer at the joy of others.” Cyprian holds Lucifer guilty of evil envy against God. Cyprian wrote that cosmic evil originates in the feeling of envy, the root of all evil in all of us. Further he wrote that envy is the source of hostility, avarice, ambition, pride, cruelty, perfidy, discord, etc.

Cyprian makes a important point when he writes that the “envy is a hidden vice we carry closed within so that the envious never declare their envy.” This will be important to keep in mind for later considerations.

As a remedy (which we will examine more next week) Cyprian offers as the only antidote Christianity and encourages the Christian virtues of “simplicity of mind, humility, fraternity, love, and charity. His last advice is to “rejoice and be happy at the fact that others are better.”

What is interesting with Cyprian is that he offers that Envy is the Mother lode of evil. Evil is born of envy and all other vices flow out of envy.

Basil Of Caesarea — 4th century

Does a Homily on Envy

“As oxide eats up iron, so envy eats up the soul.”

Basil examines the question if envy may be placated or annulled through favors to the envious by the envied and concludes that contrary to what happens with other hostile feelings that others may have that are diminished through attentions, “the envious become more envious with favors, for the suffering that is caused by the power of their benefactors is greater than the gratitude they feel.”

Basil adds a new wrinkle in the consideration of envy when he probes as to who the envious envy. Do the envious envy those distant to them or those close to them? Basil offers that “We are trapped by envy through familiarity,” and goes on to offer,

“The Sythian does not envy the Egyptian, but those of his own nation, and from among those, he does not envy stranger but those he deals with, in particular and those of the same job.”

Chrysostom — (354-407) Homilies

The “envious enjoys the suffering of others … and considers as his own joy the misfortunes of others.”

Like Cyprian, Chrysostom holds that “no other vice is comparable to envy, for it is the most evil, most perverse, and most abominable of all passions.”

Chrysostom introduces a social element into envy when he notes,

“Envy subverts the Church and causes the whole Universe to shake.”

Here we understand envy in its basic role as a adversary of all hierarchy that comprises social order. Chrysostom gets to how envy begins to get translated into the desire for absolute undifferentiated equality among men in society. For Chrysostom envy is the root that accounts for the impulse towards social leveling.

If for Cyprian envy was the root of all evil, for Chrysostom envy is both the root of all evil and the highest expression of all evil.

Leaning towards cure for envy

Scripture teaches us that we are to,

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

Identify the Problem, thank God that in Christ we are forgiven, and then pray God for deliverance

“Deliver us from evil…”

How little we value prayer in the matter of getting rid of all bitterness. If we see ourselves slipping towards envy who better to turn to then our Lord Christ who knows our hearts and can deliver us?

The Problem of comparison

“When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.” II Cor. 10:12

The kind of comparison that leads to envy does not help us but only pulls others down.

The Need To Remember Providence

If we must compare ourselves with others it would be helpful to recognize that whatever differences exist (maybe we are not as wealthy, not as polished, not as good-looking, not as smart, not as popular, not as talented, (the list could be endless) those differences exist because of God’s wisdom in distributing His gifts. (I Cor. 4:7 teaches that it is God who makes us to differ.)

God has made us, both individually and in our families, to be precisely what he desires in order to gain glory, reputation and renown through us. We don’t need to be someone else in order to advance what God has created us to advance. When envy strikes at us we must remember God’s providence.

The Need for contentment

Phil. 4:10-12

The Need To Remember All The Benefits We Have In Christ

Ephesians 1:3 teaches that all believers have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.

The Need To Remember That God Uses The Foolish Things Of The World To Confound The Wise

Even if others excel we need not let envy have its way. Those who God has used throughout History have seldom been MENSA candidates or Beauty Queens. Remember in our weakness God is made Strong. II Cor. 12:9

Most importantly the need to remember we are forgiven in Christ

When we see these ugly things about ourselves our motivation for putting these character faults off is gratitude for all that we have been forgiven in Christ. The Gospel is what propels us towards grateful obedience. Because I am forgiven I am free from the condemnation that would frighten me into lethargy. Because I am forgiven I have no need to be so frustrated with the failure of my obedience that I give up the necessity to put off the old man.

I am forgiven in Christ and because of that I can move forward in putting off all bitterness and every form of malice.

Author: jetbrane

I am a Pastor of a small Church in Mid-Michigan who delights in my family, my congregation and my calling. I am postmillennial in my eschatology. Paedo-Calvinist Covenantal in my Christianity Reformed in my Soteriology Presuppositional in my apologetics Familialist in my family theology Agrarian in my regional community social order belief Christianity creates culture and so Christendom in my national social order belief Mythic-Poetic / Grammatical Historical in my Hermeneutic Pre-modern, Medieval, & Feudal before Enlightenment, modernity, & postmodern Reconstructionist / Theonomic in my Worldview One part paleo-conservative / one part micro Libertarian in my politics Systematic and Biblical theology need one another but Systematics has pride of place Some of my favorite authors, Augustine, Turretin, Calvin, Tolkien, Chesterton, Nock, Tozer, Dabney, Bavinck, Wodehouse, Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Schaeffer, C. Van Til, H. Van Til, G. H. Clark, C. Dawson, H. Berman, R. Nash, C. G. Singer, R. Kipling, G. North, J. Edwards, S. Foote, F. Hayek, O. Guiness, J. Witte, M. Rothbard, Clyde Wilson, Mencken, Lasch, Postman, Gatto, T. Boston, Thomas Brooks, Terry Brooks, C. Hodge, J. Calhoun, Llyod-Jones, T. Sowell, A. McClaren, M. Muggeridge, C. F. H. Henry, F. Swarz, M. Henry, G. Marten, P. Schaff, T. S. Elliott, K. Van Hoozer, K. Gentry, etc. My passion is to write in such a way that the Lord Christ might be pleased. It is my hope that people will be challenged to reconsider what are considered the givens of the current culture. Your biggest help to me dear reader will be to often remind me that God is Sovereign and that all that is, is because it pleases him.

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