The Seven Deadly Vices:

6. Envy versus Love

by Don Schwager

"Through love be servants of one another. ..Let us have no self-conceit,

no provoking of one another, no envy of one another" (Galatians 5:13,26).

Envy is sorrow over another's good. It is sadness or discontent at the excellence, good fortune, or success of another person. It includes both sorrow at the prosperity of others and joy in their hurt. An envy person sorrows at the good fortune of others because he or she regards it as a hindrance to his or her own good.

Envy differs from jealousy in that jealousy implies the desire to exclusively possess something or somebody. Envy implies the hope that a good will be taken away from another, whether or not we get possession of it ourselves. Jealousy is a fear of losing another's exclusive or special love; it is resentment at being replaced by a rival. Jealousy says, "I want what you have." Envy goes further and declares, "Not only do I want what you have, but I will do all in my power to take what you have away so neither of us can enjoy it."

Envy is sorrow over or a desire to possess what another has; it is a kind of sadness over the good fortune of another because we think it somehow lessens our own stature. The reason we may grieve over another's good is that somehow we see that good as lessening our own value or excellence. Somehow we see our neighbor's possessions as not only surpassing ours but also as taking away some of our prestige. We are usually envious of those goods about which people like to be honored or esteemed. Envy forms when we believe that the other person's advantage or possession diminishes or brings disgrace on us.

Envy gives birth to detraction and slander (calumny). Detraction is the revealing of the faults of another. Slander (calumny) is speaking ill of another without factual basis. Slander (calumny) is lying. It entails making up bad things about another, or repeating unfavorable and unfounded rumors about them. It results in the ruining of another's reputation by lies. Detraction is more subtle. It entails revealing or repeating unsavory facts about another, which, although true, are the business of neither the person communicating this information nor of his listeners. Both calumny and detraction damage another's reputation.

"Love is not jealous ..but rejoices in the right" (1 Cor. 13:4,6).

Envy and jealousy, its counterpart, are sinful because they lead us to sorrow over what should make us rejoice--namely, our neighbor's good. Envy is contrary to love. Both the object of love and the object of envy is our neighbor's good, but by contrary movements, since love rejoices in our neighbor's good, while envy grieves over it. We must strive to overcome envy with the virtue of love, since "love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right (1 Cor. 13:5-6).

Examples from the scripture: In Acts 7:9 it says, "the patriarchs, jealous (envious) of Joseph, sold him into Egypt." Genesis 37 gives the story of Joseph's brothers. Out of envy (see 37:11) they plotted to first kill him, then changed their minds to sell him into slavery. In contrast to his brothers' envy and hatred, Joseph held no bitterness or resentment. When he discovered his family's plight during the famine, he showed remarkable kindness, mercy and forgiveness. He kissed his brothers with great affection and tears (Genesis 45:15). Joseph is a type of Jesus who also was betrayed out of envy. Matthew 27:18 records that the Jewish leaders handed Jesus over for crucifixion out of envy. Jesus in turn treated his enemies with love.