Envy [N] [T]

Sin of jealousy over the blessings and achievements of others, especially the spiritual enjoyment and advance of the kingdom of Christ freely and graciously bestowed upon the people of God. Old Testament examples of the sin of jealousy include the rivalry of Joseph's brothers over the favor that Joseph received at the hand of God ( Gen 37:12-36 ; Acts 7:9 ), and Saul's animosity toward David for his physical and spiritual prowess ( 1 Sam 18 ). Envy inevitably leads to personal harm and debilitation, affecting one's physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being ( Job 5:2 ; Prov 14:30 ). Unchecked, it gradually leads to a destructive and remorseful way of life ( Prov 27:4 ), and ultimately, to estrangement from God ( Rom 1:28-32 ).

Envy manifests the insidiousness of sin and human depravity apart from the intervention of God's redeeming grace. As a sin of the flesh, envy characterizes the lives of the unregenerate. Envy is one of the traits of the Christian's former way of life ( Rom 13:8-14 ; Titus 3:3 ). Those who practice envy and strife are barred from the kingdom of heaven ( Gal 5:19-26 ). Indeed, the unregenerate nature ever tends toward envy, manifesting the unbeliever's rejection of God, his truth, and his will for human conduct ( James 3:14 James 3:16 ).

The way of true wisdom counsels the faithful to avoid the company of such godless people ( Prov 24:1 ). Envy is listed among the sins of the flesh that must be conquered through the power of the Holy Spirit ( 1 Col 3:3 ; 2 Col 12:20 ; 1 Peter 2:1 ). "Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord" ( Prov 23:17 ). Love is to have majesty over envy ( 1 Cor 13:4 ).

As an example from former days, the righteous judgment of Yahweh against Edom was measured out in accordance with the measure of Edom's jealousy toward the people of God ( Eze 35:11 ). But the mercy of God brought about the healing of animosity between Ephraim and Judah by means of God's righteous act of salvation ( Isa 11:13 ). In the time of Messiah's earthly ministry it was the envy of the Jews that led to the rejection and betrayal of Jesus into the hands of Pilate for crucifixion ( Matt 27:18 ). Nevertheless, in the providence and foreordination of God, what the wicked intended for evil was destined to be the instrument of God's redemption of his elect through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

Paul points out how the good news of the gospel was preached at times out of envy and strife ( Php 1:15 ). Yet in spite of the envious motives of the false apostles, Paul rejoiced that Christ was being proclaimed. Like Christ, the apostle in his ministry of the gospel experienced the hatred and jealousy of the Jews ( Acts 13:45 ). This did not deter him from his divinely ordained mission. There were other times, however, that false teaching led to controversy and envy among the people of God ( 1 Tim 6:4 ). Genuine, unfeigned love for God and his word prompts the disciples of Christ to proclaim and defend the full counsel of God's truth. Loving and consecrated devotion to Christ and his kingdom dissipates the sins of envy and jealousy.

Mark W. Karlberg

See also Covetousness

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of
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[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
[T] indicates this entry was also found in Torrey's Topical Textbook

Bibliography Information

Elwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'Envy'". "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology". . 1997.


en'-vi (qin'ah; zelos, phthonos):

"Envy," from Latin in, "against," and video, "to look," "to look with ill-will," etc., toward another, is an evil strongly condemned in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. It is to be distinguished from jealousy. "We are jealous of our own; we are envious of another man's possessions. Jealousy fears to lose what it has; envy is pained at seeing another have" (Crabb's English Synonyms). In the Old Testament it is the translation of qin'ah from kana', "to redden," "to glow" (Job 5:2, the Revised Version (British and American) "jealousy," margin "indignation"; in Isaiah 26:11 the Revised Version (British and American) renders "see thy zeal for the people"; Proverbs 27:4, etc.); the verb occurs in Genesis 26:14, etc.; Numbers 11:29 the King James Version; Psalms 106:16; Proverbs 3:31, etc.; in the New Testament it is the translation of phthonos, "envy" (Matthew 27:18; Romans 1:29; Galatians 5:21, "envyings," etc.); of zelos, "zeal", "jealousy," "envy" (Acts 13:45), translated "envying," the Revised Version (British and American) "jealousy" (Romans 13:13; 1 Corinthians 3:3; 2 Corinthians 12:20; James 3:14,16); the verb phthoneo occurs in Galatians 5:26; zeloo in Acts 7:9; 17:5, the Revised Version (British and American) "moved with jealousy"; 1 Corinthians 13:4, "charity (the Revised Version (British and American) "love") envieth not."

The power of envy is stated in Proverbs 27:4:

"Who is able to stand before envy?" (the Revised Version (British and American) "jealousy"); its evil effects are depicted in Job 5:2 (the Revised Version (British and American) "jealousy"), in Proverbs 14:30 (the Revised Version, margin "jealousy"); it led to the crucifixion of Christ (Matthew 27:18; Mark 15:10); it is one of "the works of the flesh" (Galatians 5:21; compare Romans 1:29; 1 Timothy 6:4); Christian believers are earnestly warned against it (Romans 13:13 the King James Version; 1 Corinthians 3:3 the King James Version; Galatians 5:26; 1 Peter 2:1). In James 4:5 "envy" is used in a good sense, akin to the jealousy ascribed to God. Where the King James Version has "The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy," the Revised Version (British and American) reads "Doth the spirit which he made to dwell in us long unto envying?"; the American Revised Version, margin "The spirit which he made to dwell in us he yearneth for even unto jealous envy"; compare Jeremiah 3:14; Hosea 2:19; or the English Revised Version, margin "That spirit which he made to dwell in us yearneth (for us) even unto jealous envy." This last seems to give the sense; compare "Ye adulteresses" (Hosea 2:4), the American Revised Version, margin "That is, who break your marriage vow to God."

W. L. Walker

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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'ENVY'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.  

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