You would think that by listening to how people make small talk and how people interact with each other on social media that jealousy is something cute and harmless. We banter about the phrases, “OMG I’m so jealous!” and “look what I’m doing, are you jealous?” I think we’ve numbed ourselves to how cutting and dangerous jealousy really is. If you don’t believe me, just try being genuinely happy for someone who has succeeded in life. Hard, isn’t it.
Deuteronomy 5:21 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. You shall not set your desire on your neighbor’s house or land, his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
Jealousy has a sister named Envy. I actually had to google the differences between these two words because in our culture, they are often interchangeable. However, they are indeed different, according to one of my favorite nerdy websites “Grammar Girl.” Jealousy is usually a relationship type of word meaning “apprehensive or vengeful out of fear of being replaced.” Jealousy is the emotion you feel when you fear that you will lose someone you love to another. Envy, on the other hand, means “to bear a grudge towards someone due to coveting what someone has or enjoys.” Envy is the emotion you have when you want what someone else has. So grammatically speaking, it is more accurate to say, “OMG I’m so envious!”
BEEN THERE DONE THAT
However, both jealousy and envy will tear you apart if you let them. It is highly possible that you have looked longingly at the details of someone else’s life and envied them. Perhaps you’ve envied their status or their possessions. Perhaps you’ve envied their physical appearance or their lifestyle. I’ve been there myself. Honestly! I had a Facebook friend that I hardly knew, but her photos showed such a perfect, carefree lifestyle that she made me pea green with envy! I had to hide her posts or I’d have to repent every time I logged on. (Turns out her husband was professional photographer who retouched all her picts before she posted them. So that made me feel a little better.) So I know Envy, personally!
But here’s my point, when you envy someone, you never see the whole picture. Your mind zooms in on the detail that you are fixating on, and you don’t see the negatives at all. You don’t see the price that the other person has paid to get that rock hard body. You don’t see the pain that they have endured in failed relationships crushed by climbing the corporate ladder. You don’t see the sacrifices they have made to get where they are.
NOT WILLING TO COUNT THE COST
As a missionary, yes, I could talk all day long about how wonderful it is to live in the tropics. And you may envy me the life I live. But you have the luxury of asking your parents to babysit your kids while you go on a date night with your spouse. My parents live 3,000 miles away. You have the potential to own your own house while I will borrow used furniture to fill a rental house for a year when I come home on itineration next spring. I don’t own a house. We have one car which belongs to the mission. And this morning when I made my breakfast I found ants in my French Press… AGAIN. You don’t see all that when you envy a missionary.
You also don’t see the hours spent standing in lines in government offices. You don’t see the “tips” paid to police officers to ensure that they don’t syphon gas out of your car at night. (Yes, police officers.) You don’t see the mounds of trash that pile up in the streets or the stray dogs that tear into the bags and spread it all over your driveway. You never give a second thought to flushing your toilet paper. You don’t think to thank God for a hot shower. And you’ve never had to use a bigger shoe than the one you were wearing to kill a cockroach.
So yeah, you may envy the pretty pictures of nature that the missionary posts, but unless you’re ready to live in that nature as if you were camping in your own house, you better just look around you and appreciate all that you do have. Don’t zoom in on one detail of the missionary’s life while ignoring the high price he’s paid. Walk a mile in a missionary’s shoes and you probably won’t covet what he has. Envy isn’t a good thing. Be thankful for what you have and don’t try to take what others have. That’s healthy living 101.
Psalm 16:6 “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.”