The Antidote to Envy is Peace
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. -James 3:17-18
The temptation here is to talk about contentment. Most people think that the answer to envy is contentment. But James tells us here that it’s peace.
The Answer to Envy is Peace: The 2 Levels of Peace
- Peace with God
If you struggle with envy, getting more is not your problem. And the people that you are envious of are not your problem. Your problem is with a different relationship.
Imagine for a moment that this Christmas I gave my three kids unequal gifts. Ayden got a car, Chase got a cell phone, and Caleb got an orange in the bottom of his stocking. When my kids see this unequal distribution of good things, it wouldn’t make sense for them to be angry with each other. The one who is responsible is the one who handed out the stuff.
At the heart of envy is the idea that “God owes me.”
God could have given you a different kind of family, put you in a different city, kept your health good, prevented that accident. God could have made your marriage partner better, he could have made your kids smarter. When you have the guts to get on your knees and say, “God I think you ripped me off,” is when you will begin to get envy under control.
Can God handle it? He's probably looking forward to it. Because you've been walking around in a prison, rotting from the inside and blaming people who had nothing to do with the issue. When the bible says, you do not have, because you do not ask, it is a reminder that we should ask God for what we seek rather than fighting each other.
Bringing your requests before God can have a purifying influence on your desires. We shut down comparisons down completely when we learn to say “the Lord is my portion.” So, what do I need to believe about God in order to overcome envy? I need to believe he’s sufficient, that he knows how to lead me.
- Peace with others
Envy desires that the person who has more be torn down. On the other hand, peace works for the good of others. The Biblical concept of peace is larger than our Western notion of inner tranquility. Peace for the first century Jew was a socially oriented drive that sought and valued harmonious living. First century Jews looked to the coming Messiah to establish this ordering of the heavenly kingdom. So, James isn’t merely telling people to be happy with what they have, he was calling his readers to obsess about something larger and more noble than their neighbor’s property, status, or spouse. That way there would be no room in their hearts for envy.
James is saying in 3:17-18 that if you want to fight off envy, give to the person you are jealous of. Since giving always deepens caring, it will change your focus. You will think more about their good and it will be easier to wish them success.
Think about your attitude towards your own children. Since you love them you only want their good. If they're smarter than you, more attractive, more accomplished than you, not only are you not jealous, you’re thrilled. You need to transfer that same attitude to your friends and acquaintances.
Wish them success publicly. Find the people who drive you crazy and celebrate their accomplishments. It may feel insincere, but think of it as speaking to the jealousy in your heart and telling it that it will not govern your words anymore. The true test of your heart will be not when you see someone you know suffering, but when you see them being honored. Can you join them in their rejoicing?
Be sure to check out part 5 of our envy series to continue to learn how to completely overcome envy.