With Envy Comes Chaos
For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. -James 3:16
Envy will never produce harmony, it will never produce love. When you want what someone else has, it only produces chaos. This kind of mindset is proud, self-seeking, self-serving, self-indulgent, it destroys intimacy, it destroys love, it destroys unity, it destroys fellowship, it brings discord, it brings chaos. Simply glimpse down into James chapter 4, to see how a spirit of envy plays out.
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
We can see in this passage two kinds of chaos created by envy:
1. Personal Chaos
Look at what is mentioned. Envy comes with a restless spirit - “you desire but you don’t have, (:2) It brings depression. You are focusing on what you don’t have and life starts to feel empty. It leads to debt, you spend it on your passions (:3). And ultimately it drives a wedge into your relationship with God. Friendship with the world is enmity with God (:4).
2. Relational Chaos
Instead of promoting closeness and unity, envy leads to animosity and distance in your personal relationships. You feel a secret satisfaction when someone else fails. “Did you see her at the beach this summer, I don't think she looked as good as last summer.” Or, “He got that expensive car and then someone backed into it.” You won’t say it out loud, but there’s a secret satisfaction that comes over you.
1 Corinthians 13 says that love and envy can’t co-exist. Eventually this rot will reach so deeply into all your relationships, that you can't even be a good Christian anymore. Love is patient. Love is kind. Love DOES NOT ENVY. You can't carry around love and envy together. It keeps no record of wrong, it does not delight in evil. These things are the opposite of love. Until you root envy out of your heart you won't be able to love and it will bring relational chaos into your life.
Our passage says that envy leads to every evil practice. It even leads to acts of violence. This very sin of envy served as the driving force behind Jesus’ crucifixion. Matthew 27 says, (“For [Pilate] knew it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus over to him.” (NIV). The Chief Priests became more and more enveloped in their envy until, finally, it drove them to murderous violence. Listen to how counter-intuitive this sounds:
“But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David,’ they were indignant.” Matthew 21:15 (NIV)
Indignant? That word seems so out of place in this passage. Jesus was doing “wonderful” things and transforming the hearts of children, and the religious leaders were angry! Only one thing could make people so foolish, and weird, and ultimately destructive: Envy. It leads to all kinds of chaos.