The Vice of Envy

Teaching of Virtue

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The Vice of Envy

Out of the self-centered perspective of the prideful comes the poison of envy.

The vice of envy is a disposition of sorrow toward another one's good (or joy at another's misfortune).

Scripture says, “Peace of mind makes the body healthy, but jealousy is like a cancer” (Proverbs 14:30). Just as the devil is saddened in our joy and joyful in our sadness, so goes the envious one.

Envy makes one criticize, gossip, disparage, undermine, and increasingly resentful, unhappy, ungrateful, and discontent.

What does one gain from their neighbors' loss or setback? Nothing. Should there be a sole possessor of all things, talents, opportunities, friendships? There shall not.

We all wrestle envy. The slightest tingle of displeasure in one's advance, or delight in one's stumble, is rooted in envy.

Combat envy with the virtues of kindness, contentment, gratitude, and hope.

Be kind. Replace any thought of envy that enters your mind with kindness.

Be content. God distributes gifts differently. You will not be judged by what others did with their gifts, but by what you did with yours.

Be grateful. You have already been bestowed the ultimate gift—a God-given soul.

Be hopeful. Yearn not for worldly gains, but spiritual gains—and the utmost prize—union with God for eternity; for there are none who can stand between you and the attainment of it—but yourself.

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Scroll down for the related scriptures, quotes, and lesson plan associated with this teaching.

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Related Scripture

“Peace of mind makes the body healthy, but jealousy is like a cancer.” — Proverbs 14:30 (GNT)

“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.” — 1 Corinthians 13:4-6 (NRSV-CE)

“...but through the devil’s envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his company experience it.” — Wisdom 2:24 (NRSV-CE)

“Those who rejoice in the fall of the godly will be caught in a snare, and pain will consume them before their death.” — ‭‭Sirach‬ ‭27:29 (NRSV-CE)

“Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always continue in the fear of the Lord. Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.” — Proverbs 23:17-18 (NRSV-CE)

“Don't let evil people worry you; don't be envious of them. A wicked person has no future—nothing to look forward to.” — Proverbs 24:19-20 (GNT)

“Do not envy the success of sinners, for you do not know what their end will be like. Do not delight in what pleases the ungodly; remember that they will not be held guiltless all their lives.” — Sirach 9:11-12 (NRSV-CE)

“Don't be envious of evil people, and don't try to make friends with them.” — Proverbs 24:1 (GNT)

“Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from one person’s envy of another. This also is vanity and a chasing after wind.” — Ecclesiastes 4:4 (NRSV-CE)

“Again, I was contemplating all the labors of men. And I took notice that their endeavors are open to the envy of their neighbor. And so, in this, too, there is emptiness and superfluous anxiety.” — Ecclesiastes 4:4 (CPDV)

“...nor will I travel in the company of sickly envy, for envy does not associate with wisdom.” — Wisdom 6:23 (NRSV-CE)

“From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.” — Mark 7:21-23 (NABRE)

“And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God handed them over to their undiscerning mind to do what is improper. They are filled with every form of wickedness, evil, greed, and malice; full of envy, murder, rivalry, treachery, and spite. They are gossips and scandalmongers and they hate God. They are insolent, haughty, boastful, ingenious in their wickedness, and rebellious toward their parents. They are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know the just decree of God that all who practice such things deserve death, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” — Romans 1:28-32 (NABRE)

“Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.” — Galatians 5:19-26 (NRSV-CE)

“Whoever teaches otherwise and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that is in accordance with godliness, is conceited, understanding nothing, and has a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words. From these come envy, dissension, slander, base suspicions, and wrangling among those who are depraved in mind and bereft of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that[d] we can take nothing out of it.” — 1 Timothy 6:3-7 (NRSV-CE)

“Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show every courtesy to everyone. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” — Titus 3:1-5 (NRSV-CE)

“Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.” — James 3:13-18 (NRSV-CE)

“Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander.” — 1 Peter 2:1 (NRSV-CE)

Related Quotes

"Envy, my children, follows pride; whoever is envious is proud. See, envy comes to us from Hell; the devils having sinned through pride, sinned also through envy, envying our glory, our happiness." — St. John Vianney

“From envy, are born hatred, detraction, calumny, joy caused by the misfortune of a neighbor, and displeasure caused by prosperity.” — St. Augustine

“Envy is the ulcer of the soul.” — Socrates

"Envy is pain at the good fortune of others." — Aristotle

"Envy has three phases. In the first phase, the envious one desires to damage another's reputation; in the next phase, the envious one basks in either joy at another's misfortune or grief at another's prosperity; and the final phase, the envious one has hatred because sorrow causes hatred." — St. Thomas Aquinas (paraphrased)

"The spirit of envy can destroy; it can never build." — Margaret Thatcher

“Rust consumes iron and envy consumes itself.” — Danish Proverb

“Take heed you harbor not that vice called Envy, lest another’s happiness be your torment, and God’s blessing become your curse.” — Wellins Calcott

“It is in the character of very few men to honor without envy a friend who has prospered.” — Aeschylus

“It is never wise to seek or wish for another’s misfortune. If malice or envy were tangible and had a shape, it would be the shape of a boomerang.” — Charley Reese

“Envy, if surrounded on all sides by the brightness of another’s prosperity, like the scorpion confined within a circle of fire, will sting itself to death.” — Charles Caleb Colton

“Envy is a symptom of lack of appreciation of our own uniqueness and self-worth. Each of us has something to give that no one else has.” Elizabeth O’Connor

“Envy is like a fly that passes all the body’s sounder parts, and dwells upon the sores.” — Arthur Chapman

“It is madness for a Christian to be envious. In Christ we have all received infinitely great blessings.” — St. John of Kronstadt

"When we envy another, we make their virtue our vice." — Nicolas Boileau-Despreaux

"The cure for the sin of envy and jealousy is to find our contentment in God.” — Jerry Bridges

"Envy is a spirit of dissatisfaction or opposition to the prosperity or happiness of other people.” — Jonathan Edwards

"How much of hell is there in the temper of an envious man! The happiness of another is his misery; the good of another is his affliction. He looks upon the virtue of another with an evil eye, and is as sorry at the praise of another as if that praise were taken away from himself. Envy makes him a hater of his neighbor, and his own tormentor.” — Nathaniel Vincent

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Lesson Plan

For your family, small group, or personal reflection.

STEP 1: Introduction

Example: "I'm going to play a short video on the topic of the vice of envy. After the video, I have some questions to gather your thoughts and get the discussion started. We’ll then wrap up with a closing prayer."

STEP 2: Watch Video (or listen)

Watch (or listen to) the video of the teaching (cast to your TV via YouTube). If time allows, also read the teaching, related Scriptures, and related quotes.

STEP 3: Discussion / Reflection

  • The vice of envy is a disposition of sorrow toward another one's good (or joy at another's misfortune). What are some examples in your life where you struggle (or have struggled in the past) with envy? (please explain)
  • What are some things you can do in your life to combat envy and grow in the virtues of kindness, contentment, gratitude, and hope?
  • What is an example from your life where envy or jealousy got the best of you? What lessons did you learn?
  • Did any of the related Scriptures or quotes stand out to you (please elaborate)?
  • Any other thoughts you’d like to share?

STEP 4: Wrap Up & Closing Prayer

Summarize and wrap up the discussion. Then, conclude with a sincere and humble prayer from the heart.

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