A feeling of resentment and displeasure toward others by reason of their belongings, prosperity, advantages, position, or reputation. Envious persons want what others have and may feel that those possessing what is coveted are not entitled to it. While the Hebrew word qin·ʼahʹ, depending on the context, may refer to zeal, ardor, insistence on exclusive devotion, or jealousy and envying (2Ki 19:31; Ps 79:5; Nu 25:11; 5:14; Job 5:2), the Greek phthoʹnos consistently has a negative connotation and denotes envy.—Ro 1:29.
One of the bad inclinations of sinful man is the tendency to envy. (Jas 4:5) It is an expression of hatred. Because the Philistines envied Isaac’s prosperity, they maliciously stopped up the wells upon which he depended for watering his flocks and herds. Finally, their king requested that Isaac leave the area. (Ge 26:14-16, 27) In the case of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, envy of the dignity and honorable position enjoyed by Moses and Aaron caused them to launch a vicious verbal attack. (Nu 16:1-3; Ps 106:16-18) The favorable response of the people to Jesus filled the chief priests and many Jewish elders with envy. Their envy reached a climax when they handed the Son of God over to Pilate in order to have the death sentence imposed.—Mt 27:1, 2, 18; Mr 15:10.
Advocating teachings that are not in line with those of Jesus Christ produces envy. The first concern of the person teaching them is, not the glory of God, but the promotion of his own doctrine. The resulting envy may find expression in efforts to misrepresent and malign true Christians, undermining their labors and wholesome influence. (1Ti 6:3, 4) The apostle Paul had to contend with persons who were wrongly motivated, preaching Christ out of envy. Their intent was to discredit Paul’s reputation and apostolic authority, of which they were envious. They tried to discourage and dishearten the imprisoned apostle. At his expense, they sought to build themselves up in order to further their selfish aims.—Php 1:15-17.
Danger of Yielding to Envy. People who gain their ends by fraud and violence may for a time enjoy prosperity, security, and good health. Even the death of wicked ones may be peaceful, not accompanied by great anguish. When a servant of God looks at his possibly less favorable circumstances, he may allow envy of the circumstances of wicked ones to erode his appreciation of the value of doing the divine will, as did the psalmist Asaph. (Ps 73:2-14) That is why the Scriptures repeatedly set out sound reasons for neither envying bad men nor adopting their ways: Practicers of unrighteousness are as transitory as grass that quickly dries up under the intense heat of the sun. (Ps 37:1, 2) Regardless of the prosperity of those who gain their objectives by violence, they are detestable to Jehovah and under his curse. (Pr 3:31-33) Theirs is a life without a future.—Pr 23:17, 18; 24:1, 19, 20.
The pathetic lot of the envious person is set forth in the inspired proverb: “A man of envious [literally, “bad; evil”] eye is bestirring himself after valuable things, but he does not know that want itself will come upon him.” (Pr 28:22) The person with an envious eye is actually heading for want. While struggling to raise himself to the level of those he envies, he degrades himself morally, sacrificing right principles. Even if he succeeds in acquiring riches, these are but temporary and must be left behind at death. Thus he has struggled or ‘bestirred himself’ for nothing. Jesus included “an envious [literally, “wicked”] eye” among the wicked things that issue forth from within a man and defile him.—Mr 7:22, 23.
Envy is a despicable work of the flesh that stands in the way of one’s inheriting God’s Kingdom. (Ga 5:19-21) All who persist in it are “deserving of death.” (Ro 1:29, 32) With the help of God’s spirit, however, the tendency to envy can be resisted.—Ga 5:16-18, 25, 26; Tit 3:3-5; 1Pe 2:1.