‘Let Us Not Envy One Another’
THE ability to enjoy the successes of others is an important mark of Christian maturity. One is not mature who is jealous of another’s ability or success. When not all in a Christian congregation are spiritually mature, the problem of envy or jealousy can crop up. But it can be conquered. It can be overcome by the power of God’s spirit. Thus an apostle of Christ wrote: “If we are living by spirit, let us go on walking orderly also by spirit. Let us not become egotistical, stirring up competition with one another, envying one another.”—Gal. 5:25, 26, NW.
Just what is envy? It really is an expression of selfishness, of too much self-love. It manifests itself by discontent or ill will at another’s good fortune because one wishes it had been his. So a jealous person resents the success of another. If he cannot have such success himself he does not want to see it in others. Envy is selfishness at work.
Envy manifests itself in a variety of ways. Usually there is a failure to rejoice over another person’s success. A jealous person is full of envy; he cannot rejoice with those who rejoice. He does not live up to the Bible command: “Rejoice with people who rejoice; weep with people who weep.” (Rom. 12:15, NW) A jealous person is not happy himself and he makes others unhappy. It is torment for a jealous person to speak well of the person he envies. In fact, the jealous person shies away from the one he envies. This leads to another manifestation of envy.
This is coolness. The jealous person is cold and unfriendly toward the one he envies. Though the one who is the object of envy may sense this coolness and even put forth an extra effort to be friendly, it is of no use. The envious person has closed the door of his heart. Cruel this is, but “jealousy is cruel as the grave.”—Song of Sol. 8:6, RS.
A DEADLY SIN
The danger of envy is great. It is like an infected wound. The infection spreads. It breeds further infection. It begets all kinds of causes for friction and division in a Christian congregation. For one thing, a jealous man often likes to belittle the person he envies. A selfish, begrudging spirit is now at work. The envious one likes to make all kinds of remarks to other people to try to reduce the stature of the person he envies, for the envious tend to praise only that which they can surpass; that which surpasses them they find fault with or belittle. Thus the envious man shows he is completely unbalanced: “He who belittles his neighbor lacks sense.”—Prov. 11:12, RS.
When envy occurs in a Christian congregation the situation is very serious. If the one envied is a servant in the congregation, the work of advancing the good news may be hindered. Why? Because the jealous person does not co-operate wholeheartedly with the one he envies. He fails to give full help. He fails to put God’s work ahead of self. If not checked, envy can continue its infectious growth. It can beget hatred and hatred can beget strife. True it is that “where jealousy and contentiousness are, there disorder and every vile thing are.”—Jas. 3:16, NW.
Few things can more thoroughly embitter the human spirit and poison brotherly relationships than the spirit of envy. It is of special interest to notice what place jealousy is given in order of vices by Bible writers. Comparing anger and jealousy, wise King Solomon said: “Wrath is ruthless, and anger a torrent; but before jealousy who can stand?” (Prov. 27:4, AT) Anger is like a torrential flood. True, the flood leaves ruin in its wake, but the flood at least subsides. There is some relief. But jealousy—it is overwhelming. It is like the incessant dropping of water on stone. It never stops, it just keeps on and on. Even as a mighty stone cannot stand up under the unending dropping of water, so a man finds it intolerable to associate with an envious individual. There is no relief.
There was no relief for Abel. His brother Cain envied him. Righteous Abel received the blessing of Jehovah God; Cain did not. Cain turned jealousy into hatred; his hatred begot strife and that strife led to murder. Jealousy is a deadly sin. If not conquered, it brings ruin. For “jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, divisions, sects, envies” are all “works of the flesh.” And of these Christ’s apostle emphatically declares: “As to these things I am forewarning you, the same way as I did forewarn you, that those who practice such things will not inherit God’s kingdom.”—Gal. 5:19-21, NW.
APPEAL TO SELF-INTEREST
How can one conquer jealousy? Self-interest ought to be enough. True, it is self-love that sparks jealousy. But when one truly understands what jealousy leads to, how destructive it can be, genuine self-interest ought to actuate a Christian to “put away all moral badness and all deceitfulness and hypocrisy and envies.”—1 Pet. 2:1, NW.
A Christian who thinks does not want to go back to the world. Then why go back to worldly practices? Says the Bible: “Even we were once senseless, disobedient, being misled, being slaves to various desires and pleasures, carrying on in maliciousness and envy, hateful, hating one another.” (Titus 3:3, NW) The Devil would like to turn all Christians back into the old world. That would mean everlasting death. Now the envious person gives Satan a beachhead, for he is putting on the works of darkness. The Bible command is: “Let us therefore put off the works belonging to darkness and let us put on the weapons of the light. As in the daytime let us walk in good behavior, not in revelries and drunken bouts, not in illicit intercourse and loose conduct, not in strife and jealousy.”—Rom. 13:12, 13, NW.
Then there is this matter of self-interest as viewed from the standpoint of one’s physical health. It is now known that certain emotions, such as jealousy, anxiety and worry, can cause bodily or physical disturbances. So the wrong kind of emotions can harm your body. God’s Word says: “A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones.” (Prov. 14:30) One really interested in his welfare, both spiritually and physically, will want to conquer jealousy.
LOVE IS NOT JEALOUS
There is a powerful way to conquer envy: by the way of love. “Love is not jealous.” (1 Cor. 13:4, NW) Love knows no jealousy; it feels no envy. Love casts out jealousy. Look at Jonathan’s love for David. Jonathan was the eldest son of King Saul, the one who would have inherited his father’s throne, but Jehovah gave the kingship to David. From the human standpoint, Jonathan should have been fiercely jealous of David. But not so. And why? Because the love between them was great. Love had cast out all jealousy.
Christian love places God and his organization above oneself. Some brothers in a congregation are more gifted than others. These may have certain inborn abilities and manifestations of God’s spirit that others do not have. These gifted ones should not be envied. They are Christ’s gift to the congregation. These “gifts in men” are given “with a view to the training of the holy ones for ministerial work.” (Eph. 4:7-12, NW) So what if others do have abilities that you do not yet have or may never have? Be glad. Be glad because these gifted ones contribute to the congregation’s upbuilding and equipment for the ministry. So benefit from such gifted brothers. Enjoy their services. Rejoice with them in their successes. They were given for your profit, not for your envy.
Pangs of envy and jealousy can easily crop up when we look on those more splendidly endowed than ourselves, especially if such ones are in our age group. But true love is strong. It is strong enough to endure differences in endowment, just as Christian love is strong and pure enough to endow with graciousness and humility those who are so privileged. “Love is not jealous, it does not brag, does not get puffed up.”—1 Cor. 13:4, NW.
Love feels no envy. Love actuates one to appreciate abilities in others no matter what the relative effect may seem to be on one’s own position. If you think of the upbuilding of God’s organization, you will not be conscious of self. Those who are truly mature rejoice in the greater success of another even in a sphere similar to that occupied by themselves.
When a Christian congregation meets for study, benefit from the comments of your brothers. Do not envy them. What if some can comment in more appropriate language, more expressive words? It is all for your profit, for the congregation’s benefit. Whether you are listening or commenting yourself, keep your mind on the idea. Think of ideas as impersonal, as something for all to benefit from. If your mind is absorbed in the idea there will be no room for envy of the person expressing the idea.
What if some brothers are more effective in advancing the good news than others? Be glad. Be glad for them. Be glad for the organization.
When envy crops up it hinders God’s work. A brother or a sister in a congregation may be exceptionally zealous. That one may turn back-calls into studies and studies into Kingdom publishers faster than any others in the congregation. Certain brothers may note this one’s fine zeal and effectiveness and by comparison feel that they suffer. They become envious. They may treat the zealous one inconsiderately and fail to give needed help. Such envious persons are unbalanced. They are putting themselves ahead of God’s organization. They fail to understand that Christians are not competing. Mature Christians are not trying to see who is the most zealous, who is the best public speaker, who can make the finest comments or who can place the most literature. So “let us not become egotistical, stirring up competition with one another, envying one another.” (Gal. 5:25, 26, NW) Rather, let us be “encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.”—Heb. 10:25, NW.
BE ON GUARD AGAINST JEALOUSY
Jealousy is such a despicable, shameful emotion that those who are jealous do not like to admit it even to themselves. Their own consciences may despise and detest jealousy. Then why do they become jealous? It is often because they are not on guard against jealousy. Envy is sinister. It can slip into one’s unconscious mind. One does not need to say to himself, “Well, I’m jealous of that person,” before he shows envy by his actions. You know what the manifestations of jealousy are, such as coldness, unfriendliness, belittling others. If you detect these manifestations in yourself at any time, stop and think. Think deep enough to pull out any roots of jealousy that may have found fertile soil in the unconscious mind. Said Jesus: “Be on the alert and on guard against every kind of covetousness.”—Luke 12:15, NW.
The way to guard against jealousy is to “put away the old personality which conforms to your former course of conduct” and to “put on the new personality which was created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loving-kindness.” (Eph. 4:22-24, NW) Then you will be armed with the right mental attitude, the kind one. Says Romans 12:16 (NW): “Be minded the same way toward others as to yourselves.” You do not begrudge yourself abilities or success. So do not begrudge others what you enjoy and appreciate in yourself. Really, “be minded the same way toward others as to yourselves.”
Guard further against jealousy by doing, as the apostle says, “nothing out of contentiousness or out of egotism, but with lowliness of mind considering that the others are superior to you.” (Phil. 2:3, NW) This does not mean that a Christian should speak slightingly of his own abilities, always disparaging himself. That kind of humbleness lacks sincerity; usually it is nothing but a cover for vanity. But what the apostle means is that a Christian should look to the larger good, leaving himself entirely out of account, “with lowliness of mind considering that the others are superior to you.” True humility, like love, guards against envy.
Envy profits nobody. The Devil envied Jehovah; the Devil will lose everything. Envy brings one to ruin. So why be envious of one another? Even right now the envious are in a sad state of affairs: they are tormented not only by troubles that the old world brings but also by all the good that happens to others. What a miserable existence! So let us not envy one another. Show real maturity. Rejoice with those who rejoice. Encourage others to greater success in Jehovah’s service. That is the way of true Christian love.