Skip to comments.The Seven Deadly Sins: Envy
Posted on 02/27/2018 8:09:24 AM PST by Salvation
There is a picture of envy in First Book if Samuel: Upon Davids return from slaying Goliath, the women sing a song praising him. Saul should rejoice with all Israel but instead he is resentful and envies David: Saul was very angry and resentful of the song, for he thought, They give David ten thousands, but only thousands to me. All that remains for him is the kingship. And from that day on, Saul looked upon David with a glaring eye. Saul discussed his intention of killing David with his son Jonathan and with all his servants (1 Sam 18:6-9). Sauls reaction is way over the top; this is what envy does.
What is envy? Most people use the word as a synonym for jealousy, but traditionally speaking they are not the same.
When I am jealous of you, I want to possess something that you haveinordinately so. The key point is that there is something good about you, or there is something good that you have, that I want to have for myself. Jealousy is sinful when one desires something inordinately or unreasonably.
Envys Theological Definition – In traditional theology, envy is quite different from jealousy (cf Summa Theologiae II, IIae 36.1). Envy is sorrow, sadness, or anger at the goodness or excellence of someone else because I take it as lessening my own. The key difference is that with envy (unlike with jealousy) I do not merely want to possess for myself the good or excellence you have, I want to destroy it in you.
Notice in the reading above that Saul wants to kill David. This is because he thinks that Davids excellence makes him look less excellent, less great. Saul should rejoice in Davids gifts, for they are gifts to all Israel. David is a fine soldier and this is a blessing for everyone. The proper response to Davids excellence should be to rejoice, to be thankful to God, and where possible to imitate Davids courage and excellence. Instead, Saul sulks. He sees David as stealing the limelight and possibly even the kingdom from him. Envy rears its ugly head when Saul concludes that David must die. The good that is in David must be destroyed.
Envy is diabolical. St. Augustine called envy the diabolical sin (De catechizandis rudibus 4,8:PL 40,315-316) because it seeks to minimize, end, or destroy what is good. Scripture says, By the envy of the Devil, death entered the world (Wis 2:24). Seeing the excellence that Adam and Eve (made in the image of God) had, and possibly knowing of plans for the incarnation, the Devil envied Adam and Eve. Their glory lessened hisor so he thoughtand so he set out to destroy the goodness in them. Envy is ugly and it is diabolical.
Examples of Envy – I remember experiencing envy in my early years. In every classroom there were always a few students who got As on every test. They always behaved and the teacher would sometimes praise them, saying, Why cant the rest of you be like Johnny and Susie? Some hated students like this because they made them look bad. So what did some of them do? They sought to pressure the teachers pets to conform to their mediocrity. In effect, they sought to destroy the goodness or excellence in the A students. They would taunt them with names and pelt them with spitballs. If ridicule and isolation didnt work, sometimes theyd just plain beat them up. This is envy.
Virtues that overcome envy – The proper response to observing goodness or excellence in another is joy and zeal. We should rejoice that they are blessed, because when they are blessed, we are blessed. Further, we should respond with a zeal that seeks to imitate (where possible) their goodness or excellence. Perhaps we can learn from them or from their good example. Instead, envy rejects joy and zeal, and with sorrow and anger sets out to destroy what is good.
Envy can be subtle. Envy isnt always obvious; sometimes its something we do almost without thinking. When theres someone at work who is a rising star, we may engage in gossip and defamation that undermines their reputation or tarnishes their image. We may do this at times in an unreflective manner; we diminish or belittle others and their accomplishments through careless and insensitive remarks. We often do this because we need to knock others down in order to feel better about ourselves. This is envy. Sometimes we show envy passively by failing to praise or encourage others or by not calling attention to their accomplishments.
Envy concealed with a smile Finally, there is an odd form of envy that is particularly annoying because it masquerades as sensitivity and kindness. Consider a typical youth soccer or baseball game. The children are on the field playing their hearts out. On the sidelines, a decision has been made by the coaches not to keep score. Why? Because the childrens egos might be damaged by losing. Frankly, it probably isnt the egos of the children being protected but rather those of the parents. The fact is that the kids know the score in most cases. God forbid that on the sports field there should be winners or losers! The losers might feel bad. The solution is to destroy or to refuse to acknowledge the goodness and excellence in some children because it is taken to lessen that of the losers.
This is envy and it teaches terrible things (by omission). First, it fails to teach that there are winners and losers in life; this is a fact of life. Sometimes you win; sometimes you lose. Either way you should be gracious. Second, it fails to reward excellence, which is unjust. Excellence should be rewarded, and that reward should motivate others to strive for excellence. Much is lost when we fail to praise what is good.
Another example of this practice is at school award ceremonies at which scads of awards are given out. There are the traditional Honor Roll awards but then a plethora of made-up awards, created so that everyone gets something. I even witnessed an award given for the nicest smile! The problem is that when everyone is rewarded, no one is rewarded. Once again envy subtly rears its ugly head, but this time its wearing a smiley face. Heaven forbid that some childs ego be bruised because he doesnt get something; someone elses excellence might make him look less excellent by comparison.
The bottom line is that it is envy: sorrow at someone elses excellence because I take it to lessen my own. Frankly this usually less of an issue for the kids that it is for the parents and teachers, who are projecting their own struggle with envy on them. The fact is, there are simply some people who are better than others at certain thingsand thats OK. None of us individually has all the gifts, but together we do.
Envy is ugly, even when it masquerades as kindness and fairness. It diminishes and often seeks to destroy goodness and excellence. The proper response to excellence and goodness is and should always be joy and zeal.
In the story of Snow White, the wicked queen envied Snow White, who was the fairest of them all. Considering Snow Whites beauty as a threat, the evil queen cast a spell on Snow White to remove her beauty from the scene. Envy consumed the evil queen.
Monsignor Pope Ping!
As a counter-example to King Saul, consider Moses, who is described as “the meekest man on earth.” When someone came tattling to Moses about men who were “prophesying in the camp,” Moses said, “Wonderful! Keep it up! I wish every one of God’s people was a prophet!”
I really wish I was as good as you at finding and posting things like this!
(Really, I am reading closer now).
Envy is the other side of the coin of vanity. They are different but closely related. Vanity leads to envy which matures into hate, then murder, war, and voting Democrat. All sin originates with vanity.
I can’t find this in the bible.
**Jesus was killed in envy. **
But wasn’t it the will of the Father?
They give David ten thousands, but only thousands to me. All that remains for him is the kingship. And from that day on, Saul looked upon David with a glaring eye. Saul discussed his intention of killing David with his son Jonathan and with all his servants (1 Sam 18:6-9)
By the envy of the Devil, death entered the world (Wis 2:24).
What about Cain and Abel?
"It was out of envy that they handed Jesus over" (Mark 15:10)
The will of the Father is that we have free will. No father wants their only son to be nailed to a cross, but the Father accepts that is the price of gifting free will.
Envy, I think, is probably the most destructive sin.
It’s what’s driving the envious equalitarian movement.
9 Pilate answered, Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?
10 For he knew that it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed him over.
Collective envy explains geopolitics and modern day anti-Americanism in a nutshell. Countries the world over envy the U.S. despite all its weaknesses.
His explanation of the destructiveness of envy is evident in society. Instead of being inspired to do better and improve, people infected with envy seek to tear down others that do better. The crab bucket mentality is a good illustration of such. So is the entire “white privilege” neurosis.
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