Envy isn’t the kind of sin that makes the top of my list of worst things in life. It’s easy to avoid facing that you are caught up in envy at first. Envy can hide behind other more obvious faults like jealousy, slander or mean old anger. Yet if you follow the beginning of these more obvious sins, they might have taken root with envy. Envy can seem harmless at first, but it reveals a distance from God and loving His purpose for your own life.
1 Corinthians 13:4 brings it up as the opposite of love. In fact, it is the first descriptor of what love is not. I needed someone to point out to me how hurtful envy can be to your soul. It wasn’t until then that I realized how it has been destroying my own. When it comes to fixing things between me and God, I didn’t think envy had anything to do with us. I thought it was a secret sin that I felt towards another person. I didn’t pay it much attention because it didn’t hurt them since they never knew I had the envy, and it didn’t hurt God because it didn’t concern Him.
That was until I was surprised when I read that St. John Toblsk brought up envy as the number one reason that a human-will does not love and strive to please God more than self. At first, I thought I was reading it wrong or not understanding properly. I never expected envy to be so important to blocking our intimacy with God and keep us from truly pleasing Him. 1 Corinthians 13:4 brought it more home as Paul brought it up first on his list of what love is not as well: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant.”
It took me a moment to think of what stirred envy in my own soul. Only because Toblsk made it first on the list of why I don’t love God’s will and seek to please Him with my whole heart, did I even think about how envy plagues my soul. With God’s help I had a lightbulb moment of understanding how obvious the envy in my soul distracted me from God. I wasn’t even mad at God for not letting me have what I envied, I was just sad and pathetic and full of self-pity that I didn’t have what I envied.
What makes envy so atrocious is that it is a slap in the face to God. Toblsk states: “When we see others’ joy, we must not envy them, nor should we become angry with our own misfortune or lack of success.” When he came forward with the importance of envy in offending God, I realized how much I had been wrestling with God. I didn’t envy a particular person—perhaps if I had I would have known that sin sooner, but it was a general sense of loss of what I didn’t have when I was with others who have it. It is a reality that plagues my heart and hides behind other more obvious sins like slander and gossip. I wasn’t considering that God is ultimately the one who is preventing me from having what He gives freely to others. It is His divine will that I am rejecting. That is why Toblsk states: “This is the first instruction and preparation for preserving ones will pure from sin in general, and especially from hatred and envy.
For reasons, only God knows, my life has been ordered up in this way that I do not have what I envy in others. It is not meant to be in my life. I can see how He uses it to help me surrender deeper to Him even though I don’t understand and though my will is not His will quite yet. Once envy has been exposed, I have more insight into how I miss what I do have in my personal, God-loving journey. I have this lack of what I envy to drive me to Him for strength and comfort to live without what I envy. I realize that envy keeps me from blessing God for what I have.
What do you envy? How is not addressing envy costing you?