The Webster’s New Dictionary defines envy as “bitter or longing consideration of another’s better fortune or success or qualities.” The English Thesaurus defines it in its noun form as “jealousy”, “greed”, “desire”, “resentment”, “spite”. In its verb form, the following words define it as “be jealous of”, “be envious of”, “covet”, “resent”, “begrudge”, “grudge”.

From the definitions above, there are two sides to envy. There is the angle of resentment or spite and there is the angle of an invidious desire also known as covetousness. The competitive spirit is borne out of envy. It arises from coveting what another has and practically having sleepless nights in an attempt to have same or more, not because it is needful but just to prove to the one envied that he is not the only one who can achieve it. In Proverbs 14:30, the Bible calls envy the rottenness of the bones. The bones constitute the framework for the skeletal structure of a person’s body. If they are rotten, the state of the entire structure is better imagined.

Most manifestations of bitterness and spite of another person are directly related to envy. This is why an envious person is generally fidgety and unhappy in the presence of the object of his envy, for the simple reason that he is not happy with the fact that he is not in the enviable person’s position.

I watched a Nollywood movie recently titled, “I Want Your Wife” In that film, the peace of an entire family was forever shattered because of one brother’s envy of his only sibling. The resentment was such that the younger went to the extent of doing everything possible to sleep with his elder brother’s wife. He succeeded but at the cost of his own life.

Another Nollywood film, “Blood Sisters” tells the gory story of how the younger of two sisters resented her sister’s good fortune to the extent of actually poisoning her in order to marry her husband. In the Bible, Cain killed his only brother Abel out of envy. Abel’s sin? God had expressed His approval of Abel and disapproval of Cain. Instead of making amends, Cain simply eliminated the object of his envy – his own younger brother! Remember Joseph and his brothers? Joseph got into trouble with his brothers because their father did not hide his preference for him. To make matters worse, Joseph woke up one morning and announced to his brothers that he had a dream that seemed to indicate that he was going to be head over them! While they were still trying to grapple with the meaning of the first dream, he announced to them that he had another one! They conspired to kill him but providence made them change their minds but they still sold him into slavery.

Unfortunately, envy is a sentiment that does not respect age, race, status or stature. An employer can envy his employee who he perceives has something, a virtue or a quality he the employer does not have. Think of David and King Saul, his employer. Several years ago, I went into the office of a former boss of mine for a discussion relating to the progress of the organization. As soon as I left, he called his secretary and told her to go and warn me. My offence? Girls liked me – I was a bachelor then – and my dressing style was too sophisticated! His advice? I should wait for my money to “arrive” before wearing the kind of clothes and shoes I wore! After all, even he who was paying my salary didn’t wear the things I wore! I later learnt that he had been unsuccessfully eyeing a lady I was very close to!

Envy is actually admiration turned upside down. The one who envies you actually admires something in you that he does not have and is probably not willing to pay the price to get. Perhaps he even tried but failed. In such an event the envious person unnecessarily begins to disparage and try to belittle the envied. What envious people desire and cannot have, they despise? Sounds familiar? However, know that if you always belittle others, you will always yourself be little. The story is told of a fox that entered a vineyard and saw so many grapes. He wanted so badly to have them. He jumped up several times without success to try and grab the grapes. After several unsuccessful attempts, he got tired and started walking away while saying to himself, ‘The grapes are probably sour or rotten anyway”
…..to be continued.

Remember, the sky is not your limit, God is!

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