“Envy is the art of counting the other fellow’s blessings instead of your own.” (Harold Coffin)

I think the primary problem with envy is a loss of perspective. We often think the “good life” is the one we don’t have; the life that someone else has. 

A good illustration of this comes from Proverbs 23.1-3: “When you sit down to dine with a ruler, consider carefully what is before you, and put a knife to your throat If you are a man of great appetite. Do not desire his delicacies, for it is deceptive food.”

Who wouldn’t want to be invited to a king’s banquet? Who wouldn’t want the best food prepared by the best chefs served in the best setting? What could possibly be wrong? Solomon’s point is that if something looks too good to be true, be cautious. 

Almost all of Proverbs 23 is a warning against envy in some form or another. Solomon tells us to be cautious about wanting what others have. In fact, he tells us that even if the grass is greener in your neighbor’s yard, it may also be poisonous.

As you step through the chapter, there’s a warning against envying the wealth and status of a ruler (v 1-3); a warning against desiring wealth (v 4-5); a warning against being friendly with a miser (v 6-8); a warning against friendship with sinners (v 15-19); a warning against desiring a prostitute (v 26-28); a warning against seeking solace in alcohol (v 29-35). The implicit message is that these seeming avenues of bliss are really cul-de-sacs of misery.

What’s the solution to envy? The answer is the exact center point of the chapter: “Do not let your heart envy sinners but live in the fear of the LORD always” (verse 17). 

The fear of the Lord brings happiness and fulfillment because it brings perspective and discernment. It keeps us from desiring things that are harmful or meaningless. It helps us discern between what’s worth pursuing and what’s worthless. It helps us see on the one hand what we should worry about, and on the other hand, what’s pointless. 

If you struggle with jealousy and envy, there’s a solution. Rather than looking across the fence, look up. Rather than thinking about your neighbor’s possessions, think about God’s provisions. Rather than wanting to be like others, learn to be more like God.