In his tragedy Othello, Shakespeare famously wrote, “O beware, my lord, of jealousy; It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.” I’m not sure how the color green became synonymous with envy and jealousy, but it’s stuck. Maybe you’ve even heard the phrase “green with envy.” But that “green-eyed monster” has certainly done damage, even before Shakespeare gave it a name. Proverbs 14:30 (NIV) warns us, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.”

Envy is one of the great enemies every one of us will encounter. It keeps us from loving our neighbors, from functioning with others in a community, and from affirming people’s unique worth. Envy steals contentment from the heart. Along with other vices, it robs us of peace in our relationships and replaces it with drama. The Renaissance Italian poet, Petrarch, used to say that five great enemies of peace dwell in us: “avarice, ambition, envy, anger, and pride,” and “if those enemies were to be banished, we should infallibly enjoy perpetual Peace.”

Envy is the desire to equal another in achievement, excellence, or possessions. It comes from a desire to have what we lack rather than to give what we have. The ancients referred to it as a malignant or hostile feeling.Augustine lists envy among “the passions [that] rage like tyrants, and throw into confusion the whole soul and life of men with storms from every quarter.” He then describes such a soul as having an “eagerness to win what is not possessed. . . . Wherever he turns, avarice can confine him, self-indulgence dissipate him, ambition master him, pride puff him up, envy torture him, sloth drug him.”

An apt term: torture. This is the toll envy takes on its victims, like a man stretched across a brutal rack. Jealousy and envy work together to pull our hearts apart. Though they overlap, jealousy and envy aren’t quite the same. Jealousy wants to possess what it already has; envy wants to have what another possesses. Jealousy turns into paranoid defensiveness, resulting in hoarding and controlling what we have—whether people or things. Envy is dissatisfied with what one has and wants what others have. Both of these related vices stir up drama in our lives when our words and actions begin to reflect the overflow of our tainted hearts. — Charles R. Swindoll, Life Is 10% What Happens to You and 90% How You React (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2023), 107–108.

This Sunday, we will explore what the Bible says about slaying the green-eyed monster of envy.