There are three English words that are often used synonymously, but which nevertheless describe three very different things. They are coveting, jealousy, and envy. Hopefully the distinction between these is well known to you, but even if it is, to write the same thing to you is no trouble to me and safe to you, so it bears repeating.
To covet is to look at your neighbor’s possession and say, “I want that.” He pulls into the driveway with the brand new truck, and your 2008 Honda Odyssey suddenly seems pretty drab. Or you go over to her house and she’s remodeled the kitchen and it just looks so great, and you want it. Coveting is basic discontentedness.
To be jealous is to look at your own possession and say, “Neighbor, you may not have this.” In many instances this is not wrong. In fact, it is required and godly. Exodus 34:14 says “For thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous is a jealous God.” There are things that you have that it is not right for others to possess: your spouse, your children, time that you owe to your family and calling, and so on. Jealousy can be misplaced, but overall it is a good thing.
But envy is the subtlest of the bunch. Envy looks at the goods of another and says, “I want you to not have that.” Coveting is an honest and almost humble sin in that it tacitly acknowledges inferiority, but envy is vain and petty. You can envy someone on Instagram you’ve never met and also your best friend. Envy would tear down the world in order to be an inch taller than everyone else. It’s like a sneaky mix of pride and malice. It’s a vice no one boasts about, but no one is free from its pull.
This vice currently has our nation by the throat and is dragging us down to the pit. Let it have no place among the people of God.
Joshua Edgren – October 22, 2023