The first sin (after the Garden of Eden) was envy, and that sin led to the first murder in the Bible. Cain and Abel were brothers. Abel was a shepherd and Cain was a gardener. “And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof.” (Gen 4:3-4, KJV). Cain brought a portion of his crop, but Abel brought of the firstborn (of the best he had to offer). “And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. And Cain talked with Abel his brother:and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.” (Gen 4:4-8). The Lord told Cain very clearly that he needed to examine himself and his motives; that his sinful nature would become his downfall — that he would become servant to his sins. Cain went out and talked to Abel, but rather than trying to learn how to do better, rather than seeing his own faults of not offering his best as an offering, he was just jealous because Abel was praised for doing good; his envy got the best of him, and he killed his own brother.
Joseph was sold into slavery by his eleven brothers, because they were envious of how he was cherished by their father Israel. They also knew that Joseph had dreams that came true — one of which was that they would one day be servants to him. “And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him.” (Acts 7:9, KJV). Despite their best efforts, God’s plan prevailed, and they did indeed become servants to Joseph in later years. Our Lord Jesus was even killed, because the leaders were envious over how the people followed Him and listened to Him. His ability to heal them, restore them, and provide them all that they needed fueled their envy. “For he knew that for envy they had delivered him.” (Matt 27:18).
Solomon teaches us to refrain from envy, and to worship God truthfully. “Envy thou not the oppressor, and choose none of his ways.” (Prov 3:31); “A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones.” (Prov 14:30); “Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the LORD all the day long.” (Prov 23:17); “Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?” (Prov 27:4).
Isaiah teaches us that the Lord is the avenger for His people, and He will protect His people from those who try to destroy us, because they are envious of the blessed relationship we have with our Maker. “LORD, when thy hand is lifted up, they will not see: but they shall see, and be ashamed for their envy at the people; yea, the fire of thine enemies shall devour them. LORD, thou wilt ordain peace for us: for thou also hast wrought all our works in us.” (Isa 26:11-12).
The lesson is clear; we are not to be partakers with those who are always envious of others, because it is a clear sign that they are out for their own gain — not God’s gain. They are living for themselves; not the Lord. “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” (I Tim 6:3-7). We are to be humble before the Lord (putting Him first in our lives) and covet not what others have. “Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:5-7).
Let us be content with our daily blessings from the Lord. It is certainly appropriate to ask for more, but He knows how much we need, when we need it, how much we can handle, and He has the final say in what we are given. If we are envious of what others have and we fail to examine ourselves and talk with God about how we have failed Him, we may find that the Lord starts taking away some of our blessings so that we learn to be more thankful and more content with what we have.