Shakespeare called it “the green sickness.” Bacon admitted “it has no holidays.” Horace declared that “tyrants never invented a greater torment.” Barrie said envy “is the most corroding of the vices.” Sheridan referred to it in his play The Critic when he wrote, “There is not a passion so strongly rooted in the human heart as this.” Philip Bailey, the eloquent English poet of yesteryear, vividly described it as “a coal [that] comes hissing hot from hell.”
And speaking of hell, no one has done a better job of portraying envy than Dante. In his Purgatory, you may recall, the envious sit like blind beggars by a wall. Their eyelids are sewed shut. The symbolism is apt, showing the reader that it is one of the blindest sins—partly because it is unreasonable, partly because the envious person is sewed up in himself. Swollen with poisonous thoughts. In a dark, constricting world of almost unendurable self-imposed anguish.
Envy in Scripture? Look at the facts. It sold Joseph into slavery, drove David into exile, threw Daniel in the den, and put Christ on trial. (If you question that, better check Matthew 27:18.) Paul tells us that it’s one of the prevailing traits of depravity (Romans 1:29) and a team member that plays in the same backfield with profanity, suspicion, and conceit (1 Timothy 6:4).
The answer? Contentment. Feeling comfortable and secure with where you are and who you are. Not having to “be better” or “go further” or “own more” or “prove to the world” or “reach the top” or . . .
Having some big struggles with envy? Eating your heart out because somebody’s a step or two ahead of you in the race and gaining momentum? Relax. You are you—not them! And you are responsible to do the best you can with what you’ve got for as long as you’re able.
Remember, the race isn’t over. And even when it is, a lot of things you got hot and bothered about during your lifetime won’t even show up in eternity. I don’t care how many trophies or awards or dollars or degrees may be earned or won on earth, you can’t take ’em with you. So it isn’t worth the sweat. Death always cures “the green sickness.”
Excerpt taken from Come before Winter and Share My Hope by Charles R. Swindoll. Copyright © 1985, 1988, 1994 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.