Imagine a family with several children and they are competitive amongst one another. They may be jealous for their parents’ affection or approval. Each child tries to outdo the other in some skill or behavior, and in the process, they almost always become critical, sometimes even physical with one another. This sense of competition can be seen in young children but also in grown adults.

Maybe the younger sibling wants the position of the older, “privileged sibling,” or the older child may want to be the “babied” one of the family “who gets away with everything.” In some families you may even hear, “You’re dad’s favorite,” or “You’re mom’s favorite.” Sound familiar?

Some Biblical families may come to mind. Cain and Abel, nice loving pair of brothers; Jacob and Esau, they didn’t take a breath before they began their rivalry; and what about Joseph and his brothers? Even Rachel and Leah?

Is this natural, expected behavior among brothers and sisters? Did the parents contribute to the problem? To some degree, we can say young children are on a growing curve of figuring out their place in the world. In this season, training should occur. Parents should equip children to curb the desires of the flesh and replace them with the teachings and virtues of the L-rd. But, that doesn’t always happen.

Quite often we see adult children still behaving in a pattern of sibling rivalry. As we see in Scripture, there is nothing new under the sun. In modern terms, we call these families dysfunctional.

So what is at the root of this need to compete? What drives it? There are many emotions which we can point to, and how we respond to those emotions can cause us to sin. In this context, two come to mind, envy and jealousy —with pride being the root of all sin. Eew! No one wants to hear those words.

This not only relates to our families of the flesh, it also relates to our families in the blood of Messiah Yeshua, our communities. Envy and jealousy (in a negative sense) are emotions that when unchecked almost always produce rotten, smelly fruit, and that’s putting it mildly. The pungent smell makes everyone around its manifestation sick and its end result is death. 

In Scripture, there are several places where we find sins grouped together with serious consequences. In Galations 5:19-21, there is a large list of sins which keep us from inheriting the Kingdom of G-d, envy and jealousy being among them. In Proverbs 6:16-19, we find pride among the seven detestable sins that the L-rd calls an abomination. In James 3:16, it says that “For where envy and disputation [selfish ambition] are, there also is confusion and everything wrong [evil work].” We know confusion comes from the enemy; so no need to guess who is pulling the strings of this emotion.

Though I used humor regarding Cain and Abel’s brotherly love, we see in their story and other areas of Scripture that envy and jealousy, among other sins, can result in physical death. This is evidence to the gravity of such sins.

A far worse death, however, is not physical death, but spiritual death, the death that separates us from a relationship with our Father in Heaven, even into eternity. While sins may have various immediate and long-term natural consequences, the truth is all sin separates us from G-d; plain and simple.

We all have emotions, some of them good, some of them not so good. G-d wired us to have feelings which generate emotions, but He requires us to temper them with self control and use them to direct us to righteous living. A simple example of this is shown in the Scripture (Ephesians 4:26-27) where it tells us to “be angry and sin not, neither let the sun go down upon your wrath,” because…you will give place to who? The Accuser, also known as the devil…who causes confusion and every evil work.

So what does envy look like in the community of Believers? Well, certainly the ways in which this sin can manifest are endless, but how do we commonly see it? We see it when we look at the gifts, responsibilities, character, or positions of others in the body and our faces turn bright puke green. Yes, puke because it makes you want to just throw up.

If we find ourselves coveting another believer who is rightfully functioning in their gifts or position, and furthermore find our words of them becoming critical, we can be assured the envy bug has bitten us. The other bug that bites and causes an apprehensive or vengeful spirit in the community is jealousy.

Different from envy, jealousy is an emotion that drives us to sin when we fear someone may take someone or something from us, like remove us from a position or take our place. Envy, on the other hand, is an emotion associated with coveting and holding a grudge. With this emotion, we experience distress over comparing our well being to someone else based on something he or she possesses. Instead, our self worth and well being should be evaluated through G-d.

Just like the children in a family competing with one another to get noticed and comparing themselves to each other, members of the body of believers can find themselves behaving in this sort of sibling rivalry.

Now in many aspects, children will be their own creators of trouble regardless of parental involvement, but parents certainly play an influential role. They can facilitate a healthy environment and nurture individual worth in their children, or they can provoke an unhealthy competitive spirit. In like manner, in the body of believers, there are shepherds that in many ways take on a role similar to parents. They can encourage growth and brotherly love in the body of believers, or they can provoke an unhealthy competitive spirit.

The dynamics of shepherds and the body of believers are important. Shepherds need to be aware of how their leadership directly influences the behavior of those in the body. Even still, the responsibility lies in each of us to do our part in keeping our emotions and behaviors in line with G-d’s Word.

Jealousy and envy will inevitably lead to a recipe for confusion and disorder, a place for the enemy to have a field day. The ingredients will include things like criticism, gossip, slander, clicks, revenge, and the serving will be death of unity and focus. Feelings will be hurt, offenses will increase, and worse, people will walk away from the body. These are needless casualties in the body of Messiah.

Let’s focus on how we can correct jealousy and envy on an individual level.

The bottom line is the parent that we should be seeking to please is our Heavenly Father. Because He is perfect, we can trust His love for us will not waver. His judgment is perfect and fair. Scripture tells us He is “no respecter of persons” in Acts 10:34-35. He receives us just as He created us and desires to be in relationship with us. That in a nutshell should eliminate our need to compare or compete, but we don’t make it that easy.

When we look at a gift, trait, blessing, or position of another believer with envy, we are in effect saying to our Heavenly Father, the purpose and blessings You have for me aren’t good enough because I want to be like him or her, or have what she or he has. We defeat ourselves.

When we compare our worth through envy, we are forgetting that our Father created us with a purpose. We are forgetting that with everything He wants to accomplish in us, He will provide all that is necessary to do it – IN His perfect timing for our specific journey.

Furthermore, when we are in a state of sin, there is a hindrance in growth, blessings pass us by, and there’s a disconnect in intimacy with our Father. The lingering effect is an infection in our spirit that affects our relationships to others. The negative that we allow to feed in through the lust [earthly desires] of our eyes and ears takes root in our heart, and it will pour out in spoiled rotten fruit in word and deed. The confusion and everything wrong will manifest in the body of believers and give place to the enemy.

This is important to understand and to know that we know that we know. He has a plan for each of us, for good things, to give us peace, not evil, but rather hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). He bestows us with gifts, equipment, and wisdom, all given in real time as needed. And His desire is to bless us…abundantly.

We should be mindful to operate in the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self control. We can take our negative emotions and overcome them with good virtues. To conquer jealousy and envy we need to walk in humility, remove pride, and love one another.

When we worship and serve the L-rd where He has placed us, we honor Him. When we operate in the gifts He has given us, we please Him and we grow. When we bless others in their gifts and callings, we love Him and strengthen the body of believers. In all these things, we should walk in obedience, submitted to the L-rd with thanksgiving and praise.

Remember this. For every emotion we have, there is a check point, G-d’s Word. This is why we are instructed in 2 Corinthians 10:5 to take every thought captive and bring it into obedience of Messiah. We need to bathe and cleanse our thoughts with the Word: so that we do not sin… so we do not give place to the enemy… so that we do not experience death in fellowship. Amen.