An Exploration of Galatians: Deeds of the Flesh Part 6
Galatians 19-21 - Envy rots the bones and destroys the soul.
”Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.“
Galatians 5:19-21 NASB1995
The last relational sin in this passage is envy (envying). Although I covered jealousy in a previous devotional and the two terms can be used interchangeably, envy is a much more corrosive sin. Usually, when we are jealous, it is because of a fear that we will lose something (or someone) that we currently possess. But envy is always due to a feeling of ill-will and malice because of what someone else possesses.
Let’s do our usual word study: Envying (using the context from the verse) comes from the Greek word φθόνος or phthonos meaning to envy! Love those circular definitions! However, if you look at the lexicon, it notes that this word is probably akin to Strong’s G5351, which is φθείρω or phtheiro, which means to corrupt, be corrupt, defile, or destroy. Envy is a soul-destroyer.
I used the photo above because our culture is rotting in a state of envy and you see similar signs (“eat the rich”, “kill the rich”, “tax the rich”) in so many of the interminable protests that occur in this country for a variety of reasons that often seem bewildering. Many, if not most, people hate that someone else has more of something (wealth, looks, possessions, talent, power) than they have. Their solution is not to work harder, save their money, develop their talents, or improve their appearance. Their solution is to take away from those who have more in the misguided (and Marxist) believe that those who have more have somehow mysteriously robbed those who have less. They covet what someone else has to the point of madness, transforming into a debased creature very much like Gollum in “Lord of the Rings”. As noted in the photo below, the being on the right is Sméagol, when he first found the ring of power. Over 500 years later, he is the pathetic creature on the left, obsessed with having the ring again.
So what do Biblical commentators say about envy? I found an excellent answer in Gotquestions.org; here is an extract from that answer:
The first bout of envy in the Bible surfaces in the story of Cain and Abel. Cain, the older brother, killed Abel out of envy because God looked with favor on the younger brother’s sacrifice but did not accept Cain’s offering (Genesis 4:3–5). Later, Esau envied his brother, Jacob, because of the blessing his father Isaac had given him (Genesis 27:41). Rachel envied her sister because Leah gave birth to Jacob’s sons while Rachel remained childless (Genesis 30:1). Saul envied David for his success in battle and his popularity among the people (1 Samuel 15:6–16). The Jewish leaders had Jesus arrested because they were seized with envy (Mark 15:10).
The Bible paints a vivid picture of envy’s devastating effects. If left to grow in one’s heart, envy will lead to spiritual, emotional, and physical death: “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones” (Proverbs 14:30). Here the New Living Translation likens envy to “cancer in the bones.” And in James 3:14–16, we find this stern warning about the sin of envy: “But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.”
Envy is an issue of the heart. Jesus taught that purity and godliness come from inside a person and not from external actions (Mark 7:14–15). Envy is one of many inward vices or heart attitudes that defile a person: “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, . . . deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you” (Mark 7:20–23, NLT).
“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones” from Proverbs summarizes this dreadful sin quite well. Envy usually springs from the worst sin of all: Pride. Pride leads to selfish ambition and the gnawing recognition that you lack something that you deserve. What we deserve is eternal condemnation for our sins, but God loves us so much that He can even forgive envy and pride if we believe in Jesus. We can become content and joyful in what we do have. Trust in the Lord and delight in Him!
My next devotional examines the social sins in this passage: Drunkenness and Carousing. I will also touch on “and such as these”, the catch-all phrase that Paul uses at the end of the deeds of the flesh.
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Lord - Please remove envy from my heart and replace it with contentment and trust in You for my joy! Amen.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org
The Blue Letter Bible was accessed on 12/29/2023 to review the lexicon entries for envy and envying.
Gotquestions.org was accessed on 12/29/2023 for the answer to “what is envy”.