In his book, Maxims for a Modern Man author Paul Eldridge writes that our envy is "the yeast that swells the fortune of others." People caught up in the sin of envy are always comparing themselves to others. They exaggerate the blessings others have and minimize their own. In other words: Envious people keep score.
This is the situation in Saul's life. Saul is king. He is a powerful man. He commands the armies of the nation. He has wealth that the common man cannot begin to imagine. The pleasures and accommodations that palace life afford him are luxurious. But Saul is an unhappy and anxious man.
Let me tell you the story: Saul has given a teenaged boy named David a high rank within his army. What else could he do after the ‘Goliath incident’? Verse five of our text tells us that whatever assignment the king gave David, the young man successfully accomplished it. As the years go by, David's reputation as a military leader and a man of integrity grows by leaps and bounds. As his successes pile up so do Saul's anxieties. After some notable military victory over the Philistines, the women of the capitol give David an ovation, and declare in their songs that he has achieved a success ten times as great as the king's. The result was an outburst of ill-will in Saul's life toward David. Saul increasingly became aware that David’s popularity had supplanted the king’s in the popular esteem of the people. The result was that envy filled his heart.
Envy is blind to one’s own gifts and good fortune. The envious person may have some wonderful assets and abilities, but all he or she can see are the gifts or blessings or fortunes they don’t have, but that another does. What another person has always seems larger or better or more special.
Had Saul been the high-minded, spirit-filled man he was when appointed king by the prophet Samuel, he would have thrust such thoughts from his thinking. But his mind had become cankered with envy and brooding thoughts.
Envy is one of those transgressions that have come to be called the Seven Deadly Sins. Of the seven, envy is probably the meanest, nastiest, and most vicious. Envy only looks at what we do not have and poisons what we do have. An old proverb says, A person who is green with envy' will be ripe for trouble.' So why is envy so deadly to your spiritual life?
Envy is more of a problem in our lives than most of us are willing to admit. In a recent survey in Discipleship Journal, believers ranked envy in the top ten list of spiritual challenges they struggle with. With abundant help from the media, we are encouraged to focus on what others have that we don’t. Instead of giving thanks for our vacation by the lake, we’re encouraged to envy the person who owns lake property. Instead of appreciating your apartment, you find yourself looking at your colleague’s four-bedroom home.
Envy is an attitude that must be purged from a Christian’s life. Reduced to its basic components, envy is simply self-centeredness. How many churches have been wrecked, how many missionary organizations have been riddled with dissension, how many families have been destroyed, all by envy?
In his letter, the Apostle James warns Christians about the demonic influence of envy: “But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” (James 3:14-16) NIV