Envy the Subtle Serpent


A brief message dealing with the wide-spread presence of and the tremendous damage done by this worthless sin in our churches as well as in our personal lives.

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“Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?” (Proverbs 27:4)

The Hebrew word that is rendered envy here in Proverbs 27:4 is also rendered jealousy. The Greek word in the New Testament that is rendered envy is rendered jealousy, and also, in one place covet, so you can readily see something of the nature of this sin. Few sins, if any, are more prevalent in the lives of Christians. Few are harder for self-diagnosis, and perhaps no single sin, unless it is pride, does more damage to the cause of Christ. Satan uses it like an ever-digging shovel, spading out a great gulf of resentment and hatred between Christians. He holds it like a trowel in his hand constantly scooping up the mortar of human failure and cementing together the stones of self-pride, thus building a wallbetween preachers and laymen alike. I dare say that all the sins of immorality combined have not done so much hurt within God’s churches and among God-called ministers as this sneaky, transparent little serpent of envy.

In our text the wise Solomon warns us that it is more dangerous than either wrath or anger. I can flee from your wrath and fortify myself against your anger, but the serpent of envy is destroying us both while neither of us fully realizes it. I can see, hear, and feel the pangs of slander and criticism as he slithers from your lips, and coils himself about me, but I am hard put to quickly identify the source of those arrows, that I may pray for, rather than retaliate against the offender. On the other hand, when it is my heart from which this slimy serpent crawls to weaken your heart and poison your pathway, I am scarcely aware that he has come out of hibernation.


Quite frequently, I am prodded with snide remarks, hearsay, criticisms, or thoughtless ridicule of acquaintances, and sometimes even close friends, about areas of my ministry, weaknesses in my personality, and sometimes distinct gifts from God. They see me walking away from these attacks, or hear me answering in sarcastic and fleshly retaliation, but I feel myself lying at their feet, weeping and wondering why.


I am certainly not a lone or peculiar victim of this venom. I see it everywhere. If a young lady in church or in school is beautiful or talented, this vicious viper crawls from the dark character recesses of everyone who feels inferior to gnash histeeth upon her, and drag her down to the level of their opinion of themselves. If a young man is stately, studious, or morally straight this roving rattler called envy will constantly hiss, from every dark place, demoralizing and tiring accusations of square, strange, or self-righteous. What a pity that human nature is such that we hate all in others that isbetter than that which we see in ourselves! In this envious state we set out to dethrone and degrade others, motivating them to defend themselves by dragging us down, and thus, on and on goes the contest of Christian killing.


When I look at the slimy trail of this serpent, smell his hideous stink, and see his paralyzed victims laying by the wayside of life, I would to God I could say in the words of the Pharisee in Luke 18:11: “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men,” but alas, I am. I find my heart polluted with, and my own lips speaking out of envy, and I am forced to hang my head in shame and say, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” (Luke 18:13) “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips:” (Isaiah 6:5)


Let’s consider the joys of life that we forfeit when envy reigns in our hearts. We are not able to deeply rejoice over the blessing of others, and much of life’s joy should consist of this. Have you ever witnessed a very great blessing upon someone you really loved, say for instance, a child, or a parent? Do you remember how you rejoiced over their good fortune or blessing? How frequently these blessings come upon fellow Christians and if we have the grace to really rejoice with them, we are frequently afforded free happiness. On the other hand, if we are filled with envy at such times, we are frequently plunged into selfish despair.

Not only so, but when the feelings of this sin are put into words, we destroy or dampen the joy of others. They, in turn,retaliate in most cases, adding to our misery. Isn’t this a high price to pay for the sinful luxury of allowing this subtle serpent called envy to course his slimy trail over our hearts? I think you will agree it is.


Would you like to kill the snakes of envy? Wouldn’t you just now, while your mind is on the true character of that rotten viper, like to just annihilate him from the face of the earth? Well you can’t. He is rooted and ingrown deep in the depraved human heart. However, there is something you and I can do. We can deal with him in our own hearts. We can, by God’s grace, face him on a daily basis. When we find ourselves feeling envious in our hearts, we can admit it to ourselves and confess it to God. This will prevent many hurtful and unnecessary words. It may be painful, for if we see this sin as it really is, we will be deeply shamed and humiliated every time we are truly made aware that he dwells in us.

On the other hand, if we do not, by God’s grace and strong self-discipline, resist Satan in this subtle form, he will reign over us imposing all the accompanying miseries upon us. “Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” (Romans 13:13-14)