Envy and Her Evil Sisters – Exploring the Passages

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. What does Proverbs 14:30 (printed below) tell us about envy in contrast to a tranquil heart?

A tranquil heart gives health to the body, but envy rots the bones. (Proverbs 14:30)

“A tranquil heart” (a heart that is at peace, a heart that is content) brings health to the body; but envy is like a cancer that eats into the very bones until the life is destroyed. Envy will make your life miserable: you will waste your time wishing for what the other person has; weeping over what you do not have; never appreciating what God has given you and using what He has given you in His service and for His glory. You can never satisfy envy; the more you feed it, the more it demands until it consumes you. It will “rot the bones.”

2. Consider Proverbs 27:4 (printed below). Why do you suppose jealousy is much more difficult to appease than anger?

Anger is cruel and fury is overwhelming, but who is able to stand before jealousy? (Proverbs 27:4)

Outbursts of wrath and anger are compared to the roaring waves of the ocean or the awesome power of a torrential flood. But even more powerful and devastating than those waves of wrath and anger are the tidal waves of jealousy. Why? Anger and wrath may be appeased by the confession of our wrongdoing against our neighbor, by seeking his forgiveness, and by restitution or rectifying the wrong done. But what can appease jealousy? Jealousy desires the destruction of the other person not because of what wrong they have done, but simply because of who they are or what they rightfully possess.

3. Proverbs 24:1 (printed below) exhorts us, “Do not be envious of evil men.” What might cause us to be envious of such men?

Do not be envious of evil men, neither desire to be with them… (Proverbs 24:1)

What might cause us to be envious of evil men and desire to be with them? Their quick and easy money, the vast amount of wealth they acquire, their glamorous and luxurious lifestyle, the adventure and thrill of living beyond the bounds of the law. All such things may cause us to be envious of evil men. Note the tempting promise the wicked offer to the young man in Proverbs 1:13; “We shall get all sorts of valuable things, we shall fill our houses with plunder.”

4. What counsel and what promise is provided for us in Proverbs 23:17-18 (printed below?)

Do not let your heart envy sinners, but live in the fear of Jehovah all day long; (18) for surely there is a future for you and your hope will not be cut off. (Proverbs 23:17-18)

Far from envying the wicked and their temporary gains, we are to lead a God-fearing life, knowing that there shall come a sure and eternal reward. The Word of God counsels us, as Christians, to be content in the present and confident of the future: “Jehovah God is a sun and a shield. Jehovah will give grace and glory; no good thing will he withhold from those who walk uprightly. (12) O Jehovah of hosts, blessed is the man that trusts in you.” (Psalm 84:11b-12)

5. Consider Proverbs 21:26 (printed below). In contrast to the covetous man, what is a characteristic of the righteous man?

There is a man who covets greedily all day long; but the righteous gives and does not hold back. (Proverbs 21:26)

A great contrast to those three wicked sisters of envy, jealousy and covetousness is the righteous attribute of generosity. We are to emulate the heart of our Lord Jesus Christ: “…you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9) One great remedy by which to combat those three evil desires of envy, jealousy and covetousness is the practice of generosity. We are commanded to remember the words of our Lord Jesus as they are recorded in Acts 20:35, “It is more blessed to give than to receive”—as we obey His counsel and example we shall experience its truth.