Proverbs 27:4

Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?


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Anger is bad, but envy is worse. A hot temper is destructive for a short time, but jealousy feeds long bitterness. Men get twisted by anger, but envy sees everything with a poisoned view. Wrath can control emotions for a time, but envy can eat your soul away until death.

Anger and wrath are well known. They are passionate indignation, intense resentment or exasperation, or rage against a person or thing. God condemned unjustified anger, and He expects justified anger to be gone by night (Ps 37:8; Matt 5:21-22; Eph 4:26,31-32). Anger must be ruled (Pr 14:17,29; 16:32; 19:11; Eccl 7:9; Jas 1:19-20). Angry men must be avoided, lest you learn to think and act like them (Pr 13:20; 22:24-25; I Cor 15:33).

Anger and wrath cause men to do cruel and outrageous things. The violent feelings are very intense; they overrule a man’s better judgment and common sense. Anger leaves a man temporarily insane. Israel provoked Moses, and his angry and imprudent response cost him the land of Canaan (Ps 106:32-33). Anger causes foolish fights and trouble that men would otherwise avoid (Pr 29:22). Anger can make a man a scorner (Pr 21:24).

Simeon and Levi were so angry Shechem had violated their sister that they disregarded their father’s covenant with him and killed his entire family and city (Gen 34:1-31; 49:5-7). King Herod’s anger at being mocked by the wise men caused him to kill all the children in and around Bethlehem (Matt 2:16). Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous!

But what is envy? It is the hostile and malicious feelings of jealous resentment toward another person for their advantage over you. Anger dissipates quickly, but envy is always there to remind you of another’s superiority. Anger blinds momentarily, but envy blinds permanently, by having your whole life poisoned by the resentment of their advantages.

Envy is worse than anger or wrath. It needs no provocation, as do anger and wrath. Men envy others for goodness and prosperity! Envy is deep in a man’s heart and is only removed with difficulty, whereas anger quickly leaves when the provocation ends. Envy will not forgive another’s offence; though it is long past, revenge still simmers. And envy is hidden out of sight, so men are unaware of its seething danger in another’s heart.

David was perfect for King Saul. He soothed him with his harp; he was his son’s best friend; he married his daughter; he fought his battles for him; Israel respected him; he was exceeding wise; he was very loyal; and the LORD was with him. But Saul envied Israel’s love for David (I Sam 18:6-11). Saul should have used him well; he should have sought his wisdom and fellowship with God; instead he tried repeatedly to kill him.

Jacob loved Rachel the most, but she envied her sister Leah, because she had conceived children (Gen 30:1). Joseph’s ten brothers envied him, because his father loved him, and though he was a virtuous young man, they sold him as a slave into Egypt (Gen 37:11; Acts 7:9). The Jews crucified the faultless Lord Jesus out of envy (Matt 27:18). How did these blessings and goodness evoke such bitter and wicked actions? Envy is heinous!

Joab was David’s nephew. He was a great warrior and captain of David’s mighty men for 40 years. He served David faithfully, risking his life often to protect David and promote his kingdom. But he could not rule his spirit, and envy caused him to murder two men better than himself that David had honored (I Kgs 2:5-6,28-34). Solomon had to kill him.

Moses once corrected Joshua’s envy. When Joshua heard that two men were prophesying in the camp, he asked Moses to command them to stop, out of envy for Moses. But Moses said, “Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the LORD’S people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!” (Num 11:27-30.) Amen!

God’s holy providence determined every aspect of your life, even sin and its results. Therefore, to envy another for any advantage is to despise God and His choices (Pr 19:3; I Cor 4:7). Instead, be thankful for what you have; forgive those who have sinned against you; appreciate God’s choices in your life for His glory (Pr 16:4; Dan 4:35; Rom 11:36).

It is sickening when the poor envy the rich, which they do much of the time. If it were not for the rich putting their capital and expertise at risk in an economy, the poor would not have anything, not even jobs. Poor men should be thankful for what they do have, and they should be thankful God made some men rich who want to provide jobs for them.

If you do not kill envy – learning to forgive the faults of others and rejoice in their blessings, you will destroy your own soul. The poison of envy will eat your heart like a cancer, until it has consumed your life with bitter resentment (Pr 14:30; Job 5:2). You will destroy the pleasure of living; envy will lead to perverse decisions. Worst of all, your envious malice against others does nothing at all to them. They flourish in spite of you.

Envy leads to emulation (Gal 5:20). What is emulation? It is the desire or effort to equal or surpass another in any achievement or quality. It is the ambitious rivalry between men for power or honor; it is grudging ill-will against the superiority of others. Envy and emulation are horrible sins, and God hates them, for they are spawned in hell (Jas 3:14-16). Believers rejoice at blessings and honor given to others (Rom 12:15; I Cor 12:26).

Reader, are you happy for everyone in your life? Are you glad at the successes and joy of those who have wronged you? Or does sin have a root of bitterness in you that will choke out the life of your soul? Anger and wrath may lead to momentary folly, but envy will consume and destroy your life. Anger and wrath give place to the devil (Eph 4:26-27), but envy is to be like the devil (Is 14:14; I Tim 3:6). Be wise, and put all three sins away!