The Destructive Power of Envy

Gordon VanWylen

READ : Psalm 73:1-14

With amazing frankness, the psalmist Asaph describes a time when he was nearly overcome by the destructive power of envy. He describes this overwhelming experience as a time when he nearly lost his foothold.

The situation which led to his envy is classic. It came at a time when he was experiencing great difficulty, to the point that he felt punished, even though he considered his heart pure and that he was totally innocent (vv. 13-14). It was in this context that he began to focus on people who were clearly less noble than he, but were very well off. Writing in retrospect, he could see their sin; pride, violence, conceit, arrogance and rebellion against God, but at the moment all he could see was that they were strong, healthy, carefree, wealthy and highly regarded by others. What a set up for envy!

Dorothy Sayers puts it this way: “Envy is the sin of the Have-Nots against the Haves. . . . It begins by asking, ‘Why should I not have what others have?’ and ends by demanding, ‘Why should others enjoy what I may not?’” Envy grows as we alternate our focus, first on our difficult circumstances and then on those who have what we long for. The psalmist found a life-changing answer to the destructive power of envy; we take this up tomorrow.


Spare us, Lord, from envy. Help us to celebrate the good things you give others and pray for your grace upon all people. Amen.