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Holman Bible Dictionary

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A painful or resentful awareness of another's advantage joined with the desire to possess the same advantage. The advantage may concern material goods (Genesis 26:14 ) or social status (Genesis 30:1 ). Old Testament wisdom frequently warns against envying the arrogant (Psalm 73:3 ), the violent (Proverbs 3:31 ), or the wicked (Psalm 37:1; Proverbs 24:1 ,Proverbs 24:1,24:19 ). In the New Testament envy is a common member of vice lists as that which comes out of the person and defiles (Mark 7:22 ), as a characteristic of humanity in rebellion to God (Romans 1:29 ), as a fruit of the flesh (Galatians 5:21 ), as a characteristic of unregenerate life (Titus 3:3 ) and as a trait of false teachers (1 Timothy 6:4 ). Envy (sometimes translated jealousy by modern translations) was the motive leading to the arrest of Jesus (Matthew 27:18; Mark 15:10 ) and to opposition to the gospel in Acts (Acts 5:17 , Acts 13:45; Acts 17:5 ). Christians are called to avoid envy (Galatians 5:26; 1 Peter 2:1 ).

Envy is sometimes a motive for doing good. The Preacher was disillusioned that hard work and skill were the result of envying another (Ecclesiastes 4:4 ). Paul was, however, able to rejoice that the gospel was preached even if the motive were envy (Philippians 1:15 ).

The KJV rightly understood the difficult text in James 4:5 , recognizing that it is a characteristic of the human spirit that it “lusteth to envy”. Contrary to modern translations, the Greek word used for envy here (phthonos ) is always used in a negative sense, never in the positive sense of God's jealousy (Greek zealos ). God's response to the sinful longings of the human heart is to give more grace (James 4:6 ). See Jealousy .

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Envy'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hbd/​e/envy.html. 1991.
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