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Note that I'm not asking whether envy is bad. It's common sense that envy is bad and that it's also bad to make others feel envy. What I'm asking is whether experiencing envy is blameworthy.

That Envy Is Blameworthy:

  • It made the 10 commandments (Exodus 20:17, Deuteronomy 5:21)
  • Paul lists love as not being capable of envy (1 Corinthians 13:4)

That Envy is Not Blameworthy:

  • Unlike the adulterer (Proverbs 6:32) or the liar (Proverbs 19:5, 19:9), King Solomon does not judge the envious in the Book of Proverbs. He just observes that it feels terrible. (Proverbs 14:30)

  • In the Book of James, the author says that "You covet, and have not: you kill, and envy, and can not obtain. You contend and war, and you have not" (James 4:2a). Notice that he says that the reason the reader envies is not because he's ungrateful or because he overlooks the good gifts he already has (which is worldly wisdom). He says that the envious reader has a genuine lack in objective reality.

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    1. You say that envy is bad, in and of itself. Then you ask if it is blameworthy. Are you suggesting that envy can be instinctive and blameless ? If so, are you suggesting that all forms of sin may be considered as unconscious instincts which are not intentional and thus carry no guilt ? This is quite an important point (if, indeed, that is what you are trying to imply). 2. You call envy 'an emotion'. What grounds do you have for that ? Is it not an activity ? Surely ? A matter of behaviour ? A voluntary deed ?
    – Nigel J
    Oct 30, 2023 at 22:14
  • "Are you suggesting that envy can be instinctive and blameless" <- Short answer: Yes. Longer answer: the first hit of envy is like being hit by an arrow. You cannot control being hit by the arrow. But what you do with the experience of envy, it is like choosing to move the arrow lodged in you to aggravate it.
    – Fomalhaut
    Oct 30, 2023 at 22:54
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    This is really obvious. Just because the Book of Proverbs doesn't mention Envy as a sin doesn't mean it isn't one. And just because James says envy results in "disorder" and "evil" doesn't make it involuntary. It's still evil and a sin. Oct 30, 2023 at 23:57
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    The 'heart' is not an emotional matter. The heart is the deep of humanity, from which pulses life.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 31, 2023 at 0:05
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    What do you mean by "blameworthy"? Blaming is just as [blameworthy] as envy; neither one is good. Christianity is all about forgiveness, not blame. Oct 31, 2023 at 0:40

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The Bible describes how various human thoughts and emotions condemn sinners:

Galatians 5:19–21 NIV

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and 21 envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Romans 1:29 ESV

They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness.

Titus 3:3 ESV

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.

James 3:14-16 NIV

14 If you harbour bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

Are the actions that follow the thoughts involuntary and therefore not blameworthy? Or are the actions that follow the thoughts conscious, deliberate and sinful?

Here is the ultimate result of envy:

Mark 15:10 ESV

For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up.

Were the chief priests blameworthy for the actions that resulted from their envy of Jesus? Jesus had this to say about envy, and all the other evil deeds that spring from within sinful people:

Mark 7:20-23 ESV

20 What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.

Evil thoughts, which include envy, and all the evil deeds which spring from such thoughts, are blameworthy. Any person who harbours envy is defiled. It is a symptom of sin, and all sin is blameworthy.

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    A brief summary could be that envy is a state of hostility towards another and therefore a failure to "love thy neighbour". Oct 31, 2023 at 13:07
  • @StephenDisraeli - 1 Corinthains 13:4 certainly declares that love does not envy. Proverbs14:30 goes a bit further and says that envy is rottenness to the bone. It eats away and spreads like a cancer, and is part of the desires of a sinful nature. Let's not sugar-coat envy. Envious thoughts give birth to sinful actions. It's more than a failure to love our neighbour.
    – Lesley
    Oct 31, 2023 at 13:33
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    I certainly wasn't doing any sugar-coating. "Love thy neighbour" is one of the two fundamental commands, according to Jesus, which makes not loving one of the two most fundamental sins. I would argue that only failure to love God is "more than" failure to love neighbour. Oct 31, 2023 at 15:02
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The claim is made that the apostle James says says that "the envious reader has a genuine lack in objective reality." No, he does not even imply that, let alone state that idea. It might help to consult a secular authority on a sound definition of envy, and this one says it's

"hostility, malice, enmity, a feeling of resentful or discontented longing aroused by another person's better fortune." The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles, vol. 1, ed. Lesley Brown (Oxford. UK; Clarendon Press, 1973)

From that it can be seen that there is a thinking basis for feeling envy, involving observation and comparison. It is not a spontaneous "feeling". It is not based on a "lack of objective reality", because there are real facts and factors involved in the envious person allowing their envious feelings to get a grip on them. Even if they squash those feelings and thoughts swiftly, it is their character that allows to bubble up from within those un-Christian thoughts and feelings, even if nobody else notices: the person knows full well.

From a Christian point of view, here is what was written by king Solomon about malice, which paints a truly alarming picture of it:

"A stone is heavy, and the sand weighty; but a fool's wrath is heavier than them both. Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous, but who is able to stand before envy?" Proverbs 27:3-4 A.V.

What was that you were saying about king Solomon not judging the envious in the book of Proverbs? A whole array of Bible texts condemning not only envy, but the envious, is easily collated from all of the Bible.

Here is a Christian commentary on those two verses, written around 1700:

"Those who have no command of their passions [and envy is a passion] do themselves even sink under the load of them... but a secret enmity at the person of another, an envy at his prosperity, and a desire of revenge for some injury or affront, are much more mischievous. One may avoid a sudden heat, as David avoided Saul's javelin, but when it grows, as Saul's did, to a settled envy, there is no standing before it; it will pursue, it will overtake. He that grieves at the good of another will be still contriving to do him hurt, and will keep his anger for ever." Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, p.805 col. 3., Hendrickson 2014

That is the objective reality about envy, no matter whether envious people might disagree.

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  • How does one command one's passions? Emotions are chaotic by definition, meaning they're not amenable to command.
    – Fomalhaut
    Nov 1, 2023 at 12:09
  • Note that the given definition of "envy" isn't how it's used today (define:envy - Google Search), and might have been different when the Bible was translated and even that might not exactly match the original Greek definition. ¶ More modern usage would be; "envy" is desiring something without negative feelings to the current owner, as opposed to "jealousy". For instance, I could envy your ability to explain things and want it for myself, but that doesn't mean I would want you to lose it. Nov 1, 2023 at 13:44
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    @HolyKnowing asks "How does one command one's passions? Emotions are chaotic by definition, meaning they're not amenable to command.". Controlling one's emotions is what maturity and "growing up" is all about. Emotions are part of our personality, and a major part of being a Christian is to develop a character that approaches perfection, despite one's underlying personality. One learns to recognize when one's thoughts and behaviour might be affected by emotion, and to take that factor into account before acting illogically. Nov 1, 2023 at 13:51
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    @Ray Butterworth The Q seeks to know how the Bible views envy. Any definition is irrelevant for the purpose of an answer, unless it largely agrees with the always-negative connotations stated in the Bible. The 1973 dictionary definition I give accords with the Bible view. And, from my point of view, 1973 is 'modern', and Bible statements are still bang up to date on the topic too. A person who does not want another to lose the thing/quality that is envied, is showing admiration, but when covetousness arises, then it becomes envy.
    – Anne
    Nov 1, 2023 at 16:29
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Envy is the belief that we are wronged by another person's good fortune.

It is a form of pride.

The Bible consistently condemns pride, no matter what the form, in so many places that I do not see the need to cite particular verses.

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