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Greek Word Study - Envy


A person I know just bought a brand-new, loaded-with-options, absurdly luxurious gas-hog. Why, I wouldn't have one of those things if you gave it to me! But somehow it really irritates me to think that this person has one! The word for this attitude is envy.

The Greek word for envy was phthonos (FTHON oss) and was used nine times in the N.T. It was the motivation of those who had Jesus crucified (Matt 27:18) and it was the reason some people were try¬ing to stir up trouble against Paul (Phil l:15). It is strictly a work of the flesh (Gal5:2l).

Envy is somewhat like jealousy, only worse. Jealousy is wanting to have what the other guy has; envy is just not wanting him to have it! Jealousy might prompt me to do something positive, such as trying to achieve an equal accomplishment. But envy would be satis¬fied only by seeing the other guy fail. Envy would also enjoy just tearing the guy down.

Envy is such an ugly thing that even pagan philosophers condemn it. Aristotle said, “Envy is a bad feeling felt by bad persons. Emulation (jealousy) makes us take steps to secure the good things in question, envy makes us take steps to stop our neighbor from having them.” Diogenes called it “pain at someone else's good fortune.”

Finally, allow me to offer this quick test to see if you have envy. How do you react toward the attention given to “big-name” preachers? How do you feel when your non-Christian neighbor gets a raise? What do you think about someone who is praised for being a really good parent? Do you ever smirk (inwardly, of course) when you hear of someone’s failure or bad fortune?

“Put away all malice . . . and envy” (1 Peter 2:1).