24th August 2020

Green with Envy 

“I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbours. But this, too, is meaningless—like chasing the wind.”
Ecclesiastes 4:4 (NLT)

I guess we are all familiar with the saying ‘green with envy,’ but where did this saying come from? And who first said it? The saying is believed to have come from the great William Shakespeare. Shakespeare described envy as the green sickness (Anthony and Cleopatra, Act 3, Scene 2). Also, in Othello, Lago warns Othello, “Oh, beware, my lord, of jealousy! It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on” (Othello, Act 3, Scene 3).

Envy and jealousy go hand in hand. But long before William Shakespeare we learned about envy (jealousy) in Genesis 4:3-8, where we are told the Cain was jealous (envious) of his brother Abel to the point that he killed him. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary describes envy as: “Painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with desire to possess the same advantage.” Another good example of someone who was really jealous, envious, and angry is told in the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:23-31.

Green can be deadly, sinful, when we associate it with envy. When one is green with envy it can lead to all kinds of evil. James 3:14-16 says, “But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.”

People envy each other for different reasons. But the fountain of envy is always the same—the heart. Jesus said, “What defiles a person is not what goes into the mouth; it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles a person.” So we should “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life” (Proverbs 4:23). Shakespeare warns us to beware of the green-eyed monster, which is envy. God warns us to guard our hearts.

But green can also represent abundance, harmony, renewal, and growth. It is in nature a harmonizing, balancing and calming colour; a healing colour that gives healing to the heart. In Proverbs 14:30 (ESV) we read “A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.” With the Holy Spirit in us we become more and more like God, who IS love, and as we know, “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud” (1 Corinthians 13:4).

Eternal God, help up to guard our hearts that we may show love, compassion, and appreciation when others are blessed, and not to harbour thoughts of envy, lust or jealousy. This we pray in Jesus’ name.

Study by Dennis Payne


About the Author:
Dennis Payne is a Deacon in the North London Congregation of Grace Communion International.

Local Congregation:
Grace Communion International London
Indian YMCA
Mahatma Gandhi Hall
41 Fitzroy Square

Meeting Time:
Saturday 2:30pm

Local Congregational Contact:
Barry Robinson
Email:   london@gracecom.church

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