Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day long. (Proverbs 23:17)
To envy is "to feel uneasiness, mortification or discontent, at the sight of superior excellence, reputation or happiness enjoyed by another; to repine at another's prosperity; to fret or grieve one's self at the real or supposed superiority of another, and to hate him on that account."
Envy appears to be an offshoot of the sin of covetousness. Envy says, "I want what he has, so I despise him for having it." An envious person sees another receive a blessing and hates that man because it wasn't him.
We often use the words envy and jealousy interchangeably, but there is a marked difference between the two in the Bible…26 of the 43 biblical references to the word concern God's jealousy over His people. In the biblical use of the words, jealousy is rooted in love for another party, while envy is rooted in love for one's self.
David said in Psalm 73:3, For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. David was envious at those who were enjoying life, despite of the ungodly way they lived it. His problem was that he limited his sight to the short term. Proverbs 24:19-20 says, Fret not thyself because of evil men, neither be thou envious at the wicked; For there shall be no reward to the evil man; the candle of the wicked shall be put out.
Remember Moses? What caused him to forsake Egypt with all its treasures and all its pleasures? He knew that the pleasures of sin only last for a season and he recognized that God would reward him in the long run for doing right (Hebrews 11:24-27). So don't be envious at the wicked. Don't give up your reward that awaits you for following the Lord.
If the devil is able to ensnare you in this trap, then your fate will be the same as those you envy. Job 5:2 says, For wrath killeth the foolish man, and envy slayeth the silly one. And Proverbs 14:30 says, A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones.
One last word…sadly, this envy business oftentimes works its way into the fellowship of believers. The only reason any of us would despise another who receives some blessing or reward or recognition or honor or position is that we think it should go to us. May the Lord help us to get all that out of our hearts and Rejoice with them that do rejoice (Romans 12:15).