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If you’ve ever observed small children, you might have noticed a simple truth: all it takes for conflict to occur is the mere presence of more than one child. Child one is content with their toys until child two comes along and introduces something new or different. The new toy doesn’t have to be flashy or exciting; it can be a cardboard box. What makes the first child want it is the mere fact that the second child has it.

 

The hearts of children are easy to read. Envy is plainly recognizable in the human heart, even at a young age. The mistake many adults make is to dismiss this. They are just children; that’s what they do. What we fail to realize is that we really are no different. Envy, though more subtle in adults, remains a common human struggle.

The Nature of Human Desire

 

Renowned historian, philosopher, and professor René Girard proposed that human desire is memetic – shaped by what we see modeled by others. We think we want what we want because we have the good sense to choose it. But Girard taught that, in reality, from a young age, our desires are influenced and molded by suggestion, marketing, the people around us, societal influences, and many other factors.

The Power of Seeing

 

1 John 2:16 says, “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.”

 

Notice the phrase, “the desires of the eyes.” What we look at matters. Often, we think of what we see with our eyes as mere impartial observations. The daily barrage of images flooding our vision appears neutral. We assume that casually scrolling through social media or stealing sideways glances at others is harmless. Did you really need to walk by the clothing department at Target on your way to the produce aisle? We say, “I’m just looking. It’s for informational purposes.” We think that our eyes function as scanners, merely transferring unbiased facts into our brains.

 

Marketers know this is not true. They understand the power of suggestion and make full use of it. What we look at matters. It shapes who we are and who we are becoming.

 

In the Garden of Eden, when Eve turned and saw the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, she “saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise.” (Genesis 3:6) She was not making scientific observations on texture and color for comparison purposes. And it was not about a mere mouthful for her either.

 

She looked, and that changed her. 

Practical Strategies to Combat Envy

 

  • Know Your Weak Areas: Acknowledge your vulnerable areas and pray, as in Psalm 119, for God to “turn my eyes away from worthless things.” Most of us know where our envy triggers lie. If you’re unsure, start paying attention to what undermines your joy. What creates a fretful mood in your heart when you look at it? If looking at social media makes your heart fussy, for example, then maybe fast from it for a while. Recognizing potential triggers and avoiding them is the first step in overcoming envy.

 

  • Turn Toward Christ: Overcoming envy involves not just turning away from one thing but turning toward something else. The gospel is about “putting off” one thing and “putting on” another. (Ephesians 4) Meditate on Christ, make daily devotions a habit, and start each day with your mind and heart fixed on Him.

 

  • Cultivate Gratitude: The antidote to envy is gratitude. Whether through a gratitude journal or practicing thankfulness throughout the day, keep your heart grateful for the many blessings you’ve received. You literally can’t be envious when you are full of gratitude. 

 

Envy is a universal struggle, and the struggle is perhaps harder than ever. Personal devices, the internet, and social media have brought envy triggers into our lives at any time throughout the day. But even though it’s difficult, it’s not impossible.

 

As Christians, we have the tools to combat it. In a world filled with comparisons, let our focus be on Christ and the abundant blessings He provides. For more information, visit our website at Dream City Church, join us for Sunday morning worship, or plug into one of our ministries. Encounter Jesus and learn to see the world with new eyes.

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