What’s the difference in jealousy, coveting, and envy? First, a very brief and simplistic English language lesson will help us here. Jealousy is the very strong emotion based in the fear of losing something which already belongs to you. Coveting is the sometimes equally strong emotion of desiring something that isn’t yours, and is unattainable by you. Envy then combines the strong emotion of coveting, with an evil intention towards the person owning the thing you covet. This escalation of negative emotions has the potential danger of deciding to implement an action to hurt the owner in some way to gain the thing coveted.
For Biblical evidence of this escalation, just read the story of David and Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11 & 12. It is very easy to see coveting turning to envy turning to murder in King David’s thoughts, desires, and actions.
But we never do this right? We would never entertain these thoughts or actions right?
We could go even further and say that at the core of it all, to covet something is to be driven by a basic lack of contentment with what we do have. Rather than focusing on what grace and richness of life God has placed in our hands, instead we look outwardly to see things God gave others and want those things for ourselves.
I have a bit of experience with this, so read carefully to see if God might speak to you through my weaknesses.
I have had fairly bad eyesight for as long as I can remember. All through my childhood days of school I remember wearing really thick lensed glasses (think coke bottle) which enabled me to read the chalkboard. I know saying “chalkboard” also ages me, but I’ve already admitted to be 66 years old. It is what it is.
As a result of poor eyesight, I have spent the better part of 66 years coveting to see with the clarity of vision of those who needed no glasses. I was discontent, and sinfully unaware of the blessing that is Sight. I spent no time at all thinking about those who were blind. I totally ignored those who would never see the light of the morning sun rising to cast bright yellow, orange, and reddish hues across the sky. I never gave a second thought to those who couldn’t see the birds singing in the trees, or the scaly empty shell as the cicada sheds its skin. I was simply in “poor me” mode, always wishing I could see better.
As a teenager I talked my parents into letting me wear contact lenses. That experiment was painful and exhausting in so many ways, I returned to glasses again full of resentment for having to do so. Later in life when Lasic surgery became affordable for me, I leapt at the option, hoping to finally have the sight I coveted, freeing me from those thick lens frames. First in 1998, then again in 2008 I paid to have my eyes “fixed.”
Each of these experiences were basically a good news v. bad news scenario. I gained an ability to have fairly good distance vision, but lost the ability to read up close. Yet again, discontent became my reality as I needed reading glasses to study, or work on my computer.
Over the past two weeks I have been given a gift of grace which before now I never dreamed would be my reality. My eyes apparently had deteriorated with cataracts in such a way that I now qualified to have the surgery to correct my vision with implants. I had the first surgery on my left eye two weeks ago, and the surgery on my right eye two days ago. For the first time in my life I can see clearer than I ever had with glasses.
Through this process I have gained an insight about my past, which I pray will have profound effect on my future. I am very grateful for the surgeon who performed this operation. But more than that, I am humbled beyond understanding before the Creator who gave me sight in the first place.
In the past, I never really stumbled around in darkness, because I could see with the aid of my glasses. But I also never honestly and fully aware thanked God the gift of sight either. In this way… I was blinded by my discontent.
So many of us have been given such rich blessings from God, not the least of which is life itself. For those of us with our 5 senses actually working… we see, hear, touch, taste, breathe, think, speak… we live… without ever giving God the glory for the human creation. In fact, more often it seems we can think of 100 things right now that if we obtained these “things” they would add value, or pleasure, or satisfaction and contentment to our lives. When in reality, these coveted items do nothing more than rob us of the joy of contentment with what God has already provided.
I pray for you, and for me, that I have learned through this experience to be thankful and content with God’s provision in my life… and covet no more.