The Difference between Envy and Jealousy

Do you know the difference between envy and jealousy? I did not until I heard a message from Jamin Roller at Citizens Church, Plano, Texas.* I owe these thoughts to him.

Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy? Proverbs 27:4 (NIV)

For jealousy arouses a husband’s fury, and he will show no mercy when he takes revenge. Proverbs 6:34 (NIV)

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones. Proverbs 14:30 (NIV)

  • is resentful desire; contempt toward those who have what we don’t
  • is begrudging God’s gifts to others
  • is the desire to possess our heart’s desire
  • deteriorates, rots the soul
  • distorts how we see others
  • ex: Absalom envied his father’s throne
  • is defensive desire; defends what we have and are afraid of losing
  • gets defensive toward (jealous of) those who threaten to take what we have
  • is the desire to hold on to our heart’s desire
  • destroys the soul
  • ex: Saul was jealous of David’s popularity and afraid he would take his throne
Ask yourself:
  • Whose life do you compare your life to?
  • Who has the life you want? The career? The body? The looks? The money? The house? The marriage? The relationship with God? The ministry? The gifts and talents?
  • Who feels like a threat to the things you most want to keep?
  • Who do your eyes wander towards to tell you how well you are or aren’t doing?
  • Who in your life are you critical of?
  • What good in someone’s life do you have a hard time celebrating?
  • Whose failure makes you smile?

Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD. There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off. Proverbs 23:17–18 (NIV)

Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:25–26 (NIV)

When I am critical of others or struggle to rejoice with them, it could be that I am either envious or jealous of them. Instead, I want God alone to be the desire of my heart.

Are you jealous of those who threaten to take what you want to keep?

Do you envy those who have what you don’t?


Holy Spirit, I see now that my tendency to criticize others may be a sign of envy. And my failure to fully rejoice in their successes may indicate that I am jealous of what they might take from me. I want you alone to be the desire of my heart so teach me to quickly recognize envy and jealousy and rid it from my life.

Exodus 34:14 tells us that God is jealous. But his jealousy is not rooted in suspicion or insecurity. Because he alone is God, he is jealous of anything that steals our worship. And there can be no divine envy because God lacks nothing.

* Wisdom for Envy and Jealousy by Jamin Roller

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