Question: What is envy?
Answer: "Envy" is a Bible subject (Prov. 24: 1, 19). Envy, in fact, is one of the listed lusts of the flesh (Gal. 5: 21). Envy (phthonos) is defined as, "Envy, is the feeling of displeasure produced by witnessing or hearing of the advantage or prosperity of others; this evil sense always attaches to this word, Matt. 27: 18..." (Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words).
Envy is presented as terrible and deep-seated. Some of the most debasing and degenerate sins that have ever characterized sinful men are mentioned in Romans chapter one (1: 24-32). Along with homosexuality, malignity, and haters of God, we find "full of envy" (Rom. 1: 29). The wise man said envy is "the rottenness of the bones" (Prov. 14: 30). Moreover, envy when compared to anger and wrath is so terrible that the question is raised, "who is able to stand before envy?" (Prov. 27: 4).
Envy too often serves as the motivation for different acts. Many of the worst imagined acts are prompted out of envy. For instance, Joseph's brothers "moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt" (Acts 7: 9). Some of the First Century preachers were motivated out of envy and envy lead the Jews to crucify the Son of God (Phili. 1: 15; Matt. 27: 18). Envy is to be part of the past life, not the present, of the Christian (Tit. 3: 3, 4). It is scary to realize that within man lies the potential to envy (Jas. 4: 5, KJV).
Even though envy is a strong lust, it can be controlled. Peter taught "laying aside...envies" (1 Pet. 2: 1). Peter does not just teach to lay aside envy but spiritual growth is enjoined (vs. 2). Through the development of love, envy can be mastered (1 Cor. 13: 4). Also, as the Christian rejoices with those rejoicing and weeps with those weeping, he is not allowing the exercise of envy (Rom. 12: 15, 16). Envy will keep people from enjoying the bliss of heaven (Gal. 5: 21).