The antidote for the self-justification and the self-sovereignty driving envy is rootedness in justification by faith and the supremacy of Christ. Like all other sins, envy is fundamentally a sin of pride, and the only way to kill pride is to confess our sin, repent of it, and believe in the forgiveness given to us by God’s free grace in Jesus.
Flashing back to Genesis 4, why do you think Abel’s sacrifice was accepted and Cain’s was not. Did God just like Abel better? Did Abel know the right religious words or jump through the right religious hoops?
No, Abel’s sacrifice was accepted first because it was the sort of offering God had commanded, but also because his offering of sacrificed livestock best reflected the stakes of making us right with God. After the fall, one of the first things Adam and Eve did to cover their shame was clothe themselves with plants. But they had brought death into the world and bloodshed; only bloodshed could cover their shame. So God replaced their leafy garments with animal skins. This is how serious sin is; this is how serious envy is. Something has to die. “[W]ithout the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22).
God required an offering and Abel brought real sacrifices. Cain brought the fruit of his hard work. We cannot and will not satisfy the debt of envy through the fruit of our hard work any more than Cain could. If we want to kill envy, it will take death.
Thanks be to God, then, that Jesus offers himself as the acceptable sacrifice. The fruit of his hard work culminates with his substitutionary death, taking our place, covering our shame, killing our sin.
In one of the great glorious ironies of the gospel, it is envy for what Jesus has that drives us to betray him and nail him to the cross, but in his crucifixion he is gladly, willingly, humbly, and freely giving us everything he’s got. No one is more generous than Jesus. We need not envy him or anyone else; his unclenched hand freely gives us all things! So says Paul:
He did not even spare His own Son,
but offered Him up for us all;
how will He not also with Him grant us everything?
So, then, envy is not only spiritual suicide, it is spiritual nonsense! Not one of us can add an ounce of satisfaction through a pound of envy. But in the free gift of eternal life there is eternal fulfillment.
The final and best way to assassinate envy, therefore, is to park ourselves at the foot of the cross early and often. Rather than constantly fooling with envy’s sideways glance, we ought to be “keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). Look at him and his glory, and you will find rest.