When Envy Tempts, Follow Jesus

by Elizabeth Laing Thompson June 19, 2023
“… what is that to you? You must follow me.” John 21:22 (NIV)

“I finally got it! The big break I’ve been praying for at work!” My friend’s voice was alight with excitement — and I felt excited for her too.


But to my dismay, I also had some … side feelings. Unwanted thoughts. Somewhere behind my genuine joy, a shadowy voice whispered, I’ve been praying for a breakthrough, too — why hasn’t God said "yes" to me? Why her and not me?

The moment those thoughts took shape, I felt a swift surge of shame: What’s wrong with me? How could I think something so ugly?

Maybe you’ve been there, too — watching someone else receive The Thing you’ve been praying for. Feeling happy for them but also wrestling with the infamous green-eyed monster, aka envy.

Envy is one of those complicated internal struggles that can make us feel an undue amount of shame. Alongside the envious thoughts, we hear the enemy’s cruel voice taunting, How dare you struggle with envy! You’re an unloving friend!

So before we tackle the envy, let’s dismantle the shame. When my thoughts drift toward envy, I find it helpful to remember the difference between temptation and sin. We all have in-the-moment, knee-jerk reactions. Our fleshly natures instinctively lean toward petty thoughts and selfish feelings. But simply having an envious thought pop into our heads is not sin — it’s temptation.

Scripture describes temptation this way: “but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:14-15, NIV).

Sin takes time to grow in our hearts. Envious thoughts may contain the seed of potential sin, but if we don’t water them, they can’t grow. We all have envious thoughts — it’s what we do with those thoughts that matters. God gives us the power to choose: Will we follow envy’s lead, or will we follow Jesus?

Jesus once had a conversation with His disciple Peter that resets my perspective whenever I’m tempted with envy. Jesus was preparing Peter for his future, hinting that Peter would one day be martyred (John 21:18-19). Peter, perhaps feeling that he was being unfairly singled out for suffering, pointed at another disciple and asked, “Lord, what about him?” (John 21:21, NIV).

Jesus then told Peter, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me” (John 21:22).

Jesus’ bluntness here always surprises me, as I imagine it surprised Peter. And yet the Lord wasn’t being unkind; He was being truthful. Jesus was reminding Peter that He has different purposes and paths for each person.

The next time you’re tempted with envy, try borrowing Jesus’ logic and gently asking yourself, If God wants her to have that blessing, what is that to me? In other words, If God wants her to walk a different path from mine, how does that change my calling?

Each of us experiences unique detours and obstacles, burdens and blessings. When someone else receives something we don’t have yet, they aren’t taking our blessing — they are simply walking God’s path for them. Embracing this perspective helps us to sincerely rejoice with others instead of thinking, Why not me?

We may never know why our paths differ, but we can trust that we are all being shepherded by God, whose love for us is “as high as the heavens” (Psalm 103:11, NIV).

Jesus concluded His talk with Peter by saying, “You must follow me” (John 21:22). Our paths are all different, but our calling is the same: No matter where Jesus leads us, we must follow. Why? Because Jesus knows the way.

When we encounter disappointment or delay … Jesus knows the way.
When our paths take unexpected or unwanted turns … Jesus knows the way.
When we need help battling temptation … Jesus knows the way.

Best of all, when we follow Jesus, we are never alone. He walks in front of us — He walks with us — every step of the way.

Father, thank You for sending Jesus to show me the way, even when my path takes confusing turns. Please fill me with gratitude and trust so I can overcome the temptation to envy; instead, I want to enjoy the journey You’ve mapped out for me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


We know we are supposed to spend time with God, but sometimes it can feel hard to figure out how to spend time with God. Maybe you feel disconnected from Him and struggle to see Him each day. Or perhaps you just feel like you are in a rut with routine. That’s why we created “My Quiet Time Isn't Cutting It: 30 Refreshing Ways To Spend Time With God.” This 30-day calendar will help you learn how to invite God into every area of your life with easy-to-try exercises you can implement even in your busiest seasons. Click here to download today!



Elizabeth Laing Thompson’s book When God Says “Wait” helps you navigate life’s delays without losing your faith — or your friendships. Get your copy today!



Elizabeth loves helping others find hope in heartache. Connect with her on Instagram and on her website.


1 Peter 2:1-3, “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good” (NIV).

What scriptures help you to battle envious thoughts? Share them in the comments.

© 2023 by Elizabeth Laing Thompson. All rights reserved.

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