Covetousness is idolatry, and therefore, covetousness and envy are some of the most foundational-root sins (Col. 3:5). Sexual sin and lust are driven and fueled by envy and covetousness, which are forms of idolatry. In Romans 1, covetousness and envy are listed with murder, wickedness, maliciousness, and lies.
Envy is idolatry because it idolizes particular parts of creation: your neighbor’s wife, your neighbor’s husband, your neighbor’s house, your neighbor’s car, their job, their marriage, respectability, beauty, income level, leadership skills, hospitality, children, family culture, whatever. Envy idolizes something, but then it fundamentally idolizes self. Envy enthrones self as the supreme judge of the earth and determines that the way the Living God has apportioned His good gifts is unjust.
Envy at its core, says, ‘that’s not fair.’ It despises the Living God and hates how He has given out His gifts, and then proceeds to hate those who have received them. Envy, in the name of justice, wants to rearrange the world. And that is idolatry, and that is how it is the root of so much evil. It is willing to lie and cheat and steal and sometimes even murder to rearrange things, to get what it believes it deserves or at least so that those who don’t deserve what they have been given, are stripped of those gifts. Envy tells stories about why that woman, that man, that family should not have those gifts. Why does everyone like her so much? Don’t they see he doesn’t deserve it? Don’t they see all their flaws?
And this is why they crucified the Lord – they handed Him over because of envy. And they persecuted the Christians out of envy. And cultures of envy create cultures of fear and stagnation. In cultures of envy, no one wants to stand out, no one wants to accomplish anything great because as soon as you do, the accusations will start coming that you probably don’t deserve those gifts, you don’t deserve that success, and at the very least, if you don’t share all that wealth, you’re a greedy a pig, proving you don’t deserve it.
But Christ was crucified for all that envy, all that idolatry. He who knew no sin became that putrid sin for us. He was lifted up like the foul serpent and pierced so that we might be healed of this destructive disease, so that all who look to Him might rejoice in all of the gifts of God.