Bitter Envy

July 8, 2022

Scripture Resource Passage: James 3

Imagine two hurting people. The first one grumbles, “He has more stuff than anyone, then he called me a liar. I’m very angry with him.”

The second person speaks throttled pain, “She told people I was stealing from the General Fund. She hurt my feelings and I’m very bitter about what she did.”

Is it possible for a disciple of Jesus to hold on to injury with heart-harboring bitterness and envy? Yes.

Photo by Tatiana Syrikova on

Reported in the New Testament book of James, “…if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth” (3:13). Apparently, the possibility of such disasters reside within us. An event may not have started with us, but even an unfounded accusation can work its damaging fire.

While we may think of exposed sins like adultery and murder as soul-troubling-problems, undisclosed anger scalds our souls as if it were hot-splattering-oil, flaming from a fryer. James named it, “…bitter envy and selfish ambition…” When others make mean, hurtful and untrue statements about us, we are likely dealing with our own spiritual pain.

Scripture insists there is a spiritual presence which forms the reservoir of this hot oil in our world. “Such [evil] ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic(emphasis added James 3:15).

We ought be most careful when we discover feelings of anger, animosity and animus against others. We may be experiencing a presence most evil. People can be horribly cruel. We cannot control their choices. As disciples we seek to follow Christ in all ways—including those times when foul events are foisted upon us.

Life Application Questions

What steps do you take to monitor your spiritual health?

During a spiritual injury, what is your usual response in guarding against being a Pretender?

What has helped you overcome injuries in your spiritual life? If you observe yourself holding bitter feelings, what should form your response?

Thank you for reading. Comments and suggestions are always welcome. Please continue to use the posts on this site for yourself and as small group resources. Blessings to each of you.

Published by Andrew Simkins

Dr. Andrew Simkins provides spiritual direction for individuals and small groups through the regular blog posts found on this site. He resides in northwest Indiana with his beloved, along with nearby children and grandchildren who are the adornment of his life.

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