“And Saul was very angry, and this saying displeased him. He said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands, and what more can he have but the kingdom?” And Saul eyed David from that day on.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
Saul was not simply angry here. If he were just angry he could have gotten over it and moved on. The fuller truth is that there was something deeper that was motivating his anger. Saul was envious of David.
Wait, am I saying the text is wrong to report Saul as angry? Or do I have some kind of an extra revelation about how it should be read? No and no. The text is absolutely right. Saul was angry. But from the context, it is clear that this isn’t your every day, average, garden-variety anger. This is envious anger. This was envious anger and by falling into its clutches, Saul’s doom was all but sealed.
You see, envy is one of the deadliest sins of the heart we can commit. Envy leads to a whole world of trouble that not even its cousin, covetousness, causes to bubble up in us. With jealousy, we want something someone else has. Such a feeling can lead us to do all kinds of foolish and evil things to try and get our hands on whatever it is. This is a big enough problem on its own.
When it comes to envy, though, we don’t simply want what they have, we want for them not to have it. In fact, we just want it destroyed. We want for no one to have it. With jealousy, we want to be elevated to their standard. With envy, we want them to be reduced to ours (or lower if we can help it).
It is this essentially destructive nature that makes envy so dangerous. It ate Saul up like a poison. In the very next scene we find Saul trying to literally pin David to a wall with his spear. When this didn’t work, he sent him into the field into the most dangerous situations he could in hopes he would be killed. He devised insane, deadly requests for him to fulfill with his failure as the goal. But God was with David and failure just wouldn’t come. And the envy continued to consume Saul’s soul.
Wanting what someone else has is a dangerous business by itself. But we must especially guard against the introduction of envy into our hearts. Such a thing can and will only lead to more trouble than we’d care to face. It will destroy everything good and noble in our lives. And it will ultimately destroy us. If you are envious, then, ask yourself why. Submit your envy honestly to God and ask for His help celebrating the good things the people around you receive. That practice is the only antidote that will work.