When You’re Not Number One

At some point this school year you may bump into a girl who outshines you: on the basketball court, in science class, on the piano . . . or maybe with how well she is liked by others and how beautiful she is.

If and when you start noticing that you’re:

  • comparing yourself with her
  • criticizing her (if only in your thoughts)
  • being ungrateful for the gifts God has given you
  • minimizing the gifts God has given her
  • feeling hatred toward her . . .

. . . you can be glad.

Why? Because this girl’s success is shining the spotlight on the sin of envy in your life. That is a good thing because all sin is a disease that will kill you if left unchecked. Envy will destroy you . . . unless you ask for God’s help to destroy it!

How can you fight back against envy? The key lies in 1 Peter 2:1–3:

So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

First, when envy pops up, you and I need to “put it away.” Wage war against it. Confess it as sin to God. Turn away from it and have nothing more to do with it.

Envy will destroy you . . . unless you ask for God’s help to destroy it!

Second, instead of miserably focusing on others’ successes, you and I need to take the “medicine” of the pure spiritual milk of God’s goodness toward us.

Jonathan Edwards does just that in this paragraph (read slowly so you don’t miss these rich thoughts that he wrote way back in the 1700s):

Christ came into the world to deliver us from the fruits of Satan’s envy towards us. The devil being miserable himself, envied mankind that happiness which they had, and could not bear to see our first parents in their happy state in Eden, and therefore exerted himself to the utmost to ruin them, and accomplished it. The gospel teaches how Christ came into the world to destroy the works of the devil, and deliver us from that misery into which his envy had brought us.

When Jesus came into the world, He humbled Himself beyond what we can imagine and gave everything for us. And He did it joyfully. I love how Ed Welch points to Luke 12:32 (“Your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom”) and says, “Fathers can give begrudgingly and kings can give simply because they made an oath, but God gives out of his pleasure and delight.”

Jonathan Edwards says it like this,

The doctrines of the gospel teach us how far Jesus Christ was from grudging us anything which he could do for or give to us. He did not grudge us a life spent in labor and suffering; he did not grudge us his own precious blood; he hath not grudged us a sitting with him on his throne in heaven, and being partakers with him of that heavenly kingdom and glory which the Father hath given him.

As you consider Jesus’ complete lack of pride, envy, and jealousy and meditate on His humble, self-giving love, would you ask the Holy Spirit to remove envy from your heart?

Let’s take a step in that direction together by focusing on God’s goodness. What good gift has God given you lately? Tell me about it in a comment below.

PS: I’d like to thank my Michigan pastor, Brian Hedges, for his third chapter in Hit List. It helped me immensely as I wrote this post.

About Author

Paula Marsteller

Paula no longer tries to catch guys' attention by swallowing live goldfish, arm wrestling, and jumping down flights of stairs. (She's married to a wonderful man now!) She spends her days caring for her son, Iren, and writing for Revive Our Hearts. She's the author of Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl: On Her Journey from Neediness to Freedom, and she and her family live in New York. You can catch all her writing on PaulaWrites.com.

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  • Caroline

    I am a homeschooled girl, but I still struggle with this!! My older sisters are social butterflies, yet I am more of a introvert (at least in public)… I am years behind my sisters in piano, and sometimes I just get envious. Thank you for revealing this! I didn’t know exactly why I felt against them when they tried duets with me. It really is harder to overcome envy with your sisters! You’re with them 24/7 and they seem to always want to beat you at the stuff that they’re bad at… I don’t know what to do.

    • Caroline

      I mean *you’re* bad at

      • Brittany Bradley

        You could always try to be more social. A lot of people think that once you’re a shy person or introvert, you’ll always be that way, but God made women to be relational which means you don’t have to stay shy if you don’t want to. Just work on it. Just a little friendly tip ^^

    • Dear Caroline,

      You have an advantage over your sisters. Because you can’t boast in your piano playing abilities when they’re living in the same house, you have an awesome opportunity to really root yourself in your identity in Christ.

      I just watched a video of two Olympic gold winners (synchronized diving). They were asked how they could pull this off so calmly, and they both said something along the lines of, “It’s because we know who we are in Christ. If we lose, it won’t rock our identities.”

      I’d encourage you to start a notebook with all that’s true of you in Christ. Meditate on these truths often until you believe them to the tips of your toes. Here’s a place to start, from Jude 1-2:

      Caroline, you are “called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ. May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.”

  • Brittany Bradley

    I remember in my sophomore year in High school I was jealous of my best friends because speaking languages came naturally to them because their native tongue made it a bit easier. I can remember I was a hot mess with all that envy. To be honest I still feel like it’s there maybe not in the same area but maybe it could pop up in a different area.

    I’m thankful however that God has been providing for me through others as I am about to start college, even though finances are tight. 🙂

  • Anonymous

    So, how do we “put envy away”, besides confessing it? How do we “wage war against it” and “turn away from it and have nothing more to do with it”?

    • Avigail

      For me personally, if I feel like I’m getting in the “jealousy, they got it better then me” mood, if I can, I close my eyes and if I can’t I’ll go to the bathroom 🙂 and just think about all the amazing stuff G-d has given me, and if it’s really bad I repeat his name over and over again, and well envy can’t stand in his presence. I hope this helps❤️

  • Avigail

    Wow envy is soo terrible! Thankg-d G-d Helped me overcome it now! But envy has ruined could be wonderful seasons in my life. I guess that’s what Satan does, he is a destroyer.

  • Oluwaseun

    I’m so happy that you wrote this article thank you ! ☺️God gave me the gift of mercy so I can use it to help others but lately I’ve been dealing with pride and envy , and it’s mostly because I haven’t spent time in Gods presence for a while asking Him to help me to learn how to use this gift and serve others with it . It’s been getting in the way of me being able to use this gift to love and help others . Thank you so much for this article ☺️

  • Gwen Allen Borro Quimba

    Just the article I need. 🙂
    I have been struggling with this eversince I was in high school. I know I am special but sometimes I just can’t help compare myself to others. I feel bad about it especially that I have these feelings towards my friends. 🙁

    Lord, remove this poison in my heart.