Envy in Church Ministry

The Church is the Body of Christ, made up of born again sinners. Christ Himself is the head of the Body, and Christians, collectively, make up the remaining parts of the Body. We’ve each been given gifts and abilities with which to serve each other, for the welfare and growth of the whole Body. Much of Scripture teaches that we need each other (see 1 Corinthians 12:4-31), and for that reason we should encourage and pray for each other. We are taught to rejoice with each other over our victories (see Romans 12:15).

Sometimes, unfortunately, instead of rejoicing over each other’s function in the body, we fight. Some of the conflicts in churches stem from pride, envy, and jealousy, resulting in anger, divisions, and breakups. If we are obedient to the Word, we’ll not fall into the envy trap! For instance, we’re called to admonish each other, every single day, as long as it is called today (see Hebrews 3:13). If we honestly encourage and rejoice with each other, there won’t be room for envy.

In the Bible, 2 Chronicles 18, we read about the conflict between Zedekiah and Micaiah. Micaiah had prophesied defeat for King Ahab and Israel, the Northern Kingdom, as they faced an oncoming battle in Ramoth-Gilead. Prior to this, Zedekiah had prophesied victory, so Zedekiah, feeling jealous, responded by slapping Micaiah across the face, demanding: “Since when did the Spirit of the Lord leave me to speak to you?” (See 2 Chronicles 18:23). Zedekiah did not appreciate being challenged. Does this attitude ever happen in the church today?

The answer is yes, because love of attention and the desire to be the center of attention often leads to all kinds of conflicts in the church. Let’s be honest: who should be the center of attention in the church? God, of course! It’s not about any one individual, regardless of the position they hold in the Church, be it pastor, elder, deacon, teacher, or member.  The church is the house of God, the Body of Christ.  We should all take our roles seriously, be respectful of others and their roles, and serve one another with love. After all, we’re told to consider ourselves as unprofitable servants, after we’ve done all we’re commanded to do (see Luke 17:10).

During Jesus’ time, two of His disciples, James and John, who were brothers, requested to someday be granted the honor of sitting on either side of Him in His kingdom. When the other ten disciples heard about it, they were indignant (see Mark 10:35-41). The ten must have thought they deserved those seats just as much, and that the two brothers were self-centered and sneaky. Jesus confronted and rebuked them, saying, “Whoever wants to be a leader among you, must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:43-45).

So if these incidents happened then, and are still happening today, shouldn’t we find practical ways of dealing with them? We should admit that we have these tendencies and diligently work to confront them. The house of God should be peaceful. If each person seeks to serve others selflessly and promote the efforts of other members of the Body, there will be harmony and joy. If we learn to imitate Christ, we’ll serve others. There should be no room for envy and jealousy in the house of God; these accomplish nothing good or positive, but instead bring resentment, division, breakups, and the like.

Having said that, we need to understand there are instances when confronting one another is also needed to grow and mature the church. In other words, when things are going wrong, we need to speak up, but in love. Healthy confrontation is sometimes imperative in the church to avoid confusion or shame to God’s name and the church. In addition, church discipline has a place in the Body of Christ, but should be the last resort: after one-on-one efforts have failed (see Matthew 18:15-20).

We need to do all we can to resolve conflicts in a kind and loving manner. Envy and pride should never be the reason for conflict in the church. When the devil succeeds in causing a breakup, the church is left with hurt, finger-pointing, and a blame game. Let’s remember Jesus’ heart and prayer for the church as recorded in John 17:11, “…that they may be united just as we are.” The Trinity will never have an in-fight: why should we? Right from the start God, speaking to the Trinity, said, “Let us create human beings in our image, to be like us” (Genesis 1:26 NLT). Of course, with the fall of man, that intention has not materialized, but with the victory Christ won on the cross, we can work towards that end—unity!

“How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!” (Psalm 133:1 NLT)