The Ugly Red Monster

You may have heard the expression “green with envy” or envy referred to as “the green-eyed monster.” In the Bible, however, envy had the Hebrews seeing red. The Hebrew word translated “envy” and “jealousy” is quanah, which means “to be intensely red.” This word vividly pictures someone seething with red-faced anger as a surge of blood flushes one’s skin, signaling a rush of fierce emotion. To demonstrate the grim irony of language, zeal and ardor and envy all come from a common linguistic root. The same emotion that “enrages a man” (Proverbs 6:34) also floods him with passionate zeal to defend his country or adore his wife and children.

The Bible most often uses quanah in the negative sense. Every instance in the book of Proverbs warns against coveting the wealth and possessions evil people gain through dishonest means: “Do not envy a man of violence” (3:31); “Do not let your heart envy sinners” (23:17); “Do not be envious of evil men, nor desire to be with them” (24:1); “Do not fret because of evildoers or be envious of the wicked” (24:19).

I find these warnings extremely significant, although this source of envy shouldn’t surprise us. A favorite unguarded mind game so many folks play is to imagine how stimulating it would be to throw restraint to the winds, to live without the inconvenience of ethics, do anything, go anywhere, and let it all hang out. Let’s face facts: sin has its sensual and seasonal pleasures. They may be short-lived and passing (Hebrews 11:25), but they’re certainly not dull and boring!

English and Hebrew assign different colors to the monster called “envy,” but they acknowledge the same ultimate outcome of this destructive emotion. Envy leads to sin (Proverbs 14:30), and sin leads to shame, an emotion represented by the color red. When the Russians were caught spying in England, Margaret Thatcher said, “They were caught red-handed, and now they are red-faced.” So it is with those who indulge the temptation of envy.

So, beware the green of envy. It will eventually have everyone seeing red.

From Living the Proverbs by Charles R. Swindoll, copyright © 2012. Reprinted by permission of Worthy Inspired., an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

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