But first, let’s look at jealousy. In his book Respectable Sins, Jerry Bridges defines jealousy as “intolerance of rivalry” (149). A common reason for jealousy might be if someone were to try and win your spouse’s affections. This type of jealousy is right. A husband and wife ought to protect their marriage from intruders. An example of sinful jealousy is when Saul was jealous of David’s military success. If you remember, the women sang in the streets, “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7). Saul responded in angry jealousy because David’s popularity had grown in the eyes of the people. They honored David above Saul, making David a rival in Saul’s eyes.
Envy on the other hand occurs when we are resentful of an advantage someone else has. We look at the job, car, house, wealth, experience, or success of another and resent that they have something we don’t. When envy’s roots dig deep and are well nourished, it grows into covetousness. This is when we want and desire the advantage of another, such as a friend’s car, well-behaved kids, or success in ministry. Such covetousness is what God forbids in the tenth commandment (Deuteronomy 5:21).
But the biggest difference between jealousy and envy is this: God is often jealous but never envious.