Sayings of the Saints
  • On Envy
"By the envy of the devil death came into the world, and they follow him that are of
his side.
               WISDOM 2: 24, 25

OH YE who are envious, let me tell you that however often you may seek for the
opportunity of injuring him whom you hate, you will never be able to do him so much
harm as you do harm to yourselves.
He whom you would punish through the malice of your envy, may probably escape,
but you will never be able to fly from yourselves. Wherever you may be your
adversary is with you, your sin rankles within. It must be a self-willed evil to
persecute a person whom God has taken under the protection of His grace; it
becomes an irremedial sin to hate a man whom God wishes to make happy.

Envy is as prolific as it is hurtful; it is the root of all evil, the source of endless
disorder and misery, the cause of most sins that are committed. Envy gives birth to
hatred and animosity. From it avarice is begotten, for it sees with an evil eye honors
and emoluments heaped upon a stranger, and thinks that such honors should have
been, by right, bestowed upon himself. From envy comes contempt of God, and of the
salutary precepts of our Savior.
The envious man is cruel, proud, unfaithful, impatient, and quarrelsome; and, what is
strange, when this vice gains the mastery, he is no longer master of himself, and he
is unable to correct his many faults. If the bond of peace is broken, if the rights of
fraternal charity are violated, if truth is altered or disguised, it is often envy that
hurries him on to crime.

What happiness can such a man enjoy in this world? To be envious or jealous of
another, because such a one is virtuous and happy, is to hate in him the graces and
blessings God has showered down upon him.
Does he not punish himself when he sees the success and welfare of others? Does he
not draw down upon himself tortures from which there is no respite? Are not his
thoughts, his mind, constantly on the rack?
He pitilessly punishes himself, and, in his heart, performs the same cruel office which
Divine Justice reserves for the chastisement of the greatest criminal.


ST. CYPRIAN
De Zelo

O ENVIOUS man, you injure yourself more than he whom you would injure, and the
sword with which you wound will recoil and wound yourself.
What harm did Cain do to Abel? Contrary to his intention he did him the greatest
good, for he caused him to pass to a better and a blessed life, and he himself was
plunged into an abyss of woe. In what did Esau injure Jacob? Did not his envy
prevent him from being enriched in the place in which he lived; and, losing the
inheritance and the blessing of his father, did he not die a miserable death? What
harm did the brothers of Joseph do to Joseph, whose envy went so far as to wish to
shed his blood? Were they not driven to the last extremity, and well-nigh perishing
with hunger, whilst their brother reigned all through Egypt?

It is ever thus; the more you envy your brother, the greater good you confer upon
him. God, who sees all, takes the cause of the innocent in hand, and, irritated by the
injury you inflict, deigns to raise up him whom you wish to lower, and will punish you
to the full extent of your crime.
If God usually punishes those who rejoice at the misfortunes of their enemies, how
much more will He punish those who, excited by envy, seek to do an injury to those
who have never injured them?


ST. CHRYSOSTOM
Sermon 40

ENVY IS a gnawing pain which springs from the success and prosperity of another;
and this is the reason why the envious are never exempt from trouble and vexation.
If an abundant harvest fills the granaries of a neighbor, if success crowns his efforts,
the envious man is chagrined and sad. If one man can boast of prudence, talent, and
eloquence; if another is rich, and is very liberal to the poor, if good works are praised
by all around, the envious man is shocked and grieved.

The envious, however, dare not speak; although envy makes them counterfeit
gladness, their hearts are sore within. If you ask him what vexes him, he dare not
tell the reason. It is not really the happiness of his friend that annoys him, neither is
it his gaiety that makes him sad, nor is he sorry to see his friend prosper; but it is
that he is persuaded that the prosperity of others is the cause of his misery.
This is what the envious would be forced to acknowledge, if they spoke the truth
sincerely; but because they dare not confess so shameful a sin, they, in secret, feed
a sore which tortures them and eats away their rest.

As the shadow ever accompanies the pedestrian when walking in the sun, so envy
throws its shadow on those who are successful in the world.

ST. BASIL
De Individia