The Unhappy Sin

So from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David (1 Samuel 18:9).

Essayist Joseph Epstein writes, “Of the seven deadly sins, only envy is no fun at all.” He goes on to say that envy makes us look “ungenerous, mean, and small-hearted.” There’s plenty of research to back up Epstein’s statement. In fact, psychologists have found that envy decreases life satisfaction and diminishes well-being. It’s correlated with depression and neuroticism, and the hostility envy breeds may actually make us physically sick.

Saul fell into the trap of social comparison, and it definitely decreased his happiness. After David had been anointed king by Samuel and had been doing things “successfully,” Saul took him in and set him over his men of war (1 Samuel 18:5). Saul desired that David be victorious, but he was not happy when women came out of “all the towns of Israel” to sing David’s praise as a victor (1 Samuel 18:6). They sang a song that intimated that Saul was a pretty good fighter, but David—the new commander on the block—was ten times better!

Hearing all the praise heaped on David, Saul was displeased and became angry (1 Samuel 18:8). He simply couldn’t handle the greater success his right-hand man was enjoying. As a result, from that day forward Saul treated David with suspicion.

Just as being envious was inconsistent with what it meant to be God’s king, it’s also inconsistent with the gospel (James 3:14-15). Envy hinders growth in grace, is hurtful to those who envy, and is a root of all kinds of disorder. Let’s deal swiftly with it by recognizing that God is both sovereign and gracious, by responding to His grace with gratitude, and by celebrating the good things He’s doing in and through us and others.

This passage first appeared on

The Unhappy Sin