Envy is listed as one of the seven deadly sins and was certainly a major problem for Saul, as 1 Samuel 18 makes plain. Envy divides people. It destroys relationships, sows discord, and creates a spirit of bitterness and evil. It causes people to act and speak in toxic ways. James tells us, ‘For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.’ (James 3:16)
Envy often arises when we feel insecure and inferior, when we compare ourselves unfavourably to other people. The antidote to this is to recognise who we are in God and to learn godliness with contentment. Paul tells the Romans, ‘Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.’ (Rom 12:3) When we are sure that God loves us and accepts us no matter what, we can live freely, appreciating the differences and qualities of others without being threatened by them. Saul felt threatened by David’s military successes and was afraid of him. We see later on that David had great respect for Saul and did not return his animosity, sparing his life on more than one occasion. He lived without envy or jealousy, but Saul shows us how these emotions, if unchecked and never dealt with, will mushroom into far worse problems. Saul tried to kill David on numerous occasions and plotted so that others might kill him too. His life reflected the fruits of his ongoing disobedience to God, unchecked attitudes and wilful refusal to repent. Envy will always lead us into danger.