The “Green-eyed Monster” and progressive politics

Put aside all envy (1 Pet. 2:1); do not envy one another (Gal. 5:26)

The Bible admonishes Christians to not envy other people; being envious is one of the traditional “seven deadly sins” of ancient times: envy, gluttony, greed or avarice, lust, pride, sloth, and wrath.

According to, although this list does not appear in the Bible, it was first compiled by Pope Gregory I circa 600. Proverbs 6: 16-19 gives a slightly different list of sins. Other sins are cited in Galatians 5: 19-21, including envying and outbursts of anger. The Ten Commandments given at Mt. Sinai around 1450 B.C predate the Sins. You shall not covet (#10) is the closest one to envy.

Jealousy is closely related to envy, but as we shall see below, jealousy can be less evil, instead of wanting to harm a person of which one is envious, being jealous may lead one merely to want to emulate—equal or excel by imitating—that person.

Interestingly, seven “virtues” in a poem, Psychomachia, by a Christian governor Aurelius Clemens Prudentius (d. circa 410 A.D.) counteract the Sins. Kindness “cures envy by placing the desire to help others above the need to supersede them.”

Jeffrey A. Tucker writing at the Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEE) has prepared an essay tying the concept of envy to contemporary progressive leftists. His title, “Envy Kills” indicates this vice is more destructive than simply coveting something or insulting someone. It is persistently used by radicals in the political left.

He cites the recent case of a Bernie Sanders supporter whose envy of wealthy people drove his anger to carry out a violent shooting spree on targeted Republican congressmen at a Virginia baseball park where they gathered unarmed to practice for a nonpartisan game.

Mr. Tucker distinguishes terms similar to envy which come under the “general vice of looking negatively upon the success of others.”Covet means to desire something not yours to have. Jealous is wishing the success of others is yours also.

Envy, however, “observes the excellence of others and desires it to stop. It sees the fortune of another and aspires to punish it. Envy is actively destructive of another’s successes as an end in itself…It achieves the goal of satisfying the anger you feel when looking upon the happiness of others,” writes Tucker.

“It begins with resentment against others’ achievements and ends in the infliction of personal harm.”

To paraphrase Tucker’s examples:

Covet- “Some of that man’s wealth should be mine.”

Jealous- “I want to be able to earn his kind of money”

Envy- “I want the government to take much of his wealth and distribute it to others, or to damage his earning ability.

The politics of this, writes Tucker, has “normalized envy as a political idea. Down with the rich! His success must be punished! The 1 % must be pillaged! Redistribute the wealth! All these ideas trace to an ancient idea that was widely seen not as a virtue or a good motivation but rather a socially destructive sin.

“Real envy makes no distinction; it is unhinged loathing that ends in destruction. It seems like an implausible thing to do, take a sin and convert it to political virtue. But there is a hidden truth here that people are unable to face: modern political institutions are in fact built on an ancient vice, institutionalized and unleashed.”

Mr. Tucker notes that envy can seem relatively benign when it’s embedded in government. That’s why people like Bernie Sander, Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren and others can get away with their envious, vindictive talk. They whip up anger in masses of people to sow hatred “and encourage people to blame others’ successes for their own plight” but they aren’t called to account for the damage that they do.


About R. E. Smith Jr.

Mr. Smith writes essays and commentary on politics, American history, environment, higher education and culture. He's been published in print media and at blog sites for about 25 years. Smith's formal education includes B.S. and M.S. degrees from the State University of New York and Syracuse University. He has earned a 21-credit hour Certificate in Professional Writing from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Training/work experience: NYS Ranger School; U. S. Army, Corp of Engineers; soil scientist and forester with USDA; Assoc. Professor at SUNY; real estate agent; small business owner.
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