Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?
— James 4:5
I know you want to please the Spirit of God with your life, so today I want to tell you about something that is guaranteed not to please Him. By knowing this, you can avoid grieving Him and can concentrate your attention on doing those things that are sure to bring Him pleasure.
James 4:5 says, “Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, the spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?” I want to draw your attention to the word “envy” in this verse. But first I want to back up and speak to you about the “lust” that the Holy Spirit feels for you and me.
I noted in the February 14 Sparkling Gem that the word “lust” is the Greek word epipotheo, a word that portrays an intense desire; a craving; a hunger; an ache; a yearning for something; a longing or pining for something. Usually this word is used to indicate an intense yearning for something that is morally wrong and sinful. But in James 4:5, this Greek word describes the intense yearning that the Holy Spirit possesses to have us entirely for Himself. Because the word epipotheo is used to depict the Spirit’s longing to have us, it expresses the deep love and affection that the Spirit of God has for every believer.
However, James goes on to tell us that in addition to this intense yearning for us, the Holy Spirit also experiences “envy” regarding you and me. The word “envy” in James 4:5 is the Greek word phthnos, a word that describes a person who is jealous about something; a person who feels rivalry or envy; or a person who holds a grudge because of someone else’s behavior. It also carries the idea of ill will and malice.
This word phthnos is the very word that would have been used to illustrate the emotions a young man experiences when he discovers his spouse is being romantically pursued by someone else. Because James uses this word to depict the Holy Spirit, we need to stop and think about what it means for a few moments.
Anger, resentment, rage, envy, jealousy — these are the emotions a man feels in such a situation. He takes this threat to his marital relationship very personally and holds a grudge against the pursuer. Every time the husband thinks about what that romantic bandit is trying to do, feelings of malice and ill will toward the violator rise up in his soul.
Even more significantly, a man who really loves his wife is not going to sit by and watch his wife be stolen! The envy and jealousy he feels will move him to action — to do everything in his power to win back his wife and permanently eliminate his competitor.
Because the husband is envious, he does all he can to see his relationship with his wife restored. All of these ideas are conveyed by the Greek word phthnos used in James 4:5 when the Bible tells us about the “envy” of the Holy Spirit.
One scholar says the picture contained in the Greek word phthnos could be understood this way:
“The Spirit takes it very personally when we share our lives with the world. He wants us so entirely for Himself that if the world tries to take us away, it infuriates Him. You need to know that in these cases, the Holy Spirit will not idly sit by and watch it happen. He’ll do something to change the situation!”
Not only does it infuriate the Holy Spirit when believers turn their devotion to the world, but it drives Him to intense jealousy. At this point, He will release His full rage against that unholy relationship, moving on the scene like a Divine Lover who has come to defend and rescue the relationship He holds so dear. This is something you can be sure of: If you commit more of your heart, soul, and attention to worldly things than you give to the Spirit of God, He will not take it lightly.
Never forget that the Holy Spirit is a Divine Lover. He is preoccupied with you. He wants to possess you totally, and He desires that your affection be set wholly on Him. That’s why the Holy Spirit feels like a lover who has been robbed if you walk and talk like an unbeliever or give your life to the things of this world. He jealously desires His relationship with you to be restored. He has divine malice toward the worldliness that has usurped His role in your life.
The Holy Spirit is not a passive Partner. He aggressively and actively pursues you. He fiercely wants more of you. When you give part of yourself to something or someone else’s control, the Holy Spirit wants to seize that part of your life and bring it back under His divine control. He even has malice toward your preoccupation with things in this natural realm.
So make your relationship with the Holy Spirit your top priority. Don’t give Him a reason to feel betrayed by or envious of other things in your life that have taken His place. Get to know the Holy Spirit’s voice in your spirit so He can help you set your life in order. Make sure every area of your life is under His loving control!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, if I ever turn my devotion to the world, please move on the scene like a Divine Lover who has come to defend and rescue that relationship You hold so dear. Help me never to forget that You are preoccupied with me and want to possess me totally. I know that You want my desires and affection to be set on You, so if I begin to walk and talk like an unbeliever and give my life to the things of this world, please nudge me and bring conviction to my heart to change. And if I refuse to listen, I ask You to please move with divine malice toward those things that have usurped Your role in my life.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that I respect the Holy Spirit’s Presence in my life; therefore, I am careful in the way I think, the way I speak, and the way I connect with the world around me. I do not grieve the Spirit of God by allowing worldliness to become a part of my life. He fiercely wants more of me, and I want more of Him. The Holy Spirit is the top priority in my life, and I never do anything that would make Him feel wounded, grieved, or envious. I live a life that pleases Him!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. Is your relationship with the Holy Spirit the top priority in your life?
2. Have you allowed anything in your life to usurp the position that only the Holy Spirit should have?
3. Why not take inventory of your “love life” today, asking the Holy Spirit to show you areas in your life where you have allowed your affection to be diverted from Him to other things?