There is a passage of Scripture in the Book of James which has caused many people to propose many different explanations. I’m not a theologian, but here’s my take on this—
Or do your think the Scripture says without reason that the spirit He caused to live in us envies intensely? (James 4:5)
Envy in the Greek is a neutral word; it becomes a virtue or a vice depending on its context. I could long for a deeper relationship with my wife (virtue), or I could long for a drug that gives me a temporary escape (vice). The Greek word for envy can mean pursue with love (virtue), or lust after forbidden desires (vice).
“The spirit [God] caused to live in us” came from a loving Creator, and was intended for us to long for Him. When God created man in His image, He said, “Let Us create man like Us.” In the Triune God there is a furiously intense longing among Father, Son, and Spirit. Each part of the Godhead longs for the entire Godhead to be glorified—this makes the Godhead indivisibly and gloriously One. This is the same spirit God placed in man.
Of man God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” The God-implanted spirit of man longs to give love and to receive love. Our God-implanted spirit longs to connect.
But for what do we long? We were made to long for intimacy with God. If we substitute or exchange this with a longing for temporary worldly things, we are rightly called by James “adulterous people” and “an enemy of God” (James 4:4).
“But God gives more grace” (James 4:6) that we will turn from our temporary longings to long after Him. James almost seems to be saying that those in the church have their hearts hanging in the balance. Of the other eight times this Greek word for envy is used in the Bible, they are in the positive (or virtuous) connotation.
James is imploring us—longing for us—to not be the exception. Longing for us to humbly admit our need for God and to receive even more divine grace. Longing for us to tip our hearts toward God and renew the passionate, furious longing for which we were created.
O God, I want my passion to burn furiously for You alone. Jesus, may I follow Your example to only do what pleases the Father. Holy Spirit, may I hear Your voice if my heart ever begins to turn toward anything but my Beloved.