Love Does Not Envy

Title: Love Does Not Envy

Text: 1 Corinthians 13:4

Time: February 11th, 2007

Today we continue in the sermon series on love from 1 Corinthians 13; we come to the first contrasting characteristic in the Apostle Paul’s list – Love does not envy. Normally, Paul lists a positive characteristic of love, but starting in verse four he begins mixing both positive and negative characteristics. Or in other words, Paul contrasts what love is with what love isn’t, what love does with what love doesn’t do. Today, we’ll be looking at what love doesn’t do, that is, love doesn’t envy. It’s funny that Paul should start listing opposite characteristics, contrasting characteristics to those of love, but if we think about it, what better way of making sure everyone understanding what love is than by also describing what love isn’t? We see God doing this when He gave the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai. Here God mixes both positive and negative commands in order to make sure that His instructions are clearly understood. For example, in the Ten Commandments there is the commandment to “Honor your father and mother,” that’s a positive command. But then there is the command “You shall not murder,” that’s a negative command. God mixed both negative commands with positive commands in order to better communicate His will. In the same way, God inspired the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 to mix both positive descriptions of love with negative contrasting descriptions of what love is not. It’s a great way of communicating exactly what is the truth. So today, for the first time in Paul’s list of love characteristics we learn what it isn’t, or what it doesn’t do. Love doesn’t envy. Webster’s Dictionary defines envy as a “painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage.” Let me say that again: envy is a painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage.” Or in other words, when somebody has something you wish you had, you feel resentment towards them. To be envious is “begrudging another possession of something.” Or in other words, if you are envious of someone you carry a grudge towards them because of something they have that you don’t. According to Webster’s Dictionary: “Envious stresses a coveting of something (as riches or attainments) which belongs to another or of something (as success or good luck) which has come to another.” Or in other words, if you envy someone you are actually coveting what they have and feel negative towards them because they have what you don’t have. You want what they have and are mad because they have what you want but don’t have. Jealousy is related to envy but not exactly the same. Webster’s Dictionary says, “Jealousy is likely to stress intolerance of a rival for possession of what one regards as peculiarly one’s own possession or due.” So, today let’s talk about envy and how it is not something that we should do if we are trying to be a loving person. And that is our goal in the New Year 2007 – to be more loving. Let’s talk about a few situations we must guard against envy.

First, Love does not envy in the family. 1 Corinthians 13:4, “Love doesn’t envy.” Probably the first exposure to the sin of envy comes within our own families whether we know it or not. In families with lots of kids, it comes up time and again between the kids. One kid gets envious of another kid, and the parents have to deal with it. Like all sin, envy comes naturally for us fallen sinners. Ever since Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden all of humanity has lived in original sin. That’s why you don’t have to teach a child to envy; it just comes naturally. Envy and jealousy are found in every home, in every family where there are two or more children; it’s almost automatic. That’s why parents have to make a point to deal with it and teach their children not to do it, or it will cause lots of headaches in the family. But envy doesn’t end when children grow up and move out of the house as adults. There are families who are still hurt by envy among grown children, maybe even more so by adults than by children. So it’s a big problem in families today. Have you ever been envious of your brother or sister? Have you ever held a grudge against your brother or sister because they got something you didn’t from your parents? What’s really funny is to see this same thing happen among animals, house pets. Have you ever seen two animals interact, vying for the attention of the people in the house? I’ve seen one animal see that another animal is getting too much human attention, so it comes over and pushes its way close to the people for attention and shoves the other animal out of the way. Now that may be jealousy, but there’s also some enviousness there, covetousness there, because the one wanted what the other had. I’ve even seen animals fight each other for human attention. Well, guess what? Humans do the same thing in different ways. Both children and adults envy and compete for things in the same and different ways. Oh, as humans we may not be as obvious as animals are, but we have learned to express the same emotion in more politically correct ways. A kid may start treating his brother or sister mean just because they received something he didn’t. Adults in the family are known to feel envious or jealous of the attention of children towards the other spouse. This is really obvious in divorce situations. Wow, I’ve never seen as much jealousy and enviousness come out in families as when grown adults compete for the attention of their children after a divorce. This is the kind of activity that the Apostle Paul is giving as an example of what is not loving. Being envious or jealous is not loving. It’s ugly. We see it in the lives of other people, but can we see it in our own lives? Take a look at your life, especially within your family. Do you see enviousness? If so, you’ve got some work to do in removing it from your life. It’s the only way you can truly love.

Second, Love doesn’t envy among friends, coworkers, and neighbors. 1 Corinthians 13:4, “Love does not envy.” Now we see how easy it is to envy in our every day life. We are constantly in contact with people, and some of these people have things that we don’t have. Some people have money that we don’t have, other people have possessions that we don’t have, still others have job positions that we don’t have. Many of the things other people have we’d like to have, and so we are tempted to be envious of people who have things we’d like to have but don’t. But what God is teaching us through the Apostle Paul is to not give in to the temptation of envy: “Love does not envy.” But when we stop to think about it, we’ve already heard this teaching before; it’s found in the Ten Commandments given by God to Moses 3500 years ago. In the last commandment, the Tenth Commandment, God says, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor,” Exodus 20:17. Now covetousness leads to envy because it’s wanting something someone else has. Webster’s Dictionary defines “covet” — “to desire what belongs to another inordinately, to wish for enviously, to feel inordinate desire for what belongs to another.” Now to envy is to have resentment towards another person for having something we don’t have but want to have. Do you see how the two sins go together? We covet something we don’t have; that’s wrong. Then we see someone who has what we want and resent them for having what we want. Now when we look around at people in our lives we see that there are lots of things people have that we don’t have but would like to have. What is our temptation? To covet, to envy, to be jealous. But God says that we are to resist these temptations and not let ourselves fall into these sins. Paul teaches us that it is not a characteristic of love to envy because when we start to envy someone else we are not putting love in our heart towards him or her, we are actually putting resentment or even hate in our heart towards them. There are people who are consumed by envy towards certain other people; they are eaten alive internally by envy. Some people bother us solely because they have something we don’t, but we want. That’s not right; that’s wrong. Is there anyone in your life that you envy? Is it someone in your family, a brother or sister, a spouse? Or is it someone who you call a friend, a coworker, a neighbor? The next-door neighbor drives home a new car, what is your reaction towards it? Is it positive or negative? Your friend gets a promotion and pay increase, what is your reaction? Is it positive or negative? Do you resent him for getting what you’d like but don’t have? If we are serious about obeying the command of Christ to love, we’d better get serious about dealing with envy, covetousness, and jealousy in our life.

Third, love does not envy, it finds a way to love. 1 Corinthians 13:4, “Love does not envy.” Now that we know what envy is and how it isn’t compatible with love, the question still remains, “How do we resist giving into the temptation to be envious of others?” Paul teaches us the answer to this question in another place, Philippians 4:11-13, “For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” And there you have it. Paul’s instruction for those facing the temptation of envy – be content. John the Baptist also taught the same thing to the soldiers who were coming to him for repentance and baptism: “Then some soldiers asked him, ‘And what should we do?’ He replied, ‘Don’t extort money, don’t accuse people falsely – be content with your pay,’” Luke 3:14. There it is again – be content. That’s the secret to beating the temptation to envy. Can you be content with what you have, with what God has given you? Can you wait for God to give you the things that you need in life? If you are always looking at what other people have and thinking you must have that or feeling resentment in your heart because you don’t have that, you will fall into the sin of envy. But we don’t have to fall even though it is perfectly natural in our sinfulness to fall into envy. We don’t have to covet another person’s possessions, we don’t have to be jealous of others, and we don’t have to be envious of someone who has what we don’t have. How can we resist falling into envy? First, by being aware that we are tempted by envy. Some people are so unaware that they are envious but they don’t even know it. We must recognize the early signs of envy in our hearts. Second, we must turn to God for help in resisting envy. If we know that we are tempted towards envy, then we must be praying to God constantly to give us contentment in what we have so that we don’t covet what others have. Do you pray that God helps you resist envy when you feel tempted toward it? Third, we must be committed to loving people. Paul reminds us that love does not envy. In fact love wants the best for others, so it can positively rejoice and celebrate when something good happens in someone else’s life. I don’t have to have what someone else has. I can rest in the faith that God will give to me what I need instead of always wanting what others have or feeling bad because I don’t. Are you serious about being a loving person? If so, then let’s get serious about getting envy out of our lives. Can you trust God and be content in what He is doing in your life today? Can you stop worrying about what other people have that you don’t and just get down to the business of loving them? This is what God is calling us to do.

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