1 Corinthians 13 Part 6: Love is not Jealous
1 Corinthians 13:4d, Exodus 20:17, Proverbs 27.4 Are you envious or content?
“Love is …not jealous”
1 Corinthians 13:4d NASB1995
Paul now creates a list of what love is NOT in 1 Corinthians 13:4-6, after telling us that love is patient and kind. The first NOT is that love is not jealous. The photo above was taken by us very recently in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. After we disembarked from a cruise, we did a tour on a riverboat that explores the rivers and canals of this boat-centric city to waste time before heading to the airport. We saw one huge mansion after another lining the waterways and then viewed this super yacht, which is one of the largest yachts in the world in private hands. Apparently, the vessel has a crew of 33 people and the fuel tanks hold 100,000 gallons of fuel. I don’t recall the owner’s name, but he has certainly done well!
What is your emotional response to this image? Are you a little envious of that person that owns the yacht, dreaming of what you would do with such a possession and riches? That envy is pretty typical for most human beings, who are sometimes (or often) not content with their lot in life but are looking with a little jealousy at how some people live much better. Usually the daydream vanishes pretty quickly, but for some folks, that envy gnaws away at their happiness. They want the house or the clothes or the full bank accounts without wanting to do the same work that most business owners or celebrities or sports stars have done to get there.
Perhaps your emotional response was a second and more insidious kind of envy, one that not only envies the owner but also wishes that there was some way this person would get their comeuppance and have their riches taken away because they don’t “deserve” it. You actively seek to punish others for their good fortune or success in the interests of “equity” or “fairness”. C.S. Lewis said it Well in The Screwtape Letters:
We must picture hell as a state where everyone is perpetually concerned about his own dignity and advancement, where everyone has a grievance, and where everyone lives with the deadly serious passions of envy, self-importance, and resentment.
Both of these reactions to another’s good fortune are not from love and the second kind is pure malice. The second kind is also the basis for Marxist philosophy, in that those that have must give it up for those that do not have, eventually making everyone, except a few in power, completely destitute. It reveals a meanness of soul that is bitter and bottomless in its hatred for what others have achieved.
Let’s look at jealousy. According to the Blue Letter Bible, the word jealous comes from the Greek word Zeloo, which is defined as follows:
to burn with zeal
to be heated or to boil with envy, hatred, anger
in a good sense, to be zealous in the pursuit of good
to desire earnestly, pursue
to desire one earnestly, to strive after, busy one's self about him
to exert one's self for one (that he may not be torn from me)
to be the object of the zeal of others, to be zealously sought after
As you can see, there are both bad and good attributes of zealotry or jealousy. Burning with zeal can come from envy or hatred or anger OR it can be an earnest desire to pursue something that you desire (good, for example). Even God tells us that He is a jealous God because He wants our worship to be for Him only and not for other idols or gods. Paul is using this term in the negative sense. Envy is one of the classic seven deadly sins and is the subject of the 10th Commandment:
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
Exodus 20:17 NASB1995
David Guzik from Enduring Word commentary has some good observations on this envy:
Is envy a small sin? Envy murdered Abel (Genesis 4:3-8). Envy enslaved Joseph (Genesis 37:11, 28). Envy put Jesus on the cross: For he knew that they had handed Him over because of envy (Matthew 27:18).
“Many persons cover a spirit of envy and uncharitableness with the name of godly zeal and tender concern for the salvation of others; they find fault with all; their spirit is a spirit of universal censoriousness; none can please them; and every one suffers by them. …Such persons have what is termed, and very properly too, sour godliness.” (Adam Clarke)
Envy caused the first murder. Envy from his brothers enslaved Joseph. Envy crucified our Lord. Envy betrayed and murdered many of the Apostles and early Christian martyrs. It can easily creep into the believer, leading to a spirit that finds fault in the way others approach their worship and belief in God.
We have an acquaintance who tells everyone on social media that proper Christianity is only found by following Martin Luther’s way or it is heretical. If you are non-denominational (not to mention Catholic), you are doomed because you didn’t memorize Luther’s Catechism and don’t mindlessly recite the liturgy every Sunday; even worshipping with modern Christian music is not “right”. By viewing everything through this lens of super-perfection, you can whittle down other believers and discard them and their methods and ways until all that is left is YOU. There’s no love in that, only envy. We pray for this person to be less judgmental and more loving of other believers, while we (like her) would still not be so ecumenical as to embrace Biblical heresies like many churches are doing these days.
When love guides your life, you are not envious of others, but rejoice in their good fortune, their riches, their talents, and their spiritual gifts. You can applaud the man who owns the yacht, because he employs quite a few people and his successes have likely benefited many more. You can cheer your co-worker who gets a big bonus for something that you also contributed to, without feeling envious (your ultimate reward is far greater than any bonus). You can be joyful for the person who has the gift of healing or prophecy and praise the Lord for making them His instruments on Earth, rather than wishing it was you. You can cheer on your hubby, who has had more “likes” of his devotional posts without feeling envious (you can do it, Barb!). Envy/jealousy is corrosive and toxic and saps the life out of the soul of a human being. As Proverbs says:
“Wrath is fierce and anger is a flood, But who can stand before jealousy?”
Proverbs 27:4 NASB1995
Love is gratitude and contentment in what you have, not pining for what you don’t have. If you have faith and hope in your salvation, you have it all! Move into love and run as far away from envy as you can get!
My next devotional examines 1 Corinthians 13:4: Love does not Brag and is not Arrogant
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Lord - Please guide me into love and destroy the evil that envy can bring to my heart. Help me to be joyful for others and what they have and not jealous of their success, gifts or talents. Gratitude and contentment are my goals, with help from the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org
Commentary in Enduring Word by David Guzik is used with written permission.