Love is expressed not by our feelings, but our actions. The Bible gives specific, measurable ways that we communicate love to people. One characteristic is through our contentment when those around us are blessed. God wrote, “Charity is not envious…” (I Corinthians 13:4)
Envy can destroy a relationship as much as gossip or adultery can. Though it is a quiet sin that is at first unnoticed, it soon cannot be hidden. Like an ulcer or cancer that gradually destroys the body so envy does significant damage to a relationship.
Love is better than envy. Here is a simple truth: when you are jealous of a person you cannot love them. Envy is oriented around selfishness and having one’s own desires being met; love is oriented around others, serving them and meeting personal needs. Envy starts early in our lives.
When I was a boy my friend, Steve Taylor, lived two doors down and we often played together. During this time (mid-60’s) Batman was a weekly television show that was enormously popular and I loved watching it.
One day I went to Steve’s house and he walked out dressed in a full Batman costume – the cape, the boots, the mask, the whole outfit. He began to wear it all the time and I became jealous. I wanted a Batman uniform, too! I was only nine or ten, but my heart had become envious.
It got to the point when I thought about Steve I wasn’t thinking about ways that I could be a blessing to him, but about the fact that he had something that I didn’t have and wanted. Envy destroys love.
I have been using the terms “envy” and “jealousy” interchangeably, but there is a distinction between the two, though they are closely related. Here are simple, general definitions, but they help us to understand how they develop in our heart.
Jealousy is the fear of being replaced and wanting what another person has. Envy is wishing they didn’t have it at all. Both involve being preoccupied with a person and their possessions, position or abilities.
It seems that jealousy precedes envy and that envy is worse in that it has grown beyond a desire to possess something to wishing evil upon a person.
There will always be someone that is better than you are at something, smarter, more successful, more attractive and has more money than you do. The normal and first reaction of our corrupt nature is to want what we do not have (jealousy) and, if unguarded, the desire will grow to see them hurt by losing what they have.
It seems strange that envy is mentioned in describing genuine love, but it is both practical and true. Love involves relationships. You cannot love someone of whom you are jealous and envious.
The word “envieth” (I Corinthians 13:4) means “to have a strong feeling and passion for something”. It carries the idea of coveting and desiring what others have, even to the point of being possessed by your thinking and feelings. My next few posts will deal in practical terms of how envy destroys our ability to love people.
“The man who keeps busy helping the man below him won’t have time to envy the man above him – and there may not be anybody above him anyway”. (Henrietta C. Mears)