Pastor Larry L. Harris’ “Love Stops the Spead of Envy,” 1 Corinthians 13:4

4Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; (NKJV)

Loving keeps you from putting others down 

I am convinced that when we are so consumed with ourselves we tend to also harbor envies, jealousies, and resentments against others. These behaviors often manifest themselves when we feel our needs are not being met, and someone else is seemingly doing better than we are. No doubt you’ve heard of this as a “crab-in-the-bucket” mentality––when a crab makes it to the top of the bucket the other crabs pull it down, and more often than not, that is what happens with many of us when we are too consumed with what we have or what we don’t have––and we compare ourselves with what everybody else has or doesn’t have.  However, this is not a new phenomenon. This has been going on for a long time––even in the church––even with spiritually gifted Christians.

According to Paul’s letter to the Corinthian Church, it is rather obvious they were focused on themselves. They had a “Me first…others later mindset,” and this behavior is evidenced in chapter 3: 

And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?” (1 Corinthians 3:1–3, NKJV) 

This church was having a love affair with themselves in the worst way. They were spiritual show-offs. They would do anything to get attention…even if it meant doing something destructive to the unity of their church. They would use their gifts God gave them, as toys to play with and weapons to fight with. They weren’t concerned with harmony or edifying one another, instead they were focused on pleasing themselves, and getting the applause and accolades of others.

Love doesn’t want… what it doesn’t have

In verse 4b there are three negative vices, which are totally opposite to Love. As weed-killer is to weeds, love eliminates the vices of envy, boasting and arrogance. (I’ll address envy in this article and the others in successive posts).

… love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;” (NKJV) 

“…it is not envious. Love does not brag, it is not puffed up.” (NET) 

First, we see Love does not envy. Love and envy are mutually exclusive––they aren’t even close to being in the same family! Senior Pastor Grace Bible Church, John MacArthur says, “Where one is, the other cannot be.” Note that envy has two forms. One form says, “ I want what someone else has.” When we see someone have a bigger house or nicer car we may become “green with envy” to get what they have. Or if someone gets special mention or attention, we may want the same or more for ourselves. This sort of envy is bad enough. But a worse kind of envy says, “I wish they didn’t have what they have”.  This second form is not just bad.-–t’s very bad because it desires evil for another person. I’m reminded of the fairy tale of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” The evil Queen was the most beautiful in the kingdom and she had a magic mirror, in which she questioned, daily. “Mirror, mirror on the wall…who’s the fairest of them all?” Each day the magic mirror would reply, “ You are the fairest of them all.” But one day the magic mirror said, “My Queen, you are the fairest here so true. But Snow White is a thousand times more beautiful than you.” 

This shocking statement sent the wicked Queen into the worse kind of anger. Envy, like an ill- planted weed, grew in her heart taller every day until she had no peace day or night. 

Please note she wasn’t thankful for the beauty she already had––she wanted what Snow White had. Thus she wouldn’tbe satisfied until Snow White was eliminated. She was committed to getting rid of Snow White by any means necessary! After making a poison apple she disguised herself as a farmer’s wife and offered the apple to Snow White. After Snow White eagerly took a bite she fell into a death state, and no one, not even the seven dwarfs were able to revive her. 

The Queen thought she had eliminated Snow White! That’s what happens when envy sets into your heart. You get so consumed with yourself that no one else matters. Whether its envy, wanting what someone else has, or jealousy, wanting someone not to have––you get so preoccupied with negativity that it affects you in adverse ways. But there’s an old adage which says, “When you dig a grave for someone, you might as well dig two––one for you too”!

Real love doesn’t work that way! Love is the furthest thing from envy. As a reminder, love seeks the highest good for other people. The love as described by the Apostle Paul in this passage is  “Agape-Love”. This kind of love is a mindset––a determination of the will to love others in spite of, and this kind of love is a “God-produced” love. This is vastly different than the ill will of envy. 

Envy seeks to dishonor––Love seeks to honor

Envy is selfish––but Love is sacrificial

Envy breaks you down––but Love builds you up

Envy destroys many––but Love conquers all.

As children of God, we must fight against the destructive forces of envy and jealousy…even when it shows up in us.––AND THIS CAN BE HARD WORK. There is always someone who is a little better or has more than you! You may have a lot…BUT THEY MAY HAVE MORE! We all face the temptation to be envious or jealous. Many times the first reaction of our inner desire is to wish another person failure instead of success. But our call is to Love! When we see someone who is very gifted or talented or blessed, we should rejoice and be glad for them! We should celebrate others’ victories!

This is an important practice because envy and jealousy play an integral part in other sins––and it started right in the beginning. The serpent got Eve to be jealous of God, and this sparked her pride to want to know what God knew. Cain was jealous of Abel because God was pleased with Abel’s sacrifice.  Joseph’sbrothers got tired of their father, Jacob, always preferring him so they sold Joseph into slavery. Daniel was thrown into the Lion’s den because of his rival leaders’ espionage––all because of envy!  And who can forget the story about the prodigal son…how the older brother resented his father’s love for his younger brother! Again, all of these stories point to envy!

Brothers and Sisters, Love does not envy! In the OT story of Jonathan and David; Jonathan loved David as a dear brother. He knew David was anointed and more skilled––he even knew that David would become the next king of Israel rather than himself. But that didn’t stop Jonathan’s sacrificial love for his friend. Jonathan’s father, Saul, lost his throne because of jealousy and envy, but Jonathan forsook the throne and I believe God has richly rewarded him in Heaven because Jonathan would have nothing to do with envy or jealousy. 

The late, great missionary-champion, Dwight L. Moody once told the story of an eagle who was envious of another that could fly better than he could. One day the bird saw a sportsman with a bow and arrow and said to him, “I wish you would bring down that eagle up there.” The man said he would if he had some feathers for his arrow. So the jealous eagle pulled one out of his wing. The arrow was shot, but it didn’t quite reach the rival bird because he was flying too high. The first eagle pulled out another feather, then another—until he had lost so many that he himself couldn’t fly. The archer took advantage of the situation, turned around, and killed the helpless bird.

Moody made this application: if you are envious of others, the one you will hurt the most by your actions will be yourself!

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