Please turn with me in your copies of holy scripture to 1 Corinthians 13. 1 Corinthians 13.
We’ve been working our way through this well-known text on Sunday evenings, and today we will continue with the next descriptor of love: it does not envy. Love is not envious.
Paul wrote this passage write in the middle of an extended rebuke of the Corinthian believers. The Corinthian Christians were divided, disunified, and causing all sorts of problems, specifically surrounding the spiritual gifts. Some of them were privileging certain gifts, while disdaining others.
They were propping up those with impressive speaking gifts, while slighting those who had less flashy gifts from God. In short, they were not being loving. They were not being kind. And they were envious of others. And it is on that last point, on sinful jealousy or envy or covetousness that we will spend our time this morning.
But let’s begin by reading our text.
13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Envy, or jealousy, is a word that is used both positively and negatively in scripture. It is used in several places to simply refer to someone who is zealous, or fervent. They are marked by a diligent devotion to pursing their goals. For example, in Exodus 34:14 the term is used of God himself: “you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”
But the context of each use of the word jealous, or envious, make clear to us whether the author is using it positively or negatively, and here the meaning is clear too. Love does not envy. It does not sinfully desire something that it shouldn’t have.
My plan this morning is to give us 5 marks of envy, 5 fruit if you will, and then show us how Jesus relates to each of those fruit. And at the end, I plan to show 5 parallel fruit of contentment, which is the opposite of envy.
So first, let’s look at envy. A first fruit of envy, is that it lies about God. Envy lies about God.
If you’ll think back with me to the very first case of envy, in the garden, you’ll member how Satan uses envy to turn Adam’s heart away from his creator. He tempted him to take the fruit that was forbidden. And what was one of the things that Satan said?
Satan asked a simple question, but with profound consequences. He asked, “did God really say “You shall not eat of any tree in the Garden?” Satan questioned God’s word, and tried to used deception to cloud his judgment and tempt him to violate God’s law.
Then he speaks another lie. He tells him that if he took the fruit, that he surely wouldn’t die, but that he’d be like God.
He tempts Adam to forget who he was, a creature made in the image of God, and tempts him to seek after divine status. He’s tempting him to envy, to sinfully desire a position and a status that was not given to him. To covet the fruit that was not his to have.
And Satan still uses this tactic today. He tempts us to covet things that don’t belong to us, and that aren’t ours to have. Maybe he tempts you to envy the life of another, maybe good health. Maybe he’s tempting you to covet somebody else’s stuff, or their reputation, or the position they have, or the praise that they get.
Whatever it is, if you are tempted to wickedly desire someone else’s things, then know that that desire is sinful. And its sinfulness is seen when we step back and consider what such desire says about God.
When Adam was tempted, it wasn’t merely the taking of the forbidden fruit that was a problem. It was also believing the lies surrounding the temptation. Satan was subtly getting Adam to question God’s provision and character. He implied to Adam, “If God was really good, then he’d give you that fruit. But he didn’t, so he must not be good. Why would he withhold this juicy fruit from you?”
And therein we can see how lies cloud our judgment when we’re in the midst of temptation. Envy tells us that we deserve something. That we’re being kept from something good. I deserve good health, I deserve a reputation, I deserve security, I deserve a raise, and I’m not getting it, so God must not be as good as he says he is.
Envy lies about God, and when we succumb to it, we’re guilty of believing the lies.
Next, not only does envy lie about God, Envy promises security. Envy promises security.
When we envy, we act as if possessing that desired thing will make us secure, make us safe, make us happy.
If I just had a little more money, a little better health, if I had children that behaved, or the job of my dreams, then life would be good. I could be happy.
Just like Satan tempting Adam with the false promise of being like God, envy deceives us into thinking that gaining the desire of our heart will make us whole. If I just had a girlfriend, if I just had that promotion, if I just had a few more dollars in my pocket, then I could be set. I’d be safe, I’d be secure.
But Jesus himself warns us against such foolish thoughts. He says in Luke 12:15: “take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Be on guard against covetousness, why? Because one’s life doesn’t consist in what you possess.
Possessions can’t give you life. Stuff can’t make you secure. Money can’t make you safe. A good job and reputation and family and wealth never can provide lasting security, just ask Job. Envy promises security, but can never provide that.
Third, Envy not only lies about God and promises security, Envy causes division. Envy causes division. I’m thinking here specifically of James chapter 4, where he writes,
“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions[a] are at war within you?[b] 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.”
Why are there fights? Because you covet and you can’t obtain. Why are there divisions among family members? Because jealously exists between them. Why was Corinth divided over spiritual gifts? Because they were covetous in their hearts. Why do divisions exist in any church, even Morningview? Because envy persists.
Envy is a necessarily divisive sin. It cannot coexist with true love. It has no interest in peace and unity, because it is centered on the self. It’s counter to all goodness, and that’s why Adam’s envy forced him to be separated from God. And it is envy, among other sins, that separate us from God.
Envy causes division.
Fourth, Envy breeds hatred. Envy breeds hatred. Envy is a particularly wicked sin because it is not content to remain as it is. Envy grows and bears fruit.
Think back to the end of Genesis, to the story of Joseph. Joseph’s older brothers were envious of the favor that their father had shown to Joseph, so they plotted against him. But it wasn’t enough for them to take the favored coat of many colors. They wanted more. They wanted to kill him.
You see there are really two aspects to envy. The first aspect, bare envy, is wanting something that someone else has. You have it, and I want it. But the second component of envy, which will certainly grow if not rooted out, is less concerned with the stuff, and more concerned that someone else doesn’t have it.
You envy someone else, not merely for what they have, but you desire to make sure they don’t have it. Joseph’s brothers didn’t want the coat, they just wanted to make sure that Joseph didn’t have it.
Or perhaps even more clearly, think of the two women that came to Solomon with the baby. When Solomon’s solution was declared, and he said just chop the baby in half, the envious woman said, “Go ahead. I don’t care. Just so long as she doesn’t have it. If I can’t have it, neither should she.” That’s pure wickedness. I don’t want your stuff, I just want to make sure you don’t have it.
I don’t want your job, I just don’t want YOU in it. I don’t want your life, I just want to ruin your’s for you. I don’t want your praise, I just want to keep you from getting it. YOU don’t deserve it.
That’s not loving, but that’s where we will all head, if our envy goes unchecked.
Next, envy lies about God, promises security, causes division, breeds hatred, and lastly, Envy leads to death. Envy leads to death.
Envy is prolific, it bears fruit. It will necessarily grow, and refuse to be contained. Thomas Watson called envy a “mother sin” because it bears so many children. If you allow envy to fester, it will grow into bitterness and resentment towards the thing or person you’re jealous of, and if that persists it will lead to death.
Adam’s envy lead to his own death, and the death of countless others. Right after that, Cain’s envy of Abel, led him to kill his own brother.
Or later, remember in 1 Samuel 18, Saul looked out his window and heard the women celebrating David. They sang, “Saul has struck down his thousands, but David his ten thousands.” And the text says that Saul eyed David from that day on. His former friend, he now viewed as an enemy, and tried to kill him more than once. Envy led him to try and kill a loyal friend and servant.
Envy leads to death, even our own death. Paul wrote to timothy in 1 Timothy 6 that the love of money, or the sinful envy of money, is the craving through which some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
Envy, sinful desire, if left unchecked, will lead to our own death. It will drive us away from God. It will bring upon us pain and misery. It will impede our worship of the true God, and drive us from God’s presence, just like Adam was driven from the presence of God.
And that’s because envy, at root, is idolatry. It is false worship.
Paul says in Colossians 3:5, “Put to death what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, WHICH IS IDOLATRY.”
Covetousness is idolatry, Paul says. It is acting as if some created thing, some idol, can provide me with what only God can provide. If I just had my plan, if I just had this thing, if I just had this job, this house, this position, then I would be safe, secure, happy. It’s Satan’s offer of life, if we just take that which isn’t ours. But it doesn’t lead to life, it leads to death, especially spiritual death.
Ephesians 5:5, “For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” If you covet, you’re disqualified to be in God’s kingdom. If you’re envious of others, then you’re cut off, just like Adam expelled from the Garden. If you turn to an idol to save you, then God will not be your protector. Envy leads to Death, separation from God and, eventually, eternal punishment in hell.
But God has not left us without hope. Even though we all covet things that don’t belong to us, and envy other peoples’ worldly goods, and prop up idols of our own making, God hasn’t left us without a means of escape. Our means is Jesus Christ.
Let’s think back through these five marks of envy, and see how Jesus is our solution.
Envy lies about God, but Jesus brings the truth. He says in John’s gospel that if we are Jesus’s disciples, we will know the truth and the truth will set us free. We don’t have to fear being enslaved to the deceptions of Satan. We don’t have to wonder how to honor the father, because Jesus perfectly reveals the father to us.
Indeed, Jesus doesn’t just reveal truth to us. He states very plainly that he IS the truth. He’s the sum of all knowledge. All reality culminates in him, and nothing is fully understandable without him. Without Christ, we’re deceived by lies, but in Christ, we can finally think straight, and have a right view of ourselves, and of possessions.
He’s the key to allowing us to rightly know ourselves and our condition, and he’s the one who helps us know God rightly, and fight off the lies of Satan.
But not only the truth, Jesus is also our security. Even though we forsake true worship and prop up idols which are impotent to save us, Jesus has secured our safety. Jesus is our refuge and strength in times of trouble.
Remember Psalm 2 which tells us to kiss the son, and then promises us that “Blessed are all those who take refuge in Him,” in the Son.
Or remember Psalm 32:7, “You are a hiding place for me;
you preserve me from trouble;” Jesus saves us from Trouble.
He is our rock and our salvation; a fortress that can never be moved (Ps 62:6). In Christ, we are unshakable, immovable. He is our perfect security, despite what our circumstances might tempt us to believe.
And how is he our security? Because he is our immovable high priest. He is raised from the dead, and will ever live to plead our innocence. Indeed, the book of Hebrews specifically links our contentment with our security with God:
Hebrews 13:5, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.””
Why should we fight against envy and for contentment? Because Jesus will never leave us or forsake us. The assumption being that if Jesus is with us, what more do we need? And if we need nothing more than Jesus, then why would we envy?
Third, unlike envy, which causes division and fights, Jesus is our peace.
He’s our peace with God, and with each other. Between us and God, he’s made the atoning sacrifice which can allow us to be forgiven and made right with God. Romans 5: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. ”
Nothing lacks, not further atonement needed, no acts of penance, nothing is required other than simple faith. And when we lay hold of Jesus by faith, we’re reconciled to God completely and perfectly.
And flowing from that reconciliation with God, we’re granted the ability to be a peace with one another. Paul says in Ephesians 2, “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.”
No longer are we at war with one another, because Christ has brought peace. No longer need we to envy, because Christ has brought that which we could never achieve. No longer need we be jealous and bitter toward others, because Christ has provided everything that our souls craved. Jesus is our peace.
Next, rather than envy breeding hate, Jesus himself is love. Jesus is love. The apostle John teaches us in his first letter that God is love. He’s not merely loving, he IS love. His very being is necessarily and unchangeably, love. He can’t not be marked by a loving disposition.
And Jesus is fully God, sharing completely in that divinely benevolent nature. His character towards his beloved is nothing but gentle meekness. He’s not some cruel task master demanding perfection from you in order to be loved. He grants us his love, and then makes us lovely through his working through us.
And as we’re remade into more and more loving people, through first having tasted of God’s love, we’ll grow to show more love towards others. We won’t bite and devour one another. We won’t be jealous and grow bitter towards others.
We won’t turn green with envy every time someone else gets something that we’ve long desired. God’s love, principally seen in Christ’s redemptive love, makes us into more loving people.
Lastly, rather than envy leading to death, Christ himself is life. Christ is life. And we see that in multiple ways.
He provides the substitutionary life that we failed to live. He never once envied others, though he certainly had opportunity. He never disdained his calling as a messiah sent to death. He never grew bitter about being falsely accused and maligned. He never sinfully lamented his station or his role. Rather, for the joy set before him, he willingly endured the cross.
And having been the perfect substitute, he’s now able to share with us his very life. He didn’t merely provide a substitute’s life, he IS the life. In him, through union with him by faith, we partake of true life.
We are branches grafted on the lifegiving vine. And because we’re united to his life, we too can have life and bear fruit. We no longer have to fear death or shame, because Christ has defeated them both. We no longer have to fear the grave, because Christ has been raised, and we’ve been joined to him in his resurrection.
Christ is our life, our love, our peace, our security, and our truth. Do you know this Christ? Do you see him as the one who secured perfect life and peace, and has granted you life and peace through faith? Then be encouraged that he is enough, and envying any worldly thing is to replace Christ with a powerless idol. Stay close to him, and fight for contentment by reflecting on all blessings that are ours in him.
And if you haven’t trusted in Christ, then know that your envy is leading you to death, certain death, a miserable death, that will not cease when you die physically, but will continue on into the next life, without end. Christ offers to you true joy and contentment, true life and peace, and all you must do is trust in him.
Consider all that he offers, and ask yourself if anything in this world can compare. Can anything else provide you with that peace, with that joy, with that security, with that love? Nothing can. And even if it could for a moment, it couldn’t last. Everything you covet is fleeting and fading. Nothing in this age will stand, except Christ and his word.
Read of Christ and his promises in God’s word, test them, consider them, and submit to them, because anything else is simply idolatry that will lead to death. Come to Christ, and be saved this very day.
Now, I’d like to take our 5 points and spend the remainder of our time thinking of how envy can be replaced with its opposite, which is contentment. If Christ really is our truth, our security, our peace, our love, and our life, then how should that impact our lives today?
Let’s go to the first point, contentment accords with truth. Contentment accords with truth.
If Christ is our truth, then in our battle for envy we should fight against any lies of Satan. Lies like, “I don’t deserve this. I deserve better.” Envy prompts within us a prideful unwillingness to remain content with our station. We want to move ourselves up. We want better, we want more. We want less pain and only pleasure. And we want it so much that we’re willing to sin to get it.
But contentment has the truth. It knows that God is good, and doesn’t doubt his goodness, even when we don’t get what we want in this life. Contentment knows that when we are withheld from the object of our desire, that God is withholding it FOR OUR GOOD, not out of punishment, because the truth is that all of our sin has been punished at the cross. No more curses for us, only blessings.
And so, we can be content in disappointment, because we know God is good. Content in trial, because God is our divine physician, giving us the medicine I need. Content in suffering, because God is our father, lovingly making us more like Jesus. Content with very little, because we know that even very little is more than we deserve. Contentment feeds itself on the truth, of who God is, and who we are.
Next, Contentment grows from security. If Jesus has saved us, then we can be content through the ups and downs in life. No dark valley can scare us, because Christ is our security. It’s not my performance, not my financial shrewdness, not my career advancement, nothing I do makes me finally safe. Jesus is our safety.
Nothing can take away from his bride. No one can snatch his sheep from his hands. And from that position of security, we can hold to the possessions in this life with very loose hands. We can be generous, instead of envious. We can be charitable, rather than resentful. We can be patient, rather than irritable.
We can take correction from others, without being defensive or critical, contented Christian is thick-skinned, secure in the hands of his savior. That security allows him to not be threatened by the opinions of others, or the trials in life.
And that allows for the next truth: contentment seeks peace. Contentment seeks peace. If envy produces fights and quarrels, then a contented person will be a peacemaker.
Contented people can overlook a multitude of sins. Contented souls are quick to forgive, and refuse to be bitter, because they know the weight of their own forgiveness in Christ. Contented souls don’t seek their own preferences, but defer to the good of those around them.
Contented souls don’t have to dress and act immodestly because they’re envying the attention of others. Rather they can be modest in heart and dress because they know that their heavenly father delights in them just as they are in Christ.
Contented souls don’t seek to make sure their voice is always heard and their work is always praised; rather, they are always propping up others, promoting them, honoring them, because they know that is what Christ has done for them.
Fourth, contentment begets love. Contentment begets love. If Christ has shown such deep love toward me, a covetous idolater, then how could I not show love to others.
If I am contented, for example, I won’t be greedily envious of money. Remember when Jesus is asked by the soldiers in Luke 3 what they need to do? He tells them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.” Be content with your wages, don’t seek to get more through sinful means. Don’t skim off the top. Don’t lie on your taxes. Don’t embezzle. Rather, love others, and be content with your wages.
And contentment also bears loving fruit towards others outside the realm of finances. If I am content, then I can celebrate when someone else gets praised. I can rejoice when others rejoice, because I’m not envious of their praise or their promotion. I can speak lovingly to others, even hard truth, because I’m not threatened by what others think of me, and tie my value to whether others like me or not.
Contentment bears many fruit, the fruit of love, and can do so, because it is secure in the love that Christ has shown to me.
Lastly, contentment not only accords with truth, grows from security, seeks peace, and begets love, it also leads to life. Contentment leads to life.
Just like envy is a prolific vice, so too is contentment a prolific virtue. A contented person lives an enjoyable life because he is free from bitterness and strife. He doesn’t harbor feelings of animosity. He’s not always calculating and vengeful. Rather, he can joyfully exist because nothing in this life, no trial or suffering, no slight or sin against him, can rob him of his contented joy.
He knows his treasure is in heaven, where moth and rust can’t destroy. He knows that he possesses the smile of God, and so the frowns of man can’t crush him. He knows that his satisfaction is found in Christ, who’s love is immovable, so he’s not thin skinned and pouty when criticized. He can enjoy life, rather than be miserable.
Further, a contented man is prolific because he joyfully spreads the message of life with others. An envious man will be fearful of telling others about Jesus, because he’s afraid it might cost him something: reputation, fame, a job, money, whatever.
But a contented man, who’s contentment is found in the provision of Jesus, whose security is found in Christ’s protection, can be bold in speaking the truth to a frightful world.
Let us all reflect. Am I really content with what God has provided for me? Is God in Christ enough? If so, then why would I fear speaking to others about him? What could I lose, what of any lasting value is threatened, by my speaking the gospel in love to others?
Nothing. Nothing of lasting value can be lost.
Let us strive for contentment, knowing that Christ has provided all that we need, and that in Christ, lasting joy and peace await those who remain contented in Him.