Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Envy: the enemy of love

" does not envy..."
1 Corinthians 13:4

We walked into my daughter's room on her 6th birthday and woke her up to a birthday surprise. There, in the middle of her room, was a brand new bicycle. She was thrilled, screaming in delight and jumping onto the bike, pretending to ride.

But we soon noticed someone in the room wasn't happy. Her older brother was standing off to the side, silently crying. When we asked him what was wrong he said "I'm just a little jealous, OK!" We walked over and gave him a big hug and suggested he go over and open the front door of the house. At first he resisted, too consumed with his envy at his sister's bike. Eventually with enough prodding, he relented and opened the door. There, complete with bow and ribbon, stood a brand new bike just for him.

We often talk to children about the "green-eyed monster"...that envious attitude that becomes consumed with (and enraged by) what another person has. In I Corinthians 13:4 Paul tells us that "love does not envy". The actual Greek word he uses is zēloō, which elsewhere is translated zealous. That is exactly what envy is, a consuming and energy-zapping zeal for something that doesn't belong to you. It is the painful desire for another person's advantages, possessions, or achievements. Or, closely related to this, it is the bitter anger that develops when someone you're disgruntled towards seems to be rising when you feel yourself sinking lower (in finances, in relationships, in career, in reputation, etc). It's been said, correctly I believe, that "envy is the art of counting the other fellow's blessings instead of your own."

One of the evidences that we are walking with Christ is that we seek to put to death this attitude when it arises within our hearts. A spirit of envy blinds us to what God is doing in our own life and makes us unable to see the bike outside the front door. When we become envious of others, not only do we fail to love others as Christ instructed, we also fail to love and trust God who blesses us beyond measure.

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