THE MOST EXCELLENT WAY- PART III
“LOVE DOES NOT ENVY”
I Corinthians 13:1-13
Introduction: ONIDA once the second largest Television Brand in India used to have an Iconic tagline in their Ads in the 80’s. It used to read, “Owner’s Pride, Neighbour’s Envy.” You can Imagine, everyone would like to own a ONIDA TV set in their home, including my God fearing parents. In the eighties, in India it was the ONIDA TV that made a lot people become envious.
A recent study found that heavy Facebook users can experience envy -- which can ultimately lead to extreme sadness. The researchers surveyed 736 college students and found that, basically, if you quietly stalk your friends on Facebook and then realize that your life doesn't measure up to theirs, you feel bad about yourself. "If Facebook is used to see how well an acquaintance is doing financially or how happy an old friend is in his relationship –these are all things that cause envy among users -- use of the site can lead to feelings of depression,"
In the eighties it was the TV, and now it is the excess use of Facebook, tomorrow may be something else that could make people envy. Destroying all the TV sets in the world or unsubscribing from Facebook isn’t going to solve the actual problem, it is like dealing with symptoms rather than dealing with the root. What is actually causing so many become envious and depressed? What is the antidote for this virus called Envy? How can we cultivate a life that is free of envy hence free of sadness and depression? In order to discover such life we have been on a journey.
We have been learning about the most excellent way based on Steve Macchia’s book “Broken & Whole, where Macchia worked out various aspects of love in I Corinthians 13. The Beatles have mesmerized the world through their music and songs like, “All you need is love, love, love.” Yes I believe, all we need is love, but not the Beatles version, but God’s love found in I Corinthians 13. This love chapter addresses most of the concerns facing our world today. It talks about what love is, and is not, and what love does and does not do. So far we looked at love being patient and being kind. Today let’s look at what love doesn’t do, “Love Does Not Envy.”
The context, of the Apostle Paul writing the letter to the Church in Corinth was a report sent by the household of Chloe. (I Cor1:11).That report included certain misconducts in the church such as: divisions, gross immorality, and law suits between Christians in front of unbelievers, practical problems in living the Christian life, and marriage problems. There was also confusion about certain rituals of worship, and food offered to the idols.
It was certainly not the way that God intended for them to live. So Paul wanted to show them, the most excellent way. He showed them the way of love. He told them that love is being patient with one another and being kind to one another. Then he went on to explain what love does and does not do. Love does not Envy.
I. WHAT IS ENVY?
Envy is a longing for something that currently isn’t yours and the begrudging feeling of discontent, dislike or ill will towards the person who possesses that which you desire. Envy comes from the Latin word which means “to give the other the evil eye” of malice or spite. Why do we envy? Does envy always have to do with material things? What happens when we envy? Is it wrong to envy? Is it considered sin? Let’s find out what the Bible says about envy.
II WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT ENVY?
Historically speaking, whenever some country went to war with another country, or relationships have been destroyed, families, marriages were split, and churches divided, the root cause often has been the envy. Many times the root cause of heinous crimes is envy. How did “Envy” get its beginning? Who is the author and the orchestrator of envy? It all started in the heart of Satan when he coveted the throne of God by wanting to become like Him. In Isaiah 14: 12-15, we read this sinister, trait “Envy” beginning to take root in the heart of Satan. “You said in your heart, “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” But you are brought down to the realm of the dead, to the depths of the pit.”
After being thrown down, Satan went about with his sinister plan of destroying mankind through envy. Let’s see how else Envy caused a havoc in the human history. Whenever Envy surfaced it ended in death and destruction of life and relationships: Genesis 3:1-3, Eve coveted the forbidden fruit; she ate it and gave it to her husband who also ate it. That act of defiance and disobedience is called sin. The wages of sin is death. We all have sinned, so we inherited death
Genesis 4, Abel brought a better offering to God than his brother Cain. God accepted Abel’s offering and rejected Cain’s offering. Out of anger and envy Cain killed his brother. Knowing Envy’s destructive effect God included it in the Ten Commandments. The 10th commandment reads: “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.
One would think after God giving this explicitly strict command people would follow it, right? Well that did not always happen and it continued to plague generations. The classical story of what envy can do, is the story of King David and Bathsheba. 2 Samuel 11. How about King Ahab, who conspired together with his wife Jezebel and got Naboth killed just because he refused to sell a vineyard which was his ancestral inheritance. What motivated King Ahab to commit such a heinous act? (I Kings 21,22)
What originated in the heart of Satan, surfaced in the Garden of Eden, has continued its destructive path all the way up to New Testament times. Jesus and his disciples have warned people of its dangers and condemned it in very strong terms: “For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.” Mk 7:21-23. Envy like all other sins begins in our heart.
The Apostle Paul, explains what happens to those who remain envious “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” Galatians 5:19-21. Both Jesus and Paul emphasize where envy originates and its devastating effect on believers. For that very same reason the early church fathers included “Envy” in the list among the seven deadly sins.
In whichever way you look at it, envy is a horrible heart disease. Proverbs 14:30, “A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body; jealousy is like cancer in the bones.” In NIV it reads, “but envy rots the bones.” How can we overcome this deadly and cancerous sin?
III. OVERCOMING ENVY
No matter how we define envy, it simply doesn’t belong in the heart of a believer especially in those who are in leadership positions. Envy eats away at the core of love and is not an acceptable way to relate to one another. Envy and the accompanying covetousness and jealousy, is in opposition to love in many disparaging ways. If we don’t pay close attention, envy could cause quarrels and fights in families and even churches. James 4:1-2.
The bible calls envy wrong, not good for us and goes on to list it among the sins of human heart. What is Sin? It is missing the mark. Sin is when we know something is wrong, and is not good for us, but we deliberately go-ahead and do it any way. Sin separates us from God and alienates us from others. Sin hurts us, and hurts those whom we love and loved by.
Envy has been the main culprit in many broken relationships and a leading cause of depression. I would like to suggest a few practical steps in, overcoming envy and cultivating a life free of envy. Firstly, just like with any other sin, we recognize envy is sin, so we call envy by its name and we repent of it and ask God for his forgiveness. Secondly, we make an inventory of all the blessings, all the things, all the meaningful relationships you have been given and give thanks and praise to God.
Thirdly, learn to be content. Contentment is the antidote for envy. Paul said, “For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Christ who strengthens me” Phil 4:11-12. Finally, more on a practical way, if you are spending too much time on social media, I urge you to reduce your hours on the internet and on the TV.
I urge you to find time for Bible reading, prayer, find time to be with and enjoy people, rejoice with those who rejoice and come alongside those who have a hard time. Let the words “Thank you” come often out of your mouth towards God and people. When we live life through the lens of gratitude it changes our attitude and we become so much happier. Let me end with another antidote for envy from 1 Thessalonians 5:16 “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus, Amen!