Love is not Envious
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious… 1 Corinthians 13:4a,b,c
Near the end of the classic movie, The Wizard of Oz, the Wizard gives the Tinman a heart and says, “Remember, my sentimental friend, a heart is not measured by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.” The deeper we dig into Paul’s exposition on love in the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians, the clearer it becomes that love is only experienced in our relationships with others. We cannot be a loving person – we cannot experience deep love – without first becoming a person who loves others. The Tinman loved his colleagues deeply and sacrificially, but he felt unworthy of receiving love because he did not have a physical heart. Paul writes that love is first patient and kind. He follows that with a list of things that love is not, beginning with envious.
Envy is a feeling of discontent with another’s accomplishments, successes, or good fortune. It orients us in a negative, covetous manner to another. It is impossible to freely love someone toward whom we feel envy or jealousy. One reason we have negative feelings for others is that we compare ourselves and our situations with others, which puts us in a confrontational position toward the other. One of us is always better looking, more talented, richer, smarter, better dressed, more socially acceptable – name the trait, whenever we compare, there will be a winner and there will be a loser. One person will gloat, and the other will sulk.
True love, on the other hand, is not threatened by the good fortune of the other. The Tinman was genuinely thrilled that the Scarecrow received acknowledgement for his intelligence, and that the Cowardly Lion was rewarded for his courage. When we compare ourselves to others, we feel threatened whenever something good happens to them that is not also happening to us. When we only think of how we are different from others, instead of how we are similar, something good happening to another feels like something good has been withheld from us. That sort of immature, emotional (and all-too-common) response is selfish and narcissistic, making it incompatible with love.
This leads us to the basic belief that underlies envy – that of scarcity. If we believe, even subconsciously, that there is only so much love and blessing to go around, then we will see the love bestowed on others as love we cannot get for ourselves. We become envious because someone else has something we will never be able to have. God, however, is a God of abundance. Being envious shows our lack of faith that God will provide good things in our lives, too. One way we can reduce the envy in our lives is to recognize and name the abundance we experience. Less envy results in more love.
Let us make 2016 the year of love, as love was meant to be.