“Love Envieth Not”
The heart of man cannot contain both of these feelings. If we have the love spoken of in (1 Cor 13:4-8) we cannot have the envy; they are opposed the one to the other; for envy is, indeed, one of the worst of the “works of the flesh.” Solomon informs us in Proverbs 27:4, that “Wrath is cruel and anger is outrageous: but who is able to stand before envy?” True brethren and sisters will guard against anger and wrath, but how much more against envy? Anger, though a danger, is oft-times of short duration, but envy is nursed in the heart, brooded over, is ready to imagine evil, to magnify small grievances, to belittle faithfulness in the one who is the object of envy, and leads to many grievous sins as a few moments’ thought will enable us to readily perceive.
The pages of Scripture make manifest the ends to which envy leads. Stephen, in the address recorded in Acts 7, tells his hearers that “the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt,” thus bringing trouble for their brother, sorrow for their father, and afterwards great uneasiness in their own minds. The leaders of the people to whom Stephen spoke had themselves been responsible for a greater crime, the death of Jesus himself, and “Pilate knew for envy they had delivered him”. The apostle Paul was opposed by the Jews both at Thessalonica and Antioch; they were “moved with envy” because almost the whole city came to hear the word of the Lord.
“A sound heart is the life of the flesh, but envy the rottenness of the bones” Proverbs 14:30
But the Scripture also gives us splendid examples of the Love that envieth not. One such example is in the history of Jonathan and David. Saul’s envy of David was obvious from the day when it was sung, “Saul hath slain his thousands and David his ten thousands,” and therefore Saul “eyed David from that day and forward.” But Jonathan loved David. This brought upon his head his father’s anger; yea, Saul incited him to envy, saying “for as long as the son of Jesse liveth, thou shalt not be established nor thy kingdom.” That Jonathan realised the truth of these words is evident, for he said to David, “Thou shalt be king over Israel, and I shall be next unto thee,” and was apparently content that it should so be. It is a good example of the love that envieth not; no resentment was shown between these two, and so, at Jonathan’s death, David mourns: “I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been to me: thy love for me was wonderful.” The apostle Paul teaches that the same spirit should dwell in the brethren and sisters of Christ. The affections and lusts of the world should be eschewed by God’s children. Envy is common among men and women who know not God. In business or private life there are those who are envious of another’s position, or wealth, or attainments. But it is a characteristic which should be entirely foreign to the saints, and yet the many exhortations in the word remind us that we can succumb to this evil; for James writes, “If ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not and lie not against the truth,” and goes on to say that “where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.” Let us then be on our guard. It is possible to envy another’s knowledge and ability to expound the Word, but we should rather rejoice that the truth can be proclaimed in such manner. We can envy the attainments of others or the talents they possess, and yet not be using the talents we have. Let us endeavour to cultivate the fruits of the spirit and in so doing we shall “not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another”.
Let us endeavour to follow the “more excellent way”. When we recall God’s love to us, manifested in so many ways, but especially in the opportunity to obtain salvation; when we remember the love of Jesus Christ, who laid down his life for his friends.
Bro J Webster (UK)