Love Does Not Envy
Series: Love Is
Big idea: Love does not burn with envy. 1. The problem of envy. 2. The solution for envy.
1 Corinthians 13Jonathan Edwards – Charity and It’s Fruits
Phil Ryken – Loving as Jesus Loves
Ray Ortlund – The Gospel
David Garland – Baker commentary on 1 Corinthians
Thistleton – New International Greek Commentary on 1 Corinthians
What’s going well in your life these days? How’s God blessing you? What’s making you happy? For me, it’s my daughter. Sage is three and she’s really starting to come into her own. We’ve enrolled her in gymnastics, she’s loving it, and I see in her a combination of talent and tenacity. She likes to pretend she’s Simone Biles. She’s also developing intellectually. She’s starting to spell three letter words on her step board and when she completes a word she beams with joy. She and I love to spend time together and it makes me happy. How about you? How about the people around you in our church? What’s going well for other folks in your Citygroup or in Citylight Church? Perhaps they’re really growing in their love for and joy in the Lord, maybe their marriage is on fire or they’re engaged, maybe their career is taking off and their accomplishing meaningful goals, or they’re kids are excelling. What’s going well for other Citylight folks around you? It’s common in Christian circles to talk a lot about how to respond to trials and that’s good. We live in a fallen world that is groaning for redemption, therefore, life in this present age is characterized by trials and we should know how to respond to them well as Christians. But you know what I don’t think we talk quite enough about: How to respond when life goes well for us or when life doesn’t go particularly well for us, but it does for others. I think that we need to. Let me explain…
This ministry year, Citylight Manayunk is focusing on strengthening our gospel culture. A gospel culture growing strong is a church that makes the doctrine of the gospel visible through our relationships and life together so that the world sees in us a preview of coming kingdom attractions. At the epicenter of a gospel culture growing strong is love; a church learning to love one another as Jesus has loved us so that the world knows that we belong to Jesus by our love. In order to strengthen our gospel culture, we must all pursue love. Love is an affection. Love is when others are truly dear to you, in your heart. Love is an affection that shows itself through action. One of the ways that love shows itself is in the way that we respond to good things happening in our own lives and in the lives of those around us in our church and beyond. That’s where the Apostle Paul takes us next in our journey through 1 Corinthians 13. Verse 4: …love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. Envy, boast, arrogant, and rude all have one thing in common: they all describe sinful responses to success. Envy is a sinful response to the success of others, while boasting, arrogance, and rude behavior are sinful responses to any success we have of our own (Ryken). Today we’re going to focus in on how a gospel culture growing strong responds to the success of others. Big idea: Love does not burn with envy. 1. The problem of envy. 2. The solution for envy.
THE PROBLEM OF ENVY
What is envy? Envy is longing to get what someone else has combined with a low-grade desire that they no longer have it so that you can be the only one. Phil Ryken is correct when he writes, “Envy is the pain we feel over someone else’s prosperity. It is resentment of someone else’s good, plus the itch to despoil it.” In the Old Testament book of Genesis, envy is what Joseph’s brothers felt toward Joseph. Do you remember Joseph and his technicolored dream coat? Joseph’s brother felt pain that their father favored Joseph and wanted to spoil his prosperity, so they sold him into slavery in Egypt.
Why is love opposed to envy? Remember, love isn’t simply an action or a feeling. Love is a disposition that is fundamentally other and outward focused. Love is when others are actually dear to you. And we simply cannot simultaneously hold someone dear in our hearts and experience pain over their prosperity. Love and envy, affection for them and pain over their prosperity, simply cannot mix. Imagine that you’ve saved money for a decade and finally purchased your first home and you have me and a bunch of friends over for a housewarming party. Imagine you’re showing us the detail of every room and recounting how God’s providential goodness showed itself each step of the home buying process. You’re beaming with joy over God’s gift. Now imagine that during the tour of your house, I’m only thinking about me. I’m feeling pain over your prosperity and in my mind am beginning to accuse you of poor stewardship; spending so much money on a house. Could you possibly conclude from my reaction that you’re dear to me? I don’t think so and that’s because love is opposed to envy.
How does envy tempt you? Whose prosperity tends to bring you pain? We tend to envy those that we most closely identify with in areas of life that we most value. So, for example, I don’t envy professional baseball players because I don’t identify closely enough to feel pain over their prosperity. Similarly, I don’t envy other dad’s getting to play more golf than me because I don’t value golf enough to feel pain that others enjoy it more than me. But, sad to say, I have felt pain over other pastor’s churches growing faster than Citylight. Envy is ugly. So, when you’re considering how envy tempts you, look closer to home. Look at those in Citylight whose life-stage is close enough to yours to envy and their prosperity happens to be in areas that you value, and you’ll probably find the people that you’re tempted to envy. Envy begins subtly. Envy shows up in the pain that you feel over someone getting engaged when you’re still single, the pain you feel when someone gets pregnant and you’re still trying, the pain you feel when someone gets promoted and your career isn’t moving, the pain you feel when someone has good health and you’re sick or not yet in the shape you want to be, the pain you feel when someone posts about wonderful dates nights and you’re in marriage counseling, or the pain you feel when someone is growing spiritually by leaps and bounds and is receiving all sorts of opportunities in ministry, but you’re in a dry season. Envy begins with a subtle dislike for someone for no reason except that they’re prospering. Who in our church are you tempted to envy?
What’s the big problem with envy, after all, who even sees our envy? Even envy in the heart dishonors God and injures people. Envy dishonors God by putting his goodness on trial. Whenever we feel pain over someone else’s prosperity, we accuse God of being foolish for what he has given to someone else and withheld from us. We were created to glorify and enjoy God forever, but when we envy, we forfeit joy in God by try to replace him with ourselves as sovereign over the affairs of the world. But envy also injures people. The first person that envy injures is the one who envies. Think back over the miserable times of your life. Can you see that many of them were actually caused or were characterized by envy? We spend a shocking amount of our time feeling pain, being miserable over the prosperity of others. Envy also harms the objects of our envy. There is something very powerful about feeling pain over someone else’s prosperity, it spoils their prosperity. If I envy your house, then you’ll feel the need to not enjoy it too much less I hear about it and get upset. When others envy us, it robs our joy in the giver of every good and perfect gift. When we envy those above us, we want to tear their joy down and when we envy those beneath us we want to keep their joy down. Finally, envy destroys gospel culture. Envy turns those who ought to be dear to us into objects of inward suspicion and outward coldness and hypocrisy. Envy shrinks the soul of a community. A gospel culture is a church with an ever-expanding joy because we rejoice with those who rejoice. But a community that tolerates envy is characterized by an ever-shrinking joy because another’s joy becomes my misery. Do you feel the problem? If so, then you’re ready for the good news. You’re ready to learn…
THE SOLUTION FOR ENVY
What can solve our envy? In a gospel culture growing strong, we look for solutions to our problems in the gospel. Good advice about techniques to solve the problem of envy simply won’t do because techniques don’t touch the heart. We don’t need good advice; we need the good news of the gospel to solve the problem of our envy every day. Envy is the pain we feel over someone else’s prosperity. The gospel is the good news that the Lord Jesus gladly endured the ultimate pain so that we can enjoy the ultimate prosperity forever. Listen to the way Hebrews 12:2 puts it: looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. The gospel is the good news that the Lord Jesus Christ endured the ultimate pain because of the joy of purchasing our eternal prosperity. Far from feeling pain over our honor and prosperity, there is nothing too great and too good for the Father to give to us. After all, He gave us his only begotten Son, and what could be dearer to the Father than His dearly beloved Son? The Father loves you and so he gives and gives and gives. And think of the Son. He did not consider his heavenly rights as something to be demanded, but he emptied himself for us. He took on flesh and dwelt among us, was despised and rejected, sinless yet accused, and ultimately crucified in our place and for our sins. He did it for the joy of our forgiveness, our adoption, and so that he could lift us up and seat us with himself in the heavenly places. Friends, the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is the good news that it was Jesus’ joy to endure pain to rescue you from Hell and bring you into the ultimate prosperity of new life with God now and forever! Envy puts the goodness of God on trial. Envy screams that God cannot be trusted. Envy is treason and all we envious people deserve eternal judgment. But the gospel tells us that God shows his goodness in pouring out his judgment on His Son so that all who believe in Him will not perish but have eternal life. A deep conviction about the goodness of God on the basis of the gospel has the power to drive out envy. When we see the goodness of God in giving His Son for us, when we see that Christ experienced the pain of God’s judgment for our eternal prosperity, then we are free to entrust to the goodness of God what we have and what others have.
What does a church look like as the gospel begins to remove our envy? The parallel to 1 Corinthians 13 in Romans 12:9, 15 is very helpful: Let love be genuine…Rejoice with those who rejoice… When the gospel takes root, instead of feeling pain over others prosperity, we begin to rejoice with those who rejoice. A gospel culture is a church where we rejoice with those who rejoice. A gospel culture is a church that is exceedingly happy because our joy is always expanding with the joy of others. We rejoice in our joys and we rejoice when the other rejoices. A gospel culture is abnormally happy because we have our happiness and the happiness of everyone else. A gospel culture is a joy expanding community. Love does not envy, rather, love rejoices with those who rejoice. Isn’t that the kind of community that you’ve always longed for? Can you imagine that? A church where everyone’s joy is expanding and getting larger because our joy is vitally connected to each other’s joy. A church where I don’t just have my joys, but your joys fuel and expand my rejoicing as well because the gospel has made you dear to me. A church where when you rejoice I don’t role my eyes but instead have fuel to rejoice when my circumstances are difficult. The gospel creates a church where we rejoice with those who rejoice because God and one another are actually dear to us.
How do we cultivate gospel empowered rejoicing with those who rejoice?
1. Pray into your envy. Learn your heart. When you begin to feel pain over the prosperity of someone else, be alarmed by it. When you feel even the twinge of rejoicing when someone weeps or weeping when they rejoice, be alarmed. Be alarmed because it’s the work of the Devil. The Devil is fundamentally characterized by envy. That’s why Jonathan Edwards once wrote that envy is the disposition of Hell. Learn to be alarmed by envy as though when you feel it the very depths of Hell were calling to you. Be alarmed because the killer of gospel culture is coming for your church through your heart. Kill envy by acting its opposite. When the impulse to feel pain over someone else’s prosperity and snuff it out rises up in you, act its opposite. If another mom in this church’s children behave the way that you wish that yours did or her career is going in the direction you wish yours would, act the opposite by praying for her children or career to prosper. If someone in this church’s life is going the direction that you wish yours was or is climbing to a status that you wish you could hang onto just for yourself, pray for their prosperity. Literally, make a prayer and begin regularly praying for them to prosper in the exact area where you’re tempted to envy them. Pray for the prosperity of their ministry, their influence, their body, their marriage, their kids, their finances, their spiritual maturity, their joy in the Lord, etc.
2. Actively expand your joy by rejoicing with those who rejoice. When someone is rejoicing because they’re prospering in a way that’s dear to you, thank God for it. Go to the person and ask them questions about it. Learn about their joy by cultivating a keen understanding of it. And then speak words of life and encouragement over that area of prosperity. Thank God for it out loud. If they’re a brother or sister in Christ, choose to see it as your prosperity as well. Consider beefing up.
CONCLUSION AND COMMUNION
Friends, the Lord Jesus Christ joyfully experienced the ultimate pain of the cross for your eternal prosperity. With your heart full of his love, love one another by expanding your joy into the joy of the other so that the world will see in us a foretaste of the coming Kingdom.