Love Does Not Envy

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 delineates several critical attributes that reveal the force and nature of love. Among these features is the truth that love does not envy. What does scripture mean by this statement? What is the practical application of this teaching with respect to the love between a husband and a wife?

The same word translated in this context as “envy” (in most Bible versions) is elsewhere rendered as: jealous, zealous, covet, and desire. The Bible uses the term in both a negative and positive sense (i.e. 1 Cor. 12:31, 14:1, 14:39; 2 Cor. 11:2; Rev. 3:19). In 1 Corinthians 13:4, the negative connotation of envy is employed. It is depicted as a characteristic that is contrary to the nature of love. The phrase is translated “love is not jealous” or “love does not envy”.

The Greek term for the verb “envy” or “jealous” means to have warmth of feeling for or against, to boil or burn with zeal, or to earnestly affect, covet or desire. These definitions illustrate the intensity of the emotional and physiological reaction that envy or jealousy invokes. Envy is a powerful force that can control our thoughts, actions, and attitude - even against our better judgment and reasoning. It is an all-to-common experience for us imperfect human beings. However, it is in direct opposition to the commitment of true love and can cause much harm to our relationships.

Envy (or jealousy/covetousness) is to desire the attainments or advantages of another. In the negative sense, you either want what they have or wish they didn’t have it. You become unhappy or even miserable by the good fortunes of another. Envy generally stems from insecurity, discontent, or dissatisfaction with oneself. It breeds ill-will towards others.

So, when the Bible says that “love does not envy” it means that when you possess true love you will not be unhappy about, complain about, or wish to diminish or detract from the attainments or advantages of another. In fact, love produces just the opposite reaction. Love delights in the welfare of others and rejoices with them in the favor they enjoy. Regarding marriage, there are a couple of related applications for this concept.

If you truly have a love commitment to your spouse you will not feel threatened, lessened, or weakened by attainments, advantages or favor from which he/she benefits. You will not see your spouse as your competitor or rival. Quite the contrary, true love enlightens us to the fact that we are one with our mate. Love understands that the happiness and favor of our partner is an addition to our own instead of impairing or lessening it. Love’s joy is increased by your spouse’s endowments, rank, reputation, wealth, health, domestic comforts, learning, skill, gifts, talents, acknowledgments, beauty, and so forth.

Furthermore, love does not envy in the sense that it does not seek, covet or desire aspects found in the marriages of others. In this vein, love is inextricably linked with contentment. You will not envy the personality, beauty, wealth, popularity, and so forth of your neighbor's spouse because you are pleased and satisfied with your own. When you truly love your spouse you will feel blessed in your marriage and not find yourself envying the relationships of others.

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