Reading 3 – Sunday, December 8, 2019
“Does Not Envy”
By Humberto Avellaneda, Colombia / USA
“… love envieth not” 1 Corinthians 13:4.
Examining the deep meaning of love, one sees that it is joyful and very healing. The apostle Paul described it as the sum of all the spiritual gifts and the most excellent way. Looking at what “love is,” it is like a broad road whose destination is heaven. But to determine what “love is not” is complicated and negative, for that reveals everything that is opposed to God’s infinite gift.
1 Corinthians 13:4 is a powerful affirmation that “love envieth not.” Envy is a feeling or mental state in which one is miserable because he does not have what someone else does, be it goods, superior qualities, or something tangible or intangible. Envy is the exact opposite of love–the inability to enjoy others’ happiness. For sure one does not envy what other people suffer but rather their successes, talents, and possessions.
What does the pen of inspiration say about envy? “Envy is one of the most satanic traits that can exist in the human heart, and it is one of the most baleful in its effects….
“Envy is the offspring of pride, and if it is entertained in the heart, it will lead to hatred, and eventually to revenge and murder.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 385, 651.
“Envy is not merely a perverseness of temper, but a distemper, which disorders all the faculties….
“The envious man shuts his eyes to the good qualities and noble deeds of others. He is always ready to disparage and misrepresent that which is excellent….
“The envious man diffuses poison wherever he goes, alienating friends and stirring up hatred and rebellion against God and man.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 56.
This is a terrible defect of satanic or human origin, for it destroys the very soul; and except for the work of the Holy Spirit, it can become an incurable disease.
After considering the above, one might way, “Well, I have never gotten to such an extreme.” However, considering four Biblical examples, we can see how close a person can be to this terrible attitude.
Envy can lead to violence
“And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering He had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.” Genesis 4:4, 5.
“But instead of acknowledging his sin, Cain continued to complain of the injustice of God and to cherish jealousy and hatred of Abel. He angrily reproached his brother, and attempted to draw him into controversy concerning God’s dealings with them. In meekness, yet fearlessly and firmly, Abel defended the justice and goodness of God. He pointed out Cain’s error, and tried to convince him that the wrong was in himself. He pointed to the compassion of God in sparing the life of their parents when He might have punished them with instant death, and urged that God loved them, or He would not have given His Son, innocent and holy, to suffer the penalty which they had incurred. All this caused Cain’s anger to burn the hotter. Reason and conscience told him that Abel was in the right; but he was enraged that one who had been wont to heed his counsel should now presume to disagree with him, and that he could gain no sympathy in his rebellion. In the fury of his passion he slew his brother.”–Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 74.
Another example is in the experi- ence of Isaac, whom God blessed for his obedience and faithfulness, as described in Genesis 26:12-17: “Then Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an hundredfold: and the Lord blessed him. And the man waxed great, and went forward, and grew until he became very great: For he had possession of flocks, and possession of herds, and great store of servants: and the Philistines envied him. For all the wells which his father’s servants had digged in the days of Abraham his father, the Philistines had stopped them, and filled them with earth. And Abimelech said unto Isaac, Go from us; for thou art much mightier than we.
“And Isaac departed thence, and pitched his tent in the valley of Gerar, and dwelt there.” Genesis 26:12-17.
The next example is about rivalry between brothers for their parents’ love. Sadly, Joseph’s brothers were affected by the deadly virus of envy. “And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.” “And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying.” “And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him.” Genesis 37:4, 11, 18.
The fourth example occurred in the time of Solomon, when two harlots who lived together were brought before the king. The newborn baby of one of the women died, and she tried to make the other woman believe that the deceased baby was hers. What happened? “And the king said, Bring me a sword. And they brought a sword before the king. And the king said, Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other. Then spake the woman whose the living child was unto the king, for her bowels yearned upon her son, and she said, O my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it. But the other said, Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it.” 1 Kings 3:24-26. In her envy, the woman of the dead child went so far as to agree to the idea of killing a living child.
In three of these four cases, it was envy that led individuals to want to take someone’s life. What arouses such envy in a human being? “I considered all travail, and every right work, that for this a man is envied of his neighbor.” Ecclesiastes 4:4, first part. When one lets envy take possession of his heart, it arouses hatred, anger, and revenge. “There is no surer way of weakening ourselves in spiritual things, than to be envious, suspicious of one another, full of fault-finding and evil surmising.” –Review and Herald, June 5, 1888.
Now we will examine the context and an example in real life that is very common, even though people have read and heard sermons about 1 Corinthians 13 many times.
The story is of Roman, a Bible teacher and excellent preacher. He was 50 years old and served faithfully in the church after he was baptized at seventeen years of age. He knew a lot about the Bible and had certain skills that qualified him to teach in the church, something that he did for almost eighteen years. However, some of the participants in his classes complained about him, asserting that he was abrupt, while others accused him of accepting people too quickly. Because of these things, the church leadership began to give him fewer opportunities to teach. Having to sit in the congregation as if he were a student caused Roman to be resentful of Horacio, who was chosen to teach in the church. Some people sympathized with Roman, who tried to make the other brother look bad in front of the class, in addition to dominating the dialogue, sometimes with long explanations and the desire to be noticed. Sadly, he did not see that his heart was become more and more envious and hostile, things that are not appropriate for a true Christian and especially for those who claim to be God’s people at the end of time.
Unfortunately, this type of thing is not new; in fact, its origin was in heaven. Lucifer, the glorious angel who was privileged to be one of the covering cherubs next to God’s throne, was overcome by envy and lost his high dignity. “He desired to be first in heaven, and because he could not have all the power and glory he sought, he rebelled against the government of God. He envied our first parents and tempted them to sin and thus ruined them and all the human race.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 56.
“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!” Isaiah 14:12. What a fatal outcome! The inevitable result of his rejecting God’s authority was his unrelenting effort to implant the terrible defect of envy in the heart of every human being; and to a large extent, he has been successful!
Dear brothers and sisters, it is time to wake up! Of all human weaknesses, envy is one of the most cruel and despicable. The wise man asked a question: “Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?” Proverbs 27:4. Envy is like a hurricane, cyclone, or tornado that nothing can resist when it appears. In fact, Solomon compared it to a cancer that rots the bones. “A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones.” Proverbs 14:30.
But the biggest problem is that no one can escape this cruel spirit, whether poor or rich, child or adult, “For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.” James 3:16.
The victim of this terrible scourge, the modern human being, has become part of a system that drives him to acquire possessions and to continue to want more. He is chained to a curse, believing that happiness comes from having more and being above others. He is attached to his supposed treasures, even as he suffers when he sees someone who has more than he does. He actually suffers from a comparison complex without realizing that he is like one who drinks sea water, for he will become thirstier and thirstier.
Thus, it is not difficult to find a farmer who has a very productive farm but asks, “Why does my neighbor produce more and better crops and have more sheep than I do?” A profes- sor might question, “Why does that professor know more than I do?” A person may want to sell his cell phone so he can buy the new one that just came out. Others are never happy with their clothes and always need to buy the latest fashion. Many say, “I don’t want this car any more, because my neighbor has a newer one.” And, in a business, the typical question may be, “Why was he promoted and I was not? I have been working here longer than he; I believe my rights are being violated!”
“The envious man … seeks to be thought best and greatest, not by putting forth heroic, self-denying efforts to reach the goal of excellence himself, but by standing where he is and diminishing the merit due to the efforts of others.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 56.
Nevertheless, by the grace of God, the terrible, destructive picture that we have described so far can be changed. God’s work will not end in defeat. Christ won the battle and offers everyone hope and a better way.
An example of love that never envied
If there was ever someone who could have been jealous and envious because of what was happening to him, it was Jonathan, the son of King Saul. In fact, his father warned him: “For as long as the son of Jesse liveth upon the ground, thou shalt not be established nor thy kingdom.” 1 Samuel 20:31. Saul and Jonathan knew that David, the son of Jesse, would be the next king of Israel; but it was Saul who cultivated the spirit of jealousy and envy to the point of repeatedly trying to kill David.
However, Jonathan was complete- ly different. His kind soul and his communion with God did not allow Satan to plant an evil spirit in his heart nor encourage the insinuations and evil attitudes of his father. In fact, “when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul,… the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” “Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.” 1 Samuel 18:1-4. That is the result of having Christ in one’s heart, of being in harmony with the will of heaven’s Supreme Ruler!
As I write these words, my heart is moved to consider this example more deeply, because I can verify that the word of the Lord is alive and effective in converting the soul. I thank the Eternal Father, because He always has a way to block the damage that Satan wants to cause in the human heart. Even though the poisonous seeds of envy were sown in heaven and today produce disastrous results, we can say with certainty that, through the Holy Spirit’s work, it is possible to experience that love that does not envy. His regenerative work can make the heart of the converted man know that, no matter what others have, are, grow, or buy, nothing can harm his soul and he can delight in the joy and success of others.
The Scriptures say that that the souls of David and Jonathan were “knit,” or linked. That is what needs to happen today in the home, in the church, in the workplace, and wherever one is. Jonathan loved David as a brother until death, never considering him a rival or an enemy. There was peace and love between them, because they had agreed to this. This is the experience of the new birth, which must be desired and experienced by all who live at the end of time.
Dear brother, sister, and friend, such an experience is possible only when one is able to do what Jonathan did: “And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.” 1 Samuel 18:4. Think of it this way: We need to take off our own clothing, which symbolizes jealousy, envy, pride, self-righteousness, and love of self. It is necessary to give it to Jesus so He can heal every wound and scar. But that is not all. We must also give Jesus our weapons. Jonathan gave David the weapons he could have used to kill David; he gave him everything. He gave away his “attachments and treasures” and thus found freedom to love as Christ loves.
Today the Lord also asks you to give Him your clothes so that you can be clothed with the righteousness of heaven. He also asks each person to surrender the weapons of war and violence, the weapons of human defense with which one wants to kill his brother. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus wants to give you a more powerful weapon, one that cannot be found on this earth, one that is able to shield you from every snare of the evil one. With it, you can win all the battles and be victorious, as was Christ. That weapon is love. “Love envieth not.” The love that Christ came to this earth and demonstrated, most of all when He died on the cross of Calvary, gives us hope and new life in Him. The love of God in one’s heart is the only source of love that fulfills the law, because His love is the fulfillment of the law.
God alone has the solution
Asaph, a man of God and the composer of Psalm 73, explained how he felt when he was on the verge of taking the wrong path: “But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” Psalm 73:2, 3. This experience catches my attention, because, while it presents the true condition of a person, it also gives the solution. If one has fallen into such a temptation, or even if he is in the situation of being “almost” trapped, the psalmist writes: “Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.” Psalm 73:17.
Dear fellow believers, as we finish this year 2019, it is necessary that we, with a sincere heart and deep humility, enter God’s sanctuary. Only there can we understand the great need of Christ’s righteousness. With deep love, I invite you to enter there, to have a personal, intimate encounter with the Saviour, for through His presence our soul can be freed from the dangerous, evil, destructive spirit of envy. Then our feet will not slip.
Do not let time pass by, for now is the best time to take care of this. Do not wait for others to do it, but say, as did Asaph: “But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all Thy works.” Psalm 73:28. God wants to give you the love that does not envy. Open your heart so He can occupy His rightful place there. Then the new year will be different. It will be full of true love so your life will exert an elevating influence on all who are around you, and they will glorify the Father by seeing your good works. May we each fulfill that mission here on this earth. Maranatha! Amen!