Love Is Not Jealous
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud.
1 Corinthians 13:4
According to 1 Corinthians 13:4, love is "not jealous." What does it mean to be jealous? We are jealous when we envy the accomplishments or qualities of others. We want what they have or who they are. We are not satisfied with ourselves and our lot. Jealousy usually is accompanied with resentment concerning the blessings of others.
Jealousy is a common emotion. Some kinds of jealousy aren't particularly horrific, especially when they don't lead to resentment or mistreatment of others. For example, I am jealous of my friend Tim's metabolism. When we go out for a burger, he gets a double with cheese, plus French fries and a regular Coke. He eats that way all the time. I, on the contrary, get a small, cheese-less burger without fries and a Diet Coke. I have to watch what I eat all the time. But Tim is svelte, without the slightest evidence of weight gain in middle age. I am not anywhere near svelte, even though I get much more exercise than Tim does. If I were to eat like Tim, I'd be stout in just a few weeks. So, I'll admit it, I am jealous of Tim. But this jealousy doesn't get in the way of my love for him. Nor does it fill my heart with bitterness and resentment.
The jealousy addressed in 1 Corinthians 13 is a more virulent variety. It poisons relationships and damages our hearts. It can lead us to treat people poorly or to overlook the blessings in our own lives. The more we are gripped by a desire for the things of others, the less we are able to be thankful for our own lives. Such jealousy keeps us from loving others . . . and even from loving God. In fact, jealousy is connected to one of the oldest human sins, Cain's murder of his brother Abel in Genesis 4.
Free to love others without jealousy
What will help us become free from jealousy? First, we must own it in ourselves. Sometimes we try to pretend that we're not jealous because it isn't a pretty emotion. At other times, jealousy reflects a deep sense of our own inadequacy, a woundedness for which we need God's healing.
Second, we should confess our jealousy, asking the Lord to forgive and deliver us. Third, we might reflect upon the blessings in our lives, all the ways God has been good to us. The more we are content, the less we will envy others. Fourth, we must resolve not to wallow in feelings of jealousy. When such emotions return, turn them over to the Lord. Fifth, we can share our struggles with a trusted Christian friend who can pray for us, encourage us, and hold us accountable.
In these ways, and more, we will be set free to love others without jealousy.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: When do you feel jealousy? Do you struggle with jealousy that hurts your relationships and limits your love for others? Why? Are you willing to turn your jealousy over to the Lord, so that he might set you free?
PRAYER: Dear Lord, your Word is clear today. Love is not jealous. Yet we find it so easy to be jealous, not just of small things that don't really matter, but of big things. We envy people's appearance and accomplishments, their relationships and their riches, their health and their happiness. Such jealousy keeps us from loving them. And it can even keep us from loving you. Forgive us, Lord, for our jealousy.
Fill our hearts, we pray, with a fresh experience of your love and grace. Help us to realize that we have that which is most wonderful of all . . . an intimate relationship with you! Give us eyes to see how you have blessed us. Deliver us from envy and put in its place a genuine delight when others are blessed.
We pray in the name of Jesus, Amen!