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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Matt's Messages "Love Does Not Envy"

“Love Does Not Envy”
Learning to Love
October 12, 2008
1 Corinthians 13:4

Last weekend was the Pastors and Wives Retreat in Painesville, Ohio.

Our Allegheny District pastors and their lovely brides gather at a hotel, worship, and hear a guest speaker from the National Office, and have lots of free-time to rest, relax, and rejuvenate. Heather and I got to go on a 5 mile hike at an arboretum.

And one of the things that happens when pastors get together is they talk about how church is going.

“How are things at church?”
“How’s church going?”
“How are things at Lanse?”

You know. We’re talking “shop.”

And some pastors have good things to share.

And some pastors have bad things to share.

We’ve got about 3 different conflict situations right now going on in churches in our district. And that’s hard stuff. We need to be praying for those churches and for Super Jeff Powell and Jim Culbertson as they work with them to resolve their problems.

I know that as I listened to some of the stories this year, I just was overwhelmed with thankfulness for you folks. For our church. And for the good things that the Lord is doing here among us.

I am very thankful for you. You call this “pastor-appreciation month.” But I call it “church-appreciation month!” I’m glad we have a mutual-appreciation society!

But it’s not always like that every year.

Sometimes, there are a lot of stories of things going really well for our other churches in our district. Conversions. Growth. Exciting outreaches. Disciplemaking. And so on.

And you know what is a major temptation for pastors at a retreat like this?

Envy.

“I wish it was going as good for me as it is for that guy.”

Envy.

1 Corinthians 13, verse 4 says, “It [that is, love] does not envy.”

The first two things Paul said about love were positive.

Love is patient and love is kind.

Love is content even while waiting for something to change. Patient.
And love is not mean, or harsh, or prickly. It is gracious and giving, at a cost. Love is kind.

Love is patient. Love is kind. That’s positive.

But now, Paul goes negative for the next several descriptions of love in action. I think the next 8 are stated negatively.

This one is “love does not envy.”

One thing that love is not is envious.

If you want to know what love looks like when it’s doing its thing, one thing you will not see is envy.

Love does not envy.

What is envy and where does it come from?

Let’s boil it down to this:

Envy is being unhappy with someone else having something good.

It’s that feeling you get in your heart when you see that someone else has something that you consider good...and it’s not a good feeling.

You’re unhappy that they have it. In your eyes, they probably don’t deserve it.

And you’re probably unhappy that you don’t have this good thing that they have.

Now, when I say “thing,” I don’t mean that it has to be a physical object.

When we think about envy, we often think of money or possessions.

But we’re much more creative sinners than that. We can envy all kinds of good things.

We can envy status.
We can envy privileges.
We can envy qualities.
We can envy time that someone else has on their hands.

There is an ever expanding list of possibilities that we might envy.

Envy is being unhappy with someone else having something good.

And it’s very natural. It comes naturally. And it’s very wicked and dangerous, too.

It’s very natural. No one has to be taught how to envy. Though we do learn about it by watching and listening to others, too.

But we are all born naturally envious. We are Naturally-Born-Enviers.

But about different things.

It’s easy to not be envious about some things but hard to not be envious about others.

Right?

We all have different things that we naturally are envious of.

For some of us it might be someone else’s wealth or status.
For others of us it might be someone else’s freedom or health.

And what is tempting to one might not be tempting to another.

In fact, catch this, often what someone else is envying seems ridiculous to us, but we don’t see how ridiculous we ourselves are.

Isn’t that true?

Take the biblical story of Joseph. How many here are envious of someone’s colorful coat?

Maybe you work with someone who has a colorful coat.

Are you envious? No, it seems petty, and silly, to most of us. Maybe not all of us.

But it had gotten to life or death for Joseph and his brothers.

One of the things I’m tempted to be envious of is all of your hubcaps.

You may have noticed that I can’t seem to keep a hubcap on my van! I’ve lost 11 hubcaps off that van in the last 5 years. I had 3 when I went on vacation, and I only came back with 1!

I saw one of them roll away down a Chicago street.

I’m tempted to be envious of all of you who have these hubcaps that want to stay on your vehicles.

Is that silly? Yeah it is.

But you probably are envious about something that I would laugh about if I wasn’t trying to understand.

I’ve tried to explain my envy at times to my wife about various things, and I’m dead earnest about how so and so doesn’t deserve what they have, and how I do, and how much use I would make out of such and such.

And I’m serious! I don’t see how envious I really am. And she sees it clearly and has to point it out to me.

It comes naturally.

Because it comes out of our hearts.
Envy comes out of our wicked hearts.

That’s what the Lord Jesus said in Mark chapter 7. He was explaining that it isn’t what we put into our bodies that makes us sinful. Our sin comes out of our hearts.

Jesus said, “From within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.'”

That’s quite a list that envy is part of, isn’t it? The same list as murder and lewdness?

It comes out of our hearts. And it comes out of our pride, doesn’t it?

If we are unhappy, in our hearts unhappy, because someone else has something good and we don’t, what does that say about our view of ourself?

It’s probably an inflated view of ourself.

Envy comes from pride. Isn’t that interesting?

For the next two weeks, we’re going to be talking about pride because love does not boast. [By the way, that’s your memory work for next week. “It does not boast.”] And love is not proud.

We think about boasting as prideful.

But so is envy. Envy says, “I deserve that thing you’ve got. I do!”

And that’s pride, too.

We’ll be talking more about killing our pride in the next 2 weeks.

Envy is natural, and it’s wicked, and it’s dangerous.

It’s not good for you.

Here’s a proverb you should memorize. I’ve got it memorized, and you should to.

It’s Proverbs 14:30 – “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.”

It’s like a cancer. Like bone cancer.

Envy is something rotten inside of you that destroys you from the inside out.

“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.”

And it doesn’t just affect you does it? It affects the people you are in relationship with.

It divides people. It devours people. Envy destroys relationships.

Ever see two kids go from playing happily with one another right into clawing at each over what? Over a stupid toy?

“I had it first!”
“You already had it!”
“I wanted it.”

Envy.

And we laugh at that, but it doesn’t stop when we grow up.

Do you see envy at your place of work? I’ll bet you do. We’ve certainly seen it on Wall Street recently!

Do you see envy at your school? I’m sure you do. And feel it sometimes, too.

Can envy be in the church? You bet it can.

That’s why Paul wrote this, you know. There were problems with spiritual gifts at work in the church. Some had showy ones and others didn’t.

And Paul is saying that those without the showy gifts shouldn’t envy those who do have them.

Do you see envy in your neighborhood? I’m sure of it.

Who has what new vehicle in their yard? Or what new boat? Or tool? Or how their house is landscaped or cared for.

Does that sound dumb to you? Well, it’s probably something different for you, then.

Families.

Kids, do you sometimes envy your parent’s authority and freedom?
Parents, do you sometimes envy your kid’s energy and freedom?

How does this work in marriage?

I promised that if you come every week to this series and faithfully apply what you are learning, it will improve your marriage.

Does envy play into our marriages?

I think it does. It gets in the way of our marriages.

Our spouse has something we think is good and we don’t have it.

Maybe it’s approval from someone else.
Maybe it’s job satisfaction.
Maybe it’s a bigger piece of the pie.
Maybe it’s free time when you have to be slaving away.

And you heart, instead of being happy for them, is unhappy. You might not ever put the word “envy” on your lips, but that doesn’t mean that the reality isn’t in your heart.

And love does not envy.

“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.”

And it rots our relationships, too.

So, what should we do about it?

Three quick points of application.

#1. RID YOURSELF OF ENVY.

I get this from 1 Peter chapter 2, verses 1-3.

Peter says, “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”

Rid yourself of envy.

I wouldn’t tell you to do that if Peter did say it first.

Because I know that’s easier said than done!

It’s not easy to just “rid yourself of envy.”

Okay, I’ll just stop! It doesn’t work that way. It’s too ingrained in us. Too natural for our wicked hearts.

But Peter says that we can do it, and that we must do it. So do it we must.

Rid yourself of envy.

That means, I think, to repent of it when we can see it in our hearts.

If you know that you’re envying, turn from it.

Examine yourself to see if you are full of envy and run from it.

Hate it.

Don’t mollycoddle it. Don’t dress it up with another name. Don’t pretend it’s not there.

Hate it.

You are in a relationship. Let’s say that you are a single. And you’re living with some housemates. And they get something good that they might not even deserve and that you’d like to have.

Fight the urge to envy. Call it what it is and turn it down when it rises in your heart.

The 18th century pastor, Jonathan Edwards says it this way:

[A Christian] though he may have envy as well as other corrupt feelings in his heart, yet abhors its spirit, as unbecoming in himself as a Christian, and contrary to the nature and will and spirit of God. He sees it to be a most odious and hateful spirit, and he sees its odiousness not only in others, but also and equally in himself. And therefore, whenever he perceives its emotions rising within him on any occasion, or toward any person, so far as he is influenced by a Christian spirit, he will be alarmed at it, and will fight against it, and will not allow its exercise for a moment. He will not suffer it to break forth and shew itself in words or actions; and he will be grieved at whatever he sees of its movements in his heart, and will crucify within him the hateful disposition, and do all in his power to go contrary to it in his outward actions. [Charity and Its Fruits, pg. 115]

Rid yourself of envy.

Does that sound like work? It will be.

Love is work.

1 Corinthians 13 sounds so beautiful when you read it, but to truly love like this takes blood, sweat, and tears.

Ridding yourself of envy is not possible without the flipside.

#2. CULTIVATE CONTENTMENT.

Contentment is the flipside of envy.

You can’t just stop being envious. You have to start being content.

We put-off envy and put on contentment.

Paul could have said, “Love is content.”
It’s being happy with what you have.

And because we are in Christ, we have everything we need!

The gospel makes it possible to be content.

Jesus was.

He lived a life of poverty.
He lived in a backwoods town in a backwoods nation.
He lived under the oppression of Roman rule.

And He was content.

Lots of people around him had things that he would have considered good.

But He never envied.

And, then, He took on the punishment we deserved for all of our envy!

And He took it on His shoulders to the Cross.

And He paid the full price.

And we get all of the blessings that He deserved credited to our account!

Our sin on Him. His righteousness on us.

What have we got to complain about?

We need to count our blessings–in Christ.

And realize that we have everything! So we don’t have to envy anyone.

That 1 Peter 2 passage again says, “[R]id yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk [spiritual growth food], so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”
We who are Christians have tasted that the Lord is good.

And that taste is enough.

It’s enough to not envy.

Why would I envy what someone else has when I have tasted that the Lord is good?

Cultivating contentment means reminding ourselves of what we have in Christ.

Of course, if you don’t have Christ, then you will be consumed with envy.

If you are not yet a Christ-follower by faith in Jesus alone, then I invite to today to become one.

Turn from your sin and your way of life, and trust in Jesus and what He did for you on the Cross. Put all your faith in Him, and He will both save you and give you a taste of all that He has for you.

He’s better than life itself. And you’ll never have to envy again.

I invite you to trust Him.

Taste and see that the Lord is good.

And become content in Him.

It will change your life.

Remember Proverbs 14:30? “A heart at peace gives life to the body....”

A heart that is content will have health.

It will feel good. Envy rots your bones, but contentment feels healthy!

Cultivate Contentment.

And #3. REJOICE IN GOOD GIVEN TO OTHERS.

This takes it one step further.

Not only being content with what we have in Christ, but being happy for the prosperity and goodness and happiness that someone else has.

Kids, do this with one another!

Be happy that that kid scored the goal.
Be happy that that kid got that toy.

Husbands, do this with your wife.

Be happy that your wife had a good day.
Be happy that your wife has a good relationship with her parents.

Wives, do this with your husbands.

Be happy that he got a promotion.
Be happy that he got the bigger portion at the dinner table.

Sisters, do this with each other.

Be happy for what your sisters have gotten.

Brothers, do this with each other.

Be happy for what your brother has gotten.

Do this at work.

Be happy for your co-worker, yes, even the one that doesn’t like you very much that they got that praise from your boss.

Do this at school.

Be happy for someone else that got a A, got a date, got a break.

It’s something that we have to chose. It won’t come naturally.

But it will come by the power of the Holy Spirit.

As we rid ourselves of envy and cultivate contentment because of the blessings of the Gospel.

We can be happy for someone else that they have something good.

That’s what love does.

And we’re learning to love.

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