Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Envy is Your Enemy

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: How do you respond when your mate gets attention or honor or praise that you know, because you live with them, they really don’t deserve? Do you get jealous? Do you find yourself wanting to correct the statement that was made to set the record straight? When we’re jealous we will often say critical things to put others down so that we can lift up ourselves.

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, February 4.

Here’s Nancy continuing in a series called, How’s Your Love Life?

Nancy: We’re taking a little love test. The Scripture encourages us to put our lives under the magnifying glass of God’s Word and see if there’s any little, tiny flaws or defects in the diamond of our love for the Lord and for others.

We’re looking at that great hymn of love, 1 Corinthians chapter 13. I want to encourage you again to be reading this passage every day for at least 30 days and then to be memorizing that middle paragraph, verses 4-7. Let me read that paragraph again.

I think it’s so important to hear these characteristics over and over again. I can tell you what’s been happening to me as I’ve been letting this passage search my heart: God has been opening up areas of my life that are unloving that I didn’t even realize were there—areas of need. I’m having to agree with God and say, “That’s right. That’s who I am, and I need You to change me. I need You to fill me with Your love.”

First Corinthians 13 tells us if we don’t have this kind of love, no matter what else we may do, no matter how much we may know or how active we may be in serving the Lord, then our service and our knowledge is worth nothing if we don’t have this kind of love.

What are the characteristics of that love? “Love suffers long and is kind.” We’ve looked at those two characteristics. We’ve seen that love is patient. It doesn’t retaliate; it doesn’t take vengeance. It doesn’t get even, and it’s kind—kind acts, kind spirit, kind words.

Let me just add a little parenthesis here: I remember hearing a young husband say to me not too long ago, “One of the greatest things that is making our marriage a blessing is that my wife has a kind spirit, and she speaks kind words.” I can tell you that doesn’t come naturally for her any more than it comes naturally for you or for me, but the Spirit of God is able to make us kind. Now, the passage goes on to say,

Love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own; is not provoked; thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; [love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never fails (13:4-8).

Now, human love will fail, to be sure, but God’s love goes on and on and on. It is permanent. It is enduring.

We’re looking today at that third characteristic of love in this love test. Love does not envy. Love is not jealous. Love is not envious for the possessions of others. In fact, it can rejoice with those who have greater resources, greater position, or greater abilities.

I think one of the most difficult commands in the Word of God for us to obey, and one of the ones we frequently neglect, is the command to rejoice with those who rejoice. Now, some of you women have real tender hearts, and it doesn’t take much to make you weep. When a person has a burden or a need, you’re right there with mercy and kindness and weeping with those who weep. But do we rejoice with those who rejoice?

Your neighbor gets a nice new car, and you’re still driving a clunker that barely runs. Do you get excited about the fact that that neighbor got a nice new car? Or is it a more natural tendency to want to criticize and put others down because we’re jealous, we’re comparing? Love and jealousy are mutually exclusive. If we have love, we will not be jealous. We will not be jealous for what others have.

Now, jealousy comes in a couple different forms. Sometimes it’s the attitude that I want what someone else has. They have something I don’t have; I wish I could have it, and so I’m jealous for it. Then sometimes it’s not that we want what they have, it’s just that we wish they didn’t have it. So I want what you have, or I wish you didn’t have what you have. Love is not possessive. God has given all of us material blessings, other kinds of blessings: time, resources of different types. True love doesn’t hold onto or jealously cling to my possessions but is willing to share, to give, to share with others.

True love, rather than being jealous, is content with having my basic needs met, having basic necessities in life, and having, of course, the most important thing that we can have, and that is a right relationship with God. If I have a right relationship with God, if Jesus Christ is my Savior and lives in my life, and I have eternal life, and I have a clear conscious toward God, what else do I need? We’re so short-sighted. We crave and covet and long for the things that others have that are temporal, but true love is delighted for others to be blessed with things that perhaps we don’t have.

We’ve been talking about the church at Corinth and how Paul wrote this love chapter to address many of the problems and needs and issues in that church. The Corinthians had a lot of different spiritual gifts. God had given them those spiritual gifts. In fact, the Scripture says that God gives a spiritual gift to every believer in Christ. If you’re in Christ, you have a spiritual gift. The problem was the Corinthians were taking their spiritual gifts, and they were holding them up to impress each other. Then they were saying certain gifts were more important than others.

Now, the ones they chose to be more important were the more flashy, the more spectacular gifts, the ones that drew more attention to themselves. Some would say, “I have this gift, don’t you?” Then others were jealous because someone else had a gift that they didn’t have and they thought they wanted.

Paul said, “What’s the key to dealing with this issue of jealousy, comparison, contention that flows out of this jealousy?” The key is to live a life of love, to put on love, to pursue love, to learn to love in God’s way. Love is not envious. It is not jealous. When love sees another person who is more popular, more successful, more beautiful, more talented than I am, then if I have a heart of love, I will be glad for that person, never jealous or envious.

James chapter 3 talks about the deadliness of the sin of envy or jealousy. Paul said, “[If any person] is wise and understanding, let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts”—and, by the way, those two invariably go together, envy and selfish ambition, seeking more for myself. Paul says, “if you harbor [this] envy and [this] selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such 'wisdom' does not come down from heaven [this is not of God] but it is earthly, unspiritual, and of the devil” (verses 13-15).

One translation says, “It’s devilish." It’s demonic to have this kind of selfish ambition and envy. Envy is not just a little problem. Envy is something that comes from the pit of hell.

So James says in chapter 3, verse 16: “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.”

Isn’t that a description of what was taking place in the church at Corinth? There was disorder. There was contention. There was pandemonium at their communion services. “You have disorder and every evil practice.” In that church there was a man who had an incestuous relationship with his father’s wife. Talk about evil practices and the church was condoning it. Where did this come from? Paul says it all goes back to a lack of love. "You envy; you’re jealous of one another."

James goes on to say in that passage: “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then [it’s] peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” (verse 17).

In her book, The Music of His Promises, Elisabeth Elliot has a wonderful passage about this part of the love test. Here’s what she has to say:

If I imagine that I love my neighbor, let me test my love by asking how glad I am that he has achieved what I have failed to achieve; that he has managed to acquired what I have long wished to acquire; that he is loved by someone or by many or in some way that has never been granted to me.

By the way, let me just put a little word in there, those of you who may be single, do you find yourself jealous of your friends who are getting married? They’ve got a mate; they’ve got a husband. Perhaps you’re a woman who’s married but you’ve not been able to have children. Do you find yourself jealous of the one who’s been able to have children because it’s a blessing that’s not been given to you? She goes on to say,

Do I rejoice because my neighbor has reasons to rejoice that have been denied me? Can I honestly praise God for His goodness to my neighbor? Can I praise Him wholeheartedly for His gifts to me? If I love my neighbor as myself, there will be no reason at all for the least twinge of jealousy—because I will be just as happy that he has what I wanted as I would be if I had it (p. 139-140).

So we ask this question as we take this little test:

  • Do I rejoice with those who rejoice?
  • Do you rejoice when others receive blessings and benefits that you have not received?
  • Are you genuinely glad when someone else at work gets promoted or gets a raise or is recognized, praised for their efforts, and you are overlooked?
  • How do you respond when your mate gets attention or honor or praise that you know, because you live with them, they really don’t deserve?

Do you get jealous? Do you find yourself wanting to correct the statement that was made, to set the record straight? See, when we’re jealous, we will often say critical things to put others down so that we can lift up ourselves.

  • How about when your friend’s child excels at sports, at music, at academics, at everything, and that mother loves to make sure you hear about it. Can you rejoice in the blessings of how well that child is doing?
  • How about when one of your siblings—brother, sister—their family is financially prosperous while your family is struggling to make ends meet. Do you find yourself being jealous, or do you find yourself rejoicing with those who rejoice?

Father, when You have been so very good to us, it’s really a great sin against Your grace that we should be envious of Your goodness in other people’s lives. I think of the parable where Jesus said to those who were listening: “Are you jealous because your owner, your master has done something good to someone else? Does it bother you?” Lord, we confess that often in our selfish ways we are jealous; we are envious of others. Thank You that You have been so good to us. You have met all of our needs that we can be content. Fill us with Your love that we really will rejoice sincerely with those who do rejoice. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Leslie: Jealousy tempts all of us. Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been showing us how jealousy interferes with true godly love. That message is part of a series called, How’s Your Love Life? She’s delivering this series in front of an audience of women, and we’re about to hear from one of the women who has been listening along with us.

She has a unique relationship with 1 Corinthians 13 and this topic: How’s your love life?” Here’s Bobbie.

Bobbie: I was raised in a foster home from the time I was three years old. My mother and father were divorced. I grew up in an environment where I never knew love on a personal basis. I was taken care of. I had to be. The state paid to put clothes on me and to feed me and so forth.

But in my foster family, she was a single mom who had—her husband had died of cancer, so she was taking care of us because she needed the money. My dad who was very, very capable of taking care of us, would not. He was a chemical engineer, and he just would not do it.

There were three other sisters, and through the course of the year, we all landed up on the same foster home. My dad had visiting rights for two weeks, and my mother was in a mental institution, so, of course, I never knew her as a mother. I never knew what it was like to have a mother who loved me, or a dad.

So anyway, my senior year in high school, one Sunday evening or Wednesday evening, I can’t remember, just out of the blue, we had a gospel preacher come through. The Holy Spirit just convicted me that I was lost. It was just like God reached down, just in the midst of everything, and pulled me out of that. It’s just such a miracle when I look back on it now, but He just showed me I was lost.

You know how they have those aisle things? Well, I went forward. I had taken confirmation and had done all those churchy things. People just thought I was going up there to counsel somebody, and nobody would talk to me. So I went home and just got on my knees in front of my bed and just told the Lord I needed to be saved. From that time on God just started working in my life.

Anyway, the whole thing is I never had love. I never knew what it was like to have someone come up to you and hug you and say, “I love you.” So I just thought, “Whatever happens in my life, I’m not going to let anybody stand in the way of me just doing what I’m going to do with my life.” As a baby Christian at that time, I didn’t realize what I was doing was I was shutting out everything that was going to hurt me.

One of those things was making myself vulnerable to love. I went to a Christian university and met a very fine Christian man, and I realize now as I look back on it, I realize he was the first person who ever loved me. I just said, “God, this has got to be it. He loves me. I’m marrying somebody who loves me.”

Well, that was back in the days when they didn’t talk about issues from your past. My husband had grown up in an abusive home where his mother and father had left him, had abandoned him. His mother had abused him, and he didn’t know anything about love. He was a Christian, but just a baby Christian. He had just gotten saved. So here I was looking for love in a person who himself didn’t know what love was, and he was looking for love from me who had had no love either. Now they say, they counsel against you doing those things because it’s marital suicide. But for us at the time, we didn’t know any better. We didn’t have any counsel. We didn’t have anyone say to us, “You shouldn’t do this. This is not going to work.”

So the first years of our marriage were very, very difficult years. God brought me to the place where I realized that really all I cared about in life was, “Who is going to love me?” That’s really what I was doing. I was expecting my husband to love me for all the missing love that I’d had for all those years. God brought me to the place where I realized I knew nothing about love. I didn’t even know how to love him.

One day I just got on my knees before God, and in my heart I said, “Lord, You’re going to have to teach me how to love,” because I knew what my husband needed was God’s love in his life. He didn’t need a wife who was clinging to him for the kind of love that I never had.

So the Lord led me to Scripture, and I started reading the book of Luke. I just asked God to show me how does the Lord Jesus love? I just went through the gospels and started taking examples of how God loves us through His Son. I just started taking notes on that and started praying that God would help me to love my husband the way He loves us.

At the time I was working with a lot of people, too. It’s amazing how you can be in positions of leadership and not be a loving person. I realized that I was not loving the people of God either like I needed to. So the whole thing kind of came to head, and it has revolutionized my life. It has totally changed me. Now when I look at circumstances and situations, I think, “God, how do You love this person? What would You do in a situation like this? What kind of love would You demonstrate to them?”

Several weeks ago, I didn’t realize the impact that it actually had on my husband, because we were both working on it together. He got up in the pulpit one Sunday and said that he had learned the love of Christ through my life. I thought, “The Lord has done that.”

It was just simply applying the Word of God to my life and saying, “Lord, how can I love other people rather than waiting for other people to love me?” If you look at the Lord Jesus, He’s the greatest example of love. People around us will not love us like our expectations are. It doesn’t even have to be a husband. It can be a friend, or it can be a mother or a father. Nobody loves like the Lord Jesus does, and when we wake up and realize and start drinking in the love of Christ for us, His love feeds through us, and it changes the lives of the people around us. It changes us first, and then it changes others.

Nancy: Bobbie has just come back to what we’ve been saying over and over again as we’ve been hearing each other’s stories about learning to love with Christ’s love, and that is that we don’t have the kind of love we need naturally within us. We cannot love apart from Christ, and, particularly, if we’ve never seen the love of Christ or experienced it through other humans toward us. You may find that you need to ask the Lord to give you that kind of love. If you lack it, ask Him for it, and then begin to love by faith. Don’t wait for the feelings. Begin to love out of His love that is in you, to let that love overflow, and you do it by acting loving.

  • You talk kindly.
  • You communicate when you don’t feel like communicating.
  • You serve when you want to be served.
  • You give when you want to receive.
  • You deny your flesh, and you say, “Yes,” to the cross.

You realize that love always takes you to the cross. Jesus said, “If you want to be My disciple, come after Me, take up your cross, deny yourself, and follow Me.” (see Luke 9:23).

For any marriage to work, whether it’s one or both partners wanting it to work, requires that you go to the cross. That’s the fullest demonstration of God’s love. It’s seen right there on Calvary.

You say, “I am willing to die to my own rights, to die to my own needs.” God’s Word has said if we have something we need and we’re His child, He will supply what we need (see Philippians 4:19). I can’t look to other people to meet my needs.

Think about that person who is hard to love, that person that you’ve been looking to love you, and they haven’t been meeting your expectations. First of all, just let them go. I don’t mean send them away. I mean release them from the prison of that expectation.

I think about someone in my own life who’s been a difficult person to love. One of the real turning points for me came as I was willing to release that person from the courtroom, the prison of my mind where I was holding them up to expectations of how they should love me. Then I was able to begin to see ways that I had failed to love that person. Until that person I was only conscious of how they had failed to love me or how I felt they had failed to meet my needs.

Then God brought me to a place, as He did Bobbie, of repentance, realizing, “I’m the one who didn’t know how to love.” I was the taker. I had not been a giver, and I really had wounded that person’s spirit because of my selfishness and my pride and the walls that I had put up, waiting for them to come over those walls and love me. As I began to repent, to be broken of that selfishness, God began to set me free to love with His love.

I look at that relationship today and see that God has done an incredible thing in giving love. Love is of God. God’s given me love for that person. That person has learned to communicate love in a way that I didn’t know they were capable of, and they weren’t. I wasn’t. None of us are. It’s the love of God. There’s healing taking place. There’s freedom taking place in that relationship. It’s supernatural. It’s not easy. The cross isn’t easy. It’s painful at times, but beyond the cross there’s a breakthrough, there’s the freedom, there’s the life.

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss in the series, How’s Your Love Life? Anyone can learn to grow in love. We heard that from Nancy and from our guest, a listener named Bobbie.

You can grow in love as well. Nancy’s booklet, How’s Your Love Life?, will help. You’ll use the booklet to identify areas in which your love life needs to improve. You’ll gain new insight from the Bible on this important topic. You’ll find yourself acting more and more out of love.

When you make a donation of any amount, we’ll send you Nancy’s booklet How’s Your Love Life? You’ll also receive her current teaching series on CD. That series is also called How’s Your Love Life? Make your gift of any size at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call toll free 1-800-569-5959.

How do you define rude? I usually hear that word used to describe the staff in restaurants or stores that don’t offer good service, but if we’re learning to love like Christ does, we’ll have to evaluate our service. That’s tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the New King James Version.

 

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