21 March 2021: “Love does not envy”

Bethel Baptist Church
Worship Service @ Home
21 March 2021

Service available on Youtube, or as text (below), or for audio see the Podcasts page.


At the Elders and Deacons meeting on 15 March we prayerfully considered when we should return to Bethel. We all agreed that we would not meet yet due to present uncertainties and that over 75% of the members would not attend. On Monday 19 April 2021 we will meet again to consider this.


Devon Still maintains that he is a person of faith even though there have been times when he has felt distant from God. e.g. when his career in the NFL was threatened by injuries. He always remembered the words his grandmother used to say to him when he was a child whilst ‘dragging’ him to church: “The good Lord speaks to all of us, Devon, but you’re never going to hear him if you don’t open your ears and listen.

When he grew up he joined a church of his own choosing, and felt closer to God, however, it still seemed as if he was doing all the talking – but he tried not to take it personally.

One day his 4 year old daughter, Leah, was diagnosed with cancer and he became desperate to hear from God. Leah had to undergo a combination of chemo and radio-therapy. Due to his fame as an NFL player, people, not only from his church but from around the world, prayed for her. Even so, she then needed surgery which was her last hope. The night before her operation she was very scared and Devon was unable to comfort her, as he was also scared. When Leah asked him in a trembling voice if they were going to cut her open with a knife, he asked God what he should say but didn’t expect an answer, certainly not in the same way his grandma heard the booming Old Testament voice of God!

Devon was surprised when Leah herself told him that God wants the cancer out because He had told her so. Devon asked Leah if she talked to God and she shared some other things God had told her, including that He believed in her and wanted her to be strong no matter what she went through, and that He talks in many different ways. Devon suddenly  realised that God had been speaking to Him all through his life: through his grandmother; through the people at the church who prayed for him; through those who had been praying for Leah; through all the money that had been raised for Leah’s treatment; through the strength he had received from his partner Asha; And now through his beautiful daughter Leah – ‘from the mouths of babes’.

Leah was now lying down, and minutes later she was fast asleep. Leah has been in remission since 2015 and was a flower girl when Devon and Asha got married. Devon has since left his career with the NFL, devoting his life to being an advocate for children with cancer. He meets with people across the country and talks about overcoming life’s challenges and …… listening for God’s voice.

Devon Still, former NFL player – based on an article in Premier Magazine


David Crowder Band


Reading: 1 Corinthians 13

Text: Love does not envy” (1 Cor. 13:4).


The Corinthians were envious of each other’s gifts and resented the success and blessing of others.

“… the Corinthians’ …  are impatient and unkind, filled with jealousy, vainglorious … puffed up … insist on their own way, are cantankerous and resentful, and rejoice in wrong rather than right.”

John C. Hurd

“Envy is behind much of the party strife in the Corinthian church”

David Garland, cf. 1 Cor. 3:1-3

The Greek word “zelos”, here translated “envy,” can be used in a good sense (to describe even God Himself) or in a bad sense, and the context will determine which.

“In the OT and NT 3 meanings occur:” (based on Longenecker)

(a) Intense devotion to God, or to a person(s), or to a thing e.g. Elijah’s reply to God in 1 Kings 19:10: ‘I have been very zealous [same word] for the Lord God Almighty.’

(b) “anger” arising out of devotion to another person or thing, Acts 5:17-18: “Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy [same word]. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail.”

(c) “jealousy,” an unfriendly feeling excited by another’s welfare, or “envy,” a desire to have for oneself what another possesses.

Paul writes of his own people the Jews: “I can testify about them that they are zealous for God”. However, he also writes: “but their zeal is not based on knowledge”. Hence the reason they acted with envy and jealousy towards Paul and the Christians:

On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy. They began to contradict what Paul was saying and heaped abuse on him.

Acts 13:44-45

We can think of those who zealously follow a cause, and yet such can be taken advantage of with fake news used to stir them up to envy and strife. Again Paul uses the word in a good sense in 2 Cor. 11:2: “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy …”.  How do we overcome the bad ‘zelos’, – envy and jealousy?

(1) Praise and thanks to God

“At the root of all sentiments of jealousy is the basic posture of ingratitude to God, a failure to accept one’s life as a gift from God.”

Timothy George

A heart at peace gives life … but envy rots the bones.

Proverbs 14:30

Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your  heart.

Psalm 37:4

If we take the truths we know about God and live by them then there should be no room for envy or resentment to creep in, but rather thanksgiving and praise to God. e.g. a classic example of envy creeping in to someone’s life is related by the Psalmist:

Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles …

Ps. 73:1-5

The word for ‘saw’ “literally means watching with desire hence coveting” (Marvin Tate). Yes, he had almost slipped and lost his foothold in the faith but his saving grace was to get into the presence of God:

When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood

Ps 73:16-17

Hence he can begin his reflection of looking back on his experience of envy with the all-embracing:

Surely God is good …

Ps 73:1

He had reached a seriously backslidden state because of this envy:

When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.

Ps 73:21-22

Yet in God’s presence he reflects on all that he can be thankful for:

I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel …
You will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? …
Earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever …
It is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge …

Ps 73:23-28

He is still the One who: “in all things … works for the good of those who love Him …” (Rom. 8:28) and in whom we can trust:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart … and He will direct your paths.

Prov. 3:5–6

(2) Rejoice in who you are

“Another‘s success may move a man to ‘zelos’ in the sense of noble emulation, which is a good thing, or it may stir him to ‘zelos’ in the sense that another has enjoyed success or distinction (thus far) denied to him, and that is a bad thing, a work of the flesh [=sinful nature]. But vigilance and grace are necessary to prevent the good ‘zelos’ from degenerating into the evil ’zelos’”

F. F. Bruce

[Sounds like good and bad cholesterol!]. Rather than looking at others and being envious of what they have and what we don’t have we can all rejoice in who we are in Christ and what He has given us. This is explained as living by the Spirit and keeping in step with the Spirit, rather than indulging the sinful nature:

… serve one another humbly in love  …
‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’…
live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature …
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: …
factions and  envy
the fruit of the Spirit is love …
live by the Spirit …
keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited provoking and envying each other.

Galatians 5:13-26

The apostle goes further in stating:

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Christ who gives me strength.

Phil. 4:11-12

Again this is in the context of imitating the humility of Christ (see Phil 2:5-11).

(3) Bless God for others

This is what the Corinthians weren’t doing.

“Envy or jealousy reflects zeal for one’s self-advancement rather than the community’s growth. The word includes the idea of burning or boiling with jealousy. Paul’s earlier connection of jealousy with quarrelling and with factions … is evidence of the seepage into the church of the non-Christian culture (1 Cor 3:1-4) showing how much genuine love had eluded them.”

A. F. Johnson

A number of years ago I met someone who became a good friend. However, in the early days of our friendship I remember feeling twinges of envy towards him as he seemed to have everything and I (poor little ole’ me) didn’t seem to have much (Oh, forgive me Lord).

“An envious person wants what other people have …. To envy what someone else has is to fling one’s own gifts before God in unthankful rebellion and spite.”

Timothy George

To cut a long story short, I pulled myself together and continued to praise the Lord and thank Him for His call on my life, and yes, all that He had given me and all that he had given my friend. I can honestly say I came to that place where I was genuinely glad I was in my shoes and not my friends. Tragically, years later my friend caught cancer, 9 months after his first child was born, from which he subsequently died. This again brings home that we should never envy what another has got, but rather thank the Lord that He has blessed them and pray He will continue to bless and prosper them in every sense, especially spiritually so. We see  how blessed Job was in the early days of his life, and in his latter days, he was abundantly more blessed than even in his early days (Job 42:12-17). But would we want the bit in the middle? Contentment with God’s portion for ourselves, and with His portion for others, is part of living the life of love, Amen.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Share an experience in which you were envious of someone and how you overcame it?
  2. How would you counsel a person who struggles with envy and jealousy towards others?
  3. How successful would a chat show be that only allowed loving things to be said?
  4. How do we see this quality in Jesus – ‘Love does not envy’?
  5. Another church across the road is absolutely thriving. Large numbers of people come each week to their five services. They have nearly as many people in their worship group as we have attending the whole church. They have a large children’s work and youth work going on. They have just spent a vast sum of money on a complete refurbishment whilst we are struggling to pay for the leaking roof to be repaired and the heating system to be improved. Are we envious of them? What do we do about it?
  6. Is there anyone else you would rather be? Is there another work you would rather be doing?
  7. Are we content in plenty and content with little? Have we learned the secret?

Quote for the Week

“A wealth of English synonyms can be chosen to translate the Greek verbs, and their different nuances create a kaleidoscopic effect for the meaning of love, revealing its boundless capacities that can never be captured in a word or two.”

D. E. Garland on 1 Cor. 13:4-7

Verse of the week

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.

1 Peter 2:9

Let’s Pray

Heavenly Father, we praise You through whom all things are possible. We thank and praise You for calling us out of darkness into Your wonderful light, into the kingdom of Your Beloved Son.

Help us to love one another with the love of Jesus and strengthen us to overcome envy towards others. Fill our hearts with praise and thanksgiving to Yourself.

Bless all those Churches that are thriving, and also those that are struggling. May they all go on to do the greater works You have planned for them in Jesus Christ’s Name and for Your Glory, Amen.