Not Envious or Boastful

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

- 1 Corinthians 13:4

Today we will begin looking at the qualities of love described in 1 Corinthians 13 in greater detail. Because we spoke of patience and kindness several months ago when we discussed the fruit of the Spirit, we will start our discussion in the middle of verse 4 where Paul tells us “love does not envy or boast.”

Jonathan Edwards said envy is “a spirit of dissatisfaction and/or opposition to the prosperity and happiness of others.” When we understand envy in this way, we can see how to be envious is to be against the teaching of Scripture. We are told to rejoice with those who rejoice (Rom. 12:15), and we cannot do this if we are jealous of the blessings of others.

To have an envious love is to be conformed to the world, something Scripture forbids (v. 2). Our culture promotes envy in a variety of ways, encouraging us to look up to those who have more power, status, possessions, or happiness than we do. But a non-envious love is manifest in those who are content in their circumstances.

Paul also tells us love is not boastful. When we are prideful and ostentatious, we provoke others to envy us, thereby becoming a cause for stumbling. Godly love does not lead us to make an idol of our achievements or to make a public spectacle of ourselves. Unlike the way of the world, we are not to promote our self-esteem at the expense of serving others.

This does not mean we have to have a negative self-image. After all, we are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27) and are commanded to love our neighbors just as we love ourselves (Matt. 19:19). It is not sinful to take care of ourselves or to understand we have dignity. In fact, we may think highly of ourselves (since we bear God’s image) as long as we do not think of ourselves more highly than is deserved (Rom. 12:3).

Instead, as Paul also says in Romans 12:3, we are to make a sober analysis of ourselves. To love in a way not boastful means we understand our weaknesses, respect others, and maintain a sense of awe in the presence of God whose image we bear.

Coram Deo

Have you learned how to be content in whatever state you find yourself, or do you envy others because they have things you do not have? Do you boast in what you possess, or are you thankful you belong to Christ? If you have hard feelings toward another person, ask yourself if it is because you envy what that person has. Spend some time in repentance for having such an attitude and ask God to help you to be content in all your circumstances.

Passages for Further Study

Pss. 8:3–4; 31:23
Prov. 14:30
James 4:6
1 Peter 2:1

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