Love doesn’t crave what it doesn’t have because…
It treasures (joy/contentment) what it has in Christ
There is not a more contradictory sin for a Christian than jealousy. Let’s define Christian. Christ-follower. Sinner whose trust and hope for salvation centers on a person, Jesus, and a belief that He died for me, in my place, and was resurrected from the dead for my justification, and is presently exalted in heaven and is returning to this world as Judge and King. To be a Christian is to gladly embrace Jesus as Savior and Lord.
Love for Christ is an essential part of saving faith. A kind of treasuring love that places ultimate value and self-identity in what and who I have in Christ.
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7-8, ESV).
What we see modeled here is treasuring Christ so that my joy is not defined by what I don’t have but by what do I have in Him. I could just say, don’t envy but it wouldn’t help us one bit. Merely removing these idols of our hearts will not do it. The human heart has to have an object of worship. Someone or something sits on the throne of our heart’s treasuring. The more we treasure what we have in Christ, the less we crave anything else and envy those who have it.
Imagine going back in time and standing next to the cross. There’s Jesus. His breathing is labored and halting. Every muscle is contorted as He twists and agonizes for every breath. Sweat and blood are dripping from His toes into a pool at the bottom. His whole body and soul is engulfed in the pain of the cross and the anguish of feeling on His conscience the sins of the world. Imagine standing near Him and saying, Jesus, I really appreciate this, but for me, it’s not enough. For me to be happy, I’m going to need another 1,000 square feet on my house. For me to be happy, I need that job promotion. For me to be happy, I need a spouse, at least two children, and a generally trouble-free life. Jesus, I really do appreciate what You’re doing but honestly, for me to be happy I need a little more stuff than my neighbor and a little more happiness than my sister. Can you do that for me?
Jealousy reveals the diminished value we place on what is ours in Christ. Envy craves what it doesn’t have. Love treasures as supremely desirable what it has in Christ. If envy is a struggle, go back to the cross and ask yourself, do I really believe this? Jesus, help me realize ALL that I have in You.
Love trusts in the goodness of God
Back to the story of Joseph. His brothers were filled with jealousy toward him. Sold him into Egypt. Faked his death. Lied to their father. Look what jealousy does.
Joseph reflects on these painful events and says, As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” (Genesis 50:19-20, ESV).
Love is self-giving for the good and joy of another. Envy springs from unfulfilled desires. These are crisis of faith moments. Do I really believe God is good and am I prepared to apply that to this desire that is starting to go out-of-bounds and becoming too important? In other words, if all God does is ultimately good, that means the unfulfilled desire is unfulfilled for reasons that in God’s estimation are good.
Let me just share how I work this through. I have many unfulfilled desires, the one I struggle with the most is watching the years tick by in my life without a wife and family. I have prayed for my wife nearly every week since I was 18 years old. I’m 42. That’s 24 years of praying essentially the same prayer…. Please!
Somewhere around prayer year 14 I had to come to grips with, what if it doesn’t happen? What if it’s not God’s will? What if I die a lonely, sexless, childless man? God, apparently our definitions of good are radically different.
I am not aware of any Scripture that says Steve DeWitt is good. His desires are good. But I do know this, if God did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also along with him graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32
Is God good? Always? Even in the life trajectories that I deem bad? If we are ever going to overcome envious obsession over what we don’t have, we have to believe not having it is in the eyes of God good and by faith to agree with His decisions.
Love is happy in the good and joy of others
This last point is merely the application of the previous. If I can accept that me not having something is good, than it is only a small step for me to accept that if God gives it to someone else, it must also be good.
This frees me to NOT resent them for having it but to rejoice with them. Romans 12:15, Rejoice with those who rejoice. Love works for the good and joy of others so when they experience good and joy, this is not viewed negatively, this is wonderful news.
We can be happy for people. Agape has a magnanimousness about it. A largeness of soul that is felt by others as genuine joy with them.
I remember when I discovered what a special friend I had in Matt Hundley. As early teens, Matt and I had been rivals. Competed for everything: girls, church, sports and neither of us particularly appreciated the other.
When Matt was a senior in high school and I was a junior, we entered a competition that had a pretty lucrative award if you won. Things that year went my way and I won. I’ll never forget seeing my former rival, Matt Hundley, rush up to me in total joy at my victory. I had won but nobody was happier that day about it than he was. That is a friend. This is love.
Love doesn’t crave what it doesn’t have. Love is inclined to rejoice in the good gifts God gives to others.
You got a green eye today? Go back to the cross. Look by faith into His eyes. Realize afresh that whatever anybody else has, it pales in comparison to God’s goodness to you in Christ. Love envies not.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
© 2010 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s web site address (http://www.bethelweb.org/) on the copied resource.