January 29, 2006

Love Is Not Jealous

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: The Preeminence of Love Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:4


Love Is Not Jealous

1 Corinthians 13:4
Sunday, January 29, 2006
Pastor Randy Smith

Possibly you can identify with me.

The more I read the words of Jesus Christ, the more I see a contrast between His teaching and the teaching we have all received from the world. And the more I grow in following His instruction, the further I see myself from achieving the standard that He expects. Maybe this is why the Apostle Paul said, "Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all" (1 Tim. 1:15; Rom. 7:24).

What passes for Christianity in most churches can be accomplished by any with a small degree of human determination and self-discipline. Millions of unbelievers have demonstrated that they can go to church, defend a cause, love their family and even comprehend the Bible. These are important, but God expects a much higher standard from His children. A standard so high, it models the actions of His divine Son. A standard so high He needs to indwell and empower us by His Holy Spirit if we wish to have any success.

These past few weeks my eyes have been opened to this standard. A standard that everything in my flesh resists. A standard that exposes the ugliness of personal pride. A standard that is sacrificial and costly. A standard that is only accomplished by the strength of God. A standard that is required among all who claim the name of Christ.

I hope all of you can identify with me on this. I know at least one woman from this congregation already has. I received her e-mail after the message on patience two weeks ago.

Thank you so much for the sermon yesterday. I've been convicted of a sin in my life that I've been wrestling with for a long time. It's about my attitude usually toward some of the people closest to me, and who I love the most, and how I deal with them...irritation, judgmental, haughty, critical, superiority, fault-finding, that whole ugly list!

Although I recognize the actions, I realized that I couldn't change that attitude unless God did something to my heart, and I've been praying for that. But I needed to put a name to whatever was my motivation to be so unpleasant at times. I needed to understand the "whys" of it. Then you listed all those ways that impatience (PRIDE) manifests itself, and it finally became clear that THAT was the core problem! God's searchlight went on in my mind and heart! Now that God used your sermon to identify the problem, I can ask Him for the grace and mercy to help me kill those sins.

I never thought of the "love chapter" being the means that God would use to begin to minister to me in my battle with sin! God is so good!

The "love chapter" is so convicting because it exposes the holy character of the God who Himself is the essence and demonstration of love. As we gaze deeply into the attribute of love, we gaze deeply into the heart of God. Two conclusions are drawn: God's love toward us is immeasurable and our love toward others, when compared with our love toward self, is inexcusable.

Love is patient. We can live for years with our own shortcomings, believe the best about our perspectives and adamantly defend our motives, but how rarely are we willing to extend the same grace of patience to others?

Love is kind. We can feed ourselves throughout the day, provide for personal rest and relaxation and complain about all our injustices, but how rarely are we willing to extend the same grace of kindness to others?

You did hundreds of kind deeds for yourself last week. How difficult was it to do two kind deeds for another in this church? Pretty convicting, huh? Our problem is not that we are simply impatient and unkind. Our problem, according to the text, is that we are unloving!

As Paul continues his description of love in chapter 13, he arrives at the third attribute. After listing two positive characteristics of love, the Apostle will now fire off eight negative characteristics. Still in verse 4 he says, "Love…is not jealous."

Our outline will be similar to past weeks. First we will look at a definition of jealousy. Then we will look at the problem of jealousy. Then we'll conclude with some practical advice to help you overcome jealousy.

Yes, we all have room to grow in these areas of love, but through the Spirit of God we can be assured to identify our problem and then take practical steps in the road to spiritual victory.


Let's begin with the definition of jealousy.

Based on your translations, some of your Bibles read, "Love…is not jealous" (NASB, RSV, NJB, NLT) and others say, "Love…does not envy" (KNJ, NKJV, NIV, YLT). Both of these words are very similar and often used interchangeably. However, some have sought to make a distinction between the two.

Jealously has been defined as the selfish desire accompanied by resentment, suspicion, or fear that another person is seeking to take away what you perceive to be yours. Envy, on the other hand is resentment or displeasure at another's attainments, material goods, or endowments often resulting in efforts to deprive others of what they have. 1 In other words, jealousy is the fear of losing something we possess, whereas envy is the desire to take from another what they possess. You can see how both of these words also are related to two other terms often spoken of in the Bible: greed and covetousness. To simplify, I will use the word "jealousy" throughout the sermon.

The Greek word for jealousy is zeloo (used 17 times in the New Testament in 11 verses). It is where we get our English word, zeal. Literally the word means, "to boil." Therefore jealousy at its root speaks of a passion or burning desire to have what belongs to another. Jonathan Edwards said it is the "spirit of dissatisfaction or opposition to the prosperity or happiness of other people." I think we can see how unloving that is!

I believe we are all familiar with jealousy, but perhaps some examples will help clarify the nature of jealousy.

Jealously rears its ugly head whenever you compare yourself to others and belittle their accomplishments or abilities or possessions in thought, word or deed.

Sometimes our sin is rather obvious:

• "It's not fair that I am always plague with so many trials and others seem to get off so easy."

•  "I can't understand why she was selected for the ministry position when I deserved it?"

•  "I wish we had a swimming pool and three-car garage."

•  "Why was he given so much credit when I put in more effort?"

Other times we attempt to mask our sin of jealousy through blameshifting:

•  Well, that's another feather he can add to his cap. I'll bet he stepped on quite a few toes to get that position."

•  "Oh anybody with half a brain could have figured that out! She just happened to do it first."

•  "Sure they're rich. But did you ever wonder how they managed to get that much money? And I'm sure they don't give sacrificially or help others in need like we do."

•  "You think she's beautiful? Do you know how long it must take her to get that way every morning?" 2

Other times our sin of jealousy is compounded with other unloving attitudes and actions:

•  Trying to make another feel guilty by expressing your opinion that he is shallow to take pleasure in any benefits that have come his way.

•  Ignoring or avoiding those who are honored.

•  Refusing to appreciate another's possessions.

•  Boasting about your own accomplishments to advance your own cause.

•  Practicing "one-upmanship" to show you can do better than another.

•  Pretending you are outwardly happy for another, but brood in private about how unfair life is.

•  Seeking to take away the very thing another person has. 3

There is so much that surrounds us that tempts us to be jealous, specifically, another's: possessions, wealth, position, job, advancement, authority, leadership, ministry, gifts, talents, abilities, recognition, honor, accomplishments, achievements, intelligence, personality, appearance, clothes, health, social standing, communication, marriage, spouse, children, friends, devotion, maturity, experience, age, privileges and happiness. 4

John MacArthur said, "One of the hardest battles a Christian must fight is against jealousy. There is always someone who is a little better…than you are." 5 We all struggle with the desire to be better. Similar to athletics, we struggle to settle even with ties. We want "sudden death." We must face the fact. Deep down inside, jealousy is something we all struggle with daily!


Let's move to the problem of jealousy. You may be wondering, "What's so wrong with a little jealousy. I mean, how much harm can it potentially cause another?"

The first problem of unrighteous jealousy is its origin. This kind of jealousy does not come from the Lord. According to the Scripture, unrighteous jealousy originates in the fallenness of humanity. Galatians 5, "Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God" (Gal. 5:19-21). In addition to the flesh, unrighteous jealous also comes from the pit of hell. According to James 3, "But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic" (Jas. 3:14-15).

Second, besides its ugly origin, jealousy reveals a self-focus. I already mentioned that it is a deed of the flesh (Gal. 5:20). It is the universal motive of the human heart (Ecc. 4:4). It is rooted in self-righteousness. Twice in James 3 we see the connection between jealousy and "selfish ambition" (Jas. 3:14, 16). Once again, my friends, we see the sin of pride. We see the manifestation of self-love, over the agape-love spoken of in 1 Corinthians 13. Jealousy is an indication that self is exalted and whenever self is exalted, it comes at the expense of others.

In his book, Pastor to Pastor, Erwin Lutzer wrote about jealousy, pride and its effects on others. "Once envy (jealousy) has found a home in the human heart, it resists eviction. Even death may seem more attractive than conceding success to someone who is younger and less qualified. Don't ever underestimate the depths to which we are able to sink in order to make ourselves look good." 6

Its origin, its self-focus and now its destructive nature.

After mentioning the prior points, it goes without saying that jealousy is more destructive to ourselves than others. Even the Bible says, "Anger slays the foolish man, and jealousy kills the simple" (Job 5:2). How can we possibly benefit from anything that is "earthy, natural (and) demonic" (Jas. 3:15)? How can we benefit when greater attention is placed on our own shortcomings or another's standing in life? Our faith will erode when we look more to people than God. We must realize that the one ultimately hurt by our jealousy is ourselves.

Someone once wisely said, "Our own envy (jealousy) lasts longer than the happiness of those we envy." And another, "Envy (jealousy) is the most stupid of vices. There is no advantage to be gained from it." And another, "The jealous are troublesome to others, but a torment to themselves."

To illustrate to his congregation the damaging effects of jealousy on oneself, C.H. Spurgeon told this story: "There is a fable of an eagle which could outfly another, and the other didn't like it. The latter saw a sportsman one day, and said to him: 'I wish you would bring down that eagle.' The sportsman replied that he would if he only had some feathers to put into the arrow. So the eagle pulled one out of his wing. The arrow was shot, but didn't quite reach the rival eagle; it was flying too high. The envious eagle pulled out more feathers, and kept pulling them out until he lost so many that he couldn't fly, and then the sportsman turned around and killed him." Spurgeon added, "My friend, if you are jealous, the only man you can hurt is yourself." 7

Besides the damaging effects jealous had toward ourselves, it also has damaging effects to others.

Jealousy is the bitter root that destroys relationships within the family. The first murder in the Bible occurred because Cain was jealous of his brother's sacrifice (Gen. 4:5). Rachel was jealous of her sister because Jacob gave her no children (Gen. 30:1). Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers because they sensed their father's favoritism (Gen. 37:3-4, 11). The older brother was jealous of his younger brother "the prodigal son" because he too was given special favor from his father (Lk. 15:28).

Other pain has been caused outside the family also due to jealousy. Eve ate the forbidden fruit because she was jealous of God (Gen. 3:5-6). Daniel was thrown into the lion's den because other officials in Babylon were jealous of his success (Dan. 6:3-4, 16). When King Saul heard the people chanting, "Saul has slain his thousands and David his ten thousands" (1 Sam. 18:7), he sought to kill David out of jealousy (1 Sam. 18:8). And how can we forget the Jewish leaders during the time of Jesus Christ? The Scriptures say Pilate was aware that Jesus was handed over to him because of their jealousy (Mt. 27:17-18; Mk. 15:10). The power of jealousy caused these religious men to ignore all that they were to uphold. They gave an innocent man to be crucified and supported the freedom of Barabbas because Jesus, so to speak, showed them up.

We already learned in chapter 3 about the jealousy in the Corinthian church (1 Cor. 3:3). This extended discourse on love in chapter 13 is sandwiched by two chapters that address the jealousy the Corinthian church had for others with the so-called "greater gifts." Jealousy is almost always associated with strife in the Bible (Rom. 13:13; 2 Cor. 12:20) and is the sure root of disaster in the family or in the church because, as Proverbs 6 teaches, "jealousy enrages a man" (Pro. 6:34a; 27:4).

A fable tells how Satan's emissaries were trying to tempt a holy man who lived in the Libyan desert. Try as they might, the demons could not get the man to sin. The seductions of the flesh and the onslaught of doubts and fears left him unmoved. Angered by their failure, Satan stepped forward. "Your methods are too crude," he said. "Just watch." He whispered in the holy man's ear, "Your brother has just been made the Bishop of Alexandria." Instantly, a malignant scowl clouded the holy man's face. "Envy," Satan said to his cohorts, "is our final weapon for those who seek holiness." 8

Jealousy will kill or stagnate a church as people remain self-centered and self-focused, feeling sorry for themselves and not fulfilling their God-given role. No wonder Satan, who hates to see the church succeed, lives to make us jealous of each other.

Considering all this we are not surprised that jealousy is one of the "deadly sins."


Do you want to have more joy? Do you want to get off the treadmill of comparing yourself with others? Do you want to have less strife within you family and within you church? There is hope for you and I. Listen carefully as I provide some practical assistance from the Bible to help you in overcome jealousy. It comes in two steps: "put off" and "put on!"

"Put off"

First of all, you "put off" the sin of jealousy. This requires you to ask the Holy Spirit to make you aware of any jealousy in your heart. Jealousy or the tendency for jealousy is not always an obvious sin. Oftentimes it can remain hidden, but still alive and well, lurking around in the heart. Ask God to make you aware of your sin in this area. Confess the sin to God and others if necessary and repent. Battle the sin with the truth of God's Word.

"Put on"

Second, in the place of jealousy, "put on" three patterns of thought.

First, develop a biblical sense of identity. Oftentimes our jealousy comes from a fear of losing something very special, but a biblical sense of identity immediately cures these ills.

For example: "So what if someone was recognized over me. I seek to please only the Lord and He observed my actions" (1 Cor. 4:5). "So what if another more gifted is about to replace me in ministry. All gifts are sovereignly given by the Lord and I am eager to step aside if it benefits the church" (Cor. 4:7; 12:11). "So what if another person is receiving more spiritual success. If the church is being blessed I rejoice because my goal is not personal glory but God's glory" (1 Cor. 10:31). "So what if another person has received greater blessings than me. I know God loves me just the same and apart from my sin, accepts me as I am" (1 Cor. 15:10).

Base your identity on the opinion, affirmation and acceptance of God and not people (1 Cor. 4:4). Be secure in God's love as it is spoken to you in the Scriptures!

Second, "put on" contentment. Instead of complaining about "fairness," learn to be content in whatever situation you find yourself (Phil. 4:11). Learn to be satisfied with whatever God has given you. You see, when we show jealousy, which reveals a lack of contentment, we are basically putting God's sovereignty and God's goodness on trial (cf. Mt. 20:1-16).

And finally, "put on" thankfulness. Instead of being so concerned for what others have, learn to be thankful for what you have. Learn to count your own blessings. Learn that you will be less likely to be jealous for another if you realize God's generosity in your own life. Learn to see jealousy as "the great exaggerator" that makes others often appear more successful than they really are.

Furthermore, if you really want to fight jealousy, begin to give thanks for the very people that tend to make you jealous. Be happy for them! Instead of complaining about someone's nicer car, praise God that they have received such blessing. Instead of complaining about someone's role in ministry, praise God that they are contributing so much to the church. Here's the big question: Can you rejoice in the success of others even when it works against you? If you can get to this spiritually mature position, you have successfully destroyed the green monster of jealousy.

The Apostle Paul was such a man. Possibly nothing brought the man greater joy than proclaiming the Gospel. He was even appointed as a minister to the Gentiles. But soon into his ministry he found himself in jail. How would Paul respond? Would he question the sovereignty of God? Would he complain? Would he quit? Paul did none of these. As a matter of fact, he praised the Lord for how his imprisonment "turned out for the greater progress of the Gospel" among the lost (Phil. 1:12-13) and increased courage among the church (Phil. 1:14).

But his situation worsened. In his own words he said, "Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment" (Phil. 1:15, 17). Some, opponents of Paul moved by the flesh, sought to make him jealousy by rubbing his nose in that which he longed to do. Once again, how would Paul respond? "What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice" (Phil. 1:18). A perfect example of "putting off" jealousy and "putting on" contentment and thanksgiving.

A fictitious story is told about two shopkeepers who were bitter rivals. Their stores were directly across the street from each other, and they would spend each day keeping track of each other's business. If one got a customer, he would smile in triumph at his rival. One night an angel appeared to one of the shopkeepers in a dream and said, "I will give you anything you ask, but whatever you receive, your competitor will receive twice as much. Would you be rich? You can be very rich, but he will be twice as wealthy. Do you wish to live a long and healthy life? You can, but his life will be longer and healthier. What is your desire?" The man frowned, thought for a moment, and then said, "Here is my request: Strike me blind in one eye!" 9

My friends,

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

Look full into His wonderful face,

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace

Helen Lemmel, 1922

If you are looking to Jesus, you won't be comparing yourself with others.

"Love…is not jealous" (1 Cor. 13:4).

  1. Biblical Counseling Foundation, Self Confrontation, Lesson 9, Page 8.
  2. Biblical Counseling Foundation, Self Confrontation, Lesson 9, Page 6-7.
  3. Biblical Counseling Foundation, Self Confrontation, Lesson 9, Page 7.
  4. Adapted from Christinyou.net.
  5. MacArthur, John. 1 Corinthians, p. 340.
  6. Lutzer, Erwin. Pastor to Pastor, p. 56.
  7. Spurgeon, Charles. Moody's Anecdotes, p. 44-45.
  8. Lutzer, Erwin. Pastor to Pastor, p. 54.
  9. Lindberg, Thomas

other sermons in this series

Mar 26


Love Bears, Believes, Hopes and Endures

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:7 Series: The Preeminence of Love

Mar 19


Love Rejoices With Righteousness

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:5 Series: The Preeminence of Love

Mar 12


Love Keeps No Record of Wrongs

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:5 Series: The Preeminence of Love