By Tera Ertz
“It [love] does not envy,…” (1 Corinthians 13:4c)
Jesus told those trying to trap him in Matthew that all the other commandments hang on loving God and loving one another. The intent was to try to get Jesus to contradict the law God had laid out for his people, and his response should be illuminating to those of us who seek him today. Among those original commandments given to the people of Israel was this “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:17). If indeed all other commandments flow from the command to love God and to love our neighbors, this description of love in Corinthians makes perfect sense. We cannot demonstrate love if we are busy harboring a desire for the things of our fellow citizens.
In the world of today’s politics, particularly from a conservatives perspective, it would be easy to criticize politicians and groups that base their appeal on the idea that some people have more than others and that this is somehow not fair. While this type of property based argument does indeed focus on building envy in the people of our country, envy is not limited to the more liberal among us, nor is it limited to policies regarding property. Christians in particular fall victim to a different kind of envy. We tend to complain that we do not command the same respect or status in conversation and policy as others in the political spectrum. We focus on the political successes less scrupulous politicians sometimes enjoy. We express our discontent in self-righteous proclamations about the character of those politicians, and the intelligence of the people who support them. Eventually we get so wrapped up in that anger, we stop offering solutions, and find ourselves wishing to engage in the same types of vicious, underhanded tactics if it would mean we could at least win. We are trying to restore honor, responsibility, and character to our government servants aren’t we? So what if we have to knock a few heads and skirt some of our values along the way, we’re still better than those other guys who are out to destroy us, right?
This is the power of envy. Whether we envy the material possessions of those around us, or the other kinds of success they enjoy, it changes our focus from what God has given us to what we don’t have. This drives a wedge between us and God, and stops us from being able to express the love we are called to share with the world. Without God’s love, the envy consumes us and drowns any hope we have of effectively communicating righteous solutions, or setting an example of what it means to be honorable and responsible men and women. As Christians it is vital we set our hearts on God, speak His truth to the world in love, and let the outcome rest in His much wiser hands.
Father forgive us for getting focused on what we lack instead of remembering the abundant blessings You have given each of us. Help us to remember the power of temptation and that evil will use our envy to separate us from You and silence Your word in our hearts if we allow it. Fill us with Your Spirit, and help us remind one another to keep our attention on what you have called us to instead of what we think is fair. In Jesus Name, Amen.