Monday, January 18, 2010

Armed with Love: Envy

"Love does not envy." I Corinthians 13:4

When I think of envy, I think of wanting something someone else has. I can't easily relate this to my spouse. After all, what's his is mine and what's mine is his. How could I envy him? In some translations of the Bible it says, "Love is not jealous." I think with both these words something is lost in the translation. I have been a little confused regarding envy. I've done some research that has helped me understand why love does not envy.

The word envy used in this verse is the word "zēloō." Blue Letter Bible defines zēloō as "to burn with zeal." Webster's dictionary defines zeal as, "fervor for a person, cause or object;eager desire or endeavor; enthusiastic diligence; ardor." Don't you hate it when you look something up in the dictionary and then have to look up another word in the definition to figure out what that means? Me too. Fervor is defined as, "great warmth or eagerness of feeling; passion; intense heat." Zeal means passion for a person, cause or object. This makes me scratch my head a little. I'm not supposed to have passion for my spouse? I thought passion was a good thing? Zeal can be used in a good or bad way. We are encouraged to pursue service for the Lord with zeal. Romans 12:11 says,"Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord." God operates in zeal all throughout the book of Isaiah which says,"The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this."(Isaiah 9:7,37:32) Jesus was overcome with zeal when he cleared the temple of the money changers(John 2: 17). In all of these cases they have one thing in common. There passion was so great it expressed itself with a some heat, even anger.

The second definition of envy in the Blue Letter Bible is, "to boil with envy, hatred, anger." This is the kind of passion that is so strong it burns within you, even causing hatred or anger. To zealously pursue someone is to desire someone so greatly it consumes you. You want to possess the person. For me envy boils down to one thing: control. I start to feel this kind of burning when I feel as if I've lost control. I get angry when things don't go my way. I want my husband to want to spend his time with me. When he chooses to spend time doing something else, like play video games, I get angry. (Okay, God, I see how lame this sounds right now.)

Why am I like this? I think it comes down to the very beginning. We can look to our mother, Eve. After Eve sinned in the garden she received some very hard consequences. Painful childbirth was one of them. The other one is this, "Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.(Gen.3:16)" My desires, passion, even, dare is say, zeal are for my husband because of the fall. However, he is in charge of his own feelings and behaviors. I can't control him no matter how hard I try. Why would I want to? I relate this to God. He could have created us only to love Him because He is all powerful and can do whatever He wants. We could have been robot drones to love and worship him. If he forced us to love Him would that really be love? No. He created us with free will because love can only be given freely. I want my husband to also be free to love me. I don't want him to love me out of obligation, or because I have expectations I want him to meet. I want us to share a mutual affection that is only made better and stronger together. So I'm going to quit nagging him to get off the computer. I'll quit complaining when he's late home from work and forgets to call. I'll love him freely and release him to love me freely as well. Next time you start to feel that passion burn within your belly because your expectations have not been met, remember "love does not envy." These battles are best won with aprons on!


  1. Thanks again for your great insight. What value is affection that you have demanded? It just falls flat leaving us even more disappointed. Take your anger, envy and even your disappointment to the God who sees. Pray that the desires of your heart are met and then let the Lord meet them. He might just include your husband in His plan. :~)

  2. Great observation Genny! I, too, have wondered about the envy part...thanks for the explanation and the challenge -- to love him freely.