Aspects of Love – Contentment
By Hon Wei Chan
Love… is not envious (1 Cor 13:4)
Envy… Jealousy… some call it the green eyed monster. When was the last time you were happy when God blessed your neighbour? Or your friend? Does it make you angry that God blessed someone you didn’t like? Or even your enemy maybe?
How about the time when your colleague got a promotion but you didn’t? Or your neighbour who does not work as hard as you getting a car twice as big as yours? Or someone got a house you always wanted? Or dated or even married the girl of your dreams? Or the guy of your dreams?
The strange thing about the word ‘envy’ in the bible is that it could be used in a good or bad sense.
2. zeloo (ζηλόω, 2206 ) denotes “to be zealous, moved with jealousy,” Acts 7:9 and 17:5 , RV, “moved with jealousy” (KJV, “moved with envy”); both have “envieth” in 1 Cor. 13:4 .
Note: Zelos, “zeal or jealousy,” translated “envy” in the KJV, in Acts 13:45 ; Rom. 13:13 ; 1 Cor. 3:3 ; 2 Cor. 12:20 ; Jas. 3:14 , 16 , is to be distinguished from phthonos, and, apart from the meanings “zeal” and “indignation,” is always translated “jealousy” in the RV. The distinction lies in this, that “envy” desires to deprive another of what he has, “jealousy” desires to have the same or the same sort of thing for itself.
Envy desires to deprive another of what he has. In Malaysia, I’ve seen many new cars get scratched deliberately by another. Why? Envy. You have something I cannot have so I will destroy it for you. Or the common theme of many a love drama where if the girl you love does not share your affection, you try to destroy every good relationship the person could have. Envy often rears its ugly head. Caleb couldn’t get God’s affection and was envious and angry and decided to kill his own brother.
And these aforementioned founders, burning up with envy of Joseph, sold him into Egypt. But God was with him
Joseph’s brothers was so furious of the special treatment his brother received, they sold him into slavery. What is the power of envy that it can even cause you to betray or even kill your closest of kin? It almost seems envy screams out, ‘If I can’t have it, nor can you.” Envy declares that it wants what the other person has and if it can’t have it, nor can the other person. There is this sense of a loss of humanity when one is intoxicated with envy.
Envy cannot be happy for another. In fact, the happiness of the other almost always robs it of its happiness. The problem with envy is that it always magnifies the things that we do not have and minimalises the things that we have. Envy often brings out the worst in you.
Why do people envy? Why do I envy? Who do you envy?I could think of several possibilities.
One, we tie our self worth to what the other person has. If the other person gets praised, I feel inferior. If someone was endowed with good looks, it makes us feel strangely ugly. If someone was blessed financially, we feel poor and deprived. Our worth is tied to things another has and not on the things we have. It is a vicious cycle that almost perpetually deprives us of happiness and an inability to see the things we are blessed with.
Two, we measure our success based on another’s achievement. We are always trying to keep up with our neighbours. If someone sings better than us, then we cannot be happy until we sing as well. If our friend owns a bungalow, then we cannot be happy till we get a bigger one. Again, this paralyses us as there will always be someone better than us.
Eventually, envy will kill every meaningful relationship you will ever have. You cannot love someone you envy. It is impossible. You cannot be happy for the person you love if you are perpetually envious of them. It is impossible.
I often illustrate this with something I did when I was young. Something I could not remember. Something my mum told me. She said that when I was young, I love chicks so much. And often I would squeeze them so hard, they would die. That is what envy can do to your relationships. It can make you a control freak. If your girlfriend talks slightly longer with another guy, you get envious. If your boyfriend spends more time with his friends, you get jealous. Probably, if you could, you would put them in a cage on your little finger, so they can be yours forever and noone else could have them. Then maybe, you would be less envious.
This brings me to the third reason I think people envy. They don’t see God. They don’t see eternity. And because they do not see God, they cannot know that they will never lose His love for them. They cannot see the unique plan and purposes for them and the reason why they were created different – in a different environment, with a different ability and gifts and circumstances. They cannot see that the true reward which is eternal will be given in heaven. If you do not have access to the limitless God who will eventually give you His eternal heaven, you will always hold on to earthly things.
I guess this verse summarises it all:
What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrongyou want only what will give you pleasure.You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God.
The hands that hold on to the world will never be able to reach out to God. So, I have learnt that in life, I cannot have everything I want but I can have everything God wants to give to me. And He knows what is best for me. So it’s time to let go and let God. It is time to find our peace and contentment in God and this may be the best thing that we do for ourselves. We may finally be happy.
I am just a regular guy who really desires to please God. I’m not there yet, but I’m on the way.