Love vs. Envy

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.”

~ 1 Corinthians 13:4


  1. *Activity* Organize a “fits in a shoebox” gift exchange with your group.  When your group meets, distribute the gifts like a white elephant gift exchange.  (Each person draws a number, and the lowest goes first.  Each person can choose either to take a wrapped gift or to “steal” a gift that’s already been claimed.  If a person’s gift is stolen, that person must choose an unclaimed gift.)  Take note of which gifts elicit the strongest reaction from the people in your group.  Also take note of how people reacted when a gift they really wanted was stolen.
  2. *Activity* Watch Cinderella, Snow White, or Toy Story.  (You can also show an appropriate clip from these films that demonstrates envy or jealousy.)
  3. *Discussion* Tell a story of a time when you’ve really, really wanted something, but lost out to somebody else.  How did you react?  Did you handle it well or poorly?
  4. *Discussion* What are some of the freakiest stories you’ve heard about jealousy?  What makes jealousy bad?


Main Points (Choose ONE)

  1. When you’re consumed with desire for what someone else has, you both will be destroyed.  (Does that sound like love to you?  No?  I didn’t think so.)
  2. Those who love truly will be jealous for their loved ones—but not jealous of their loved ones.


  1. James 4:1-3“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
    1. Note that “covet” is a synonym for “envy.”

i.You want something that you don’t have, but someone else has it.

ii.This desire begins to affect your behavior and your attitude in a negative way.

  1. It’s not that you want something and consequently decide to work hard for it.
  2. Instead, you obsess about having it.
  3. According to James, envy is the source of fights and quarrels.

i.On the one hand, his point might seem obvious.

  1. When resources are scarce, people get scared and start to hoard.
    1. That makes the scarcity even worse.
    2. People start to fight over the scraps, or fight in order to get at someone else’s hoard.
    3. A lot of people fight over things that someone else has.
      1. Just watch little kids on a playground: eventually, they’ll start fighting over something that they don’t want to share.
      2. The resentment that exists between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ is enough to lead to quarrels even when there’s no particular reason to fight.

ii.On the other hand, we rarely think that we’re fighting just because we’re jealous.

  1. It’s easy to recognize in other people, but hard to recognize in ourselves.
  2. We always use the excuse that we’re fighting over some real problem—a legitimate one—when it’s actually our own selfishness getting in the way.
  3. Part of the problem is that we’re looking in the wrong place for the wrong things.

i.God is supposed to be the one we rely upon for what we need.

  1. Instead of relying on God, we try to manipulate other people to get what we want.
  2. God knows best both what we need and what will make our lives better.

ii.When we’re motivated by selfishness and ambition, it’s hard to assess our needs correctly.

  1. We can’t evaluate things accurately because we’re distracted by how much we want what we want.
  2. We fall victim to self-deception, trying to hide our agendas even from ourselves.
  3. When this attitude creeps into our relationships, disaster follows.

i.We’re so focused on what we want that other people become obstacles or objects to be manipulated.

  1. They feel abused.
  2. They feel ignored.
  3. You know?  They’re right.

ii.When what we desire becomes more important than the people around us, we are

willing to ‘sacrifice’ them to get what we want.

  1. We destroy our relationships because they become less important to us than what we desire.
  2. Love, on the other hand, is characterized by self-sacrifice.
  3. The underlying attitudes behind envy and love are completely opposite.
  4. Jealousy vs. Envy
    1. We usually think of jealousy as a kind of envy.

i.They’re often pretty similar.

  1. “Envy” is desiring something that isn’t yours.
  2. “Jealousy” is desiring control over what’s yours.
    1. This control is something you don’t have but that you want; so jealousy is a particular kind of envy.

ii.Jealousy isn’t a good thing, is it?

  1. It’s overly possessive.
  2. It’s kind of creepy.
  3. It destroys people and relationships.

iii.Although there’s a kind of jealousy that’s envious and destructive, there’s also

a kind of jealousy that’s a good thing.

  1. Jealousy is a normal—even a necessary—part of love.

i.The Bible says repeatedly that God is jealous in his love for us.

  1. Deuteronomy 4:24“For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.”
    1. A consuming fire burns up everything it touches, so if you provoke God’s jealousy, you’ll get burned.
    2. Good question: how does one provoke God’s jealousy?
    3. Exodus 34:14“Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.
      1. The phrase “whose name is Jealous” means that his jealousy isn’t accidental: it’s a part of his identity.

ii.The difference between them ‘good’ jealousy and ‘bad’ (envious) jealousy.

  1. Envious jealousy desires control, but passionate jealousy desires freely-given love.
  2. Envious jealousy is motivated by fear, but passionate jealousy is motivated by hope.
  3. Envious jealousy expresses itself in suspicion, but passionate jealousy expresses itself in trust.
  4. Envious jealousy responds with spite, but passionate jealousy works for restoration.
  5. Something to consider: a jealous person can’t always tell which kind of jealousy he or she is displaying.

iii.Real love will be jealous.

  1. God is the perfect model for us of real love.
    1. If God loves jealously, we should, too.
    2. He’s always been willing to defend his love from those who would try to steal it away.
    3. The opposite of love isn’t hatred, it’s indifference.
      1. How can you claim to love someone if you don’t care about their unfaithfulness?
      2. Envious jealousy, however, tears love apart.

i.Proverbs 27:4“Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?”

  1. Jealousy is even more cruel and overwhelming than anger or rage.
  2. If what you’ve contributed to the relationship is more cruel than anger and more overwhelming than fury, how in the world could you expect to foster love in that relationship?

ii.Proverbs 14:30“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.”

  1. Envy will sap the life of a relationship.
  2. It will also destroy the envious person.

iii.James 3:16“For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find

                                                                     disorder and every evil practice.”

  1. Envy leads to all sorts of nastiness as our resentment gets the better of us.
  2. Envy leads to all sorts of dirty tricks as we try to find any advantage to get what we want.

Human Struggles

  1. We fear losing what we have, and we fear never gaining what we really want.
  2. We have a hard time trusting God to bless us, so we obsess over what we don’t have.
  3. When we lose out, we claim that we “never really wanted it in the first place”—but that’s just not true.
  4. We don’t want to invest the hard work or the sacrifice that it would take to get what we want.
  5. We deceive ourselves about our motives, making our disputes into much bigger deals than they ought to be.