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Inflamed Love does not envy

 







Inflamed Love does not envy.

1 Corinthians 13:4 nkjv

God offers authentic love.

His devotion is the real deal.

But he won’t give you the genuine

until you surrender the imitations.

Nancy is single. Forty-something and single. Her friends chat about diapers and schools, the oddities of husbands, and the curiosities of family life. She just listens and smiles.

She is single. Forty-something and single. Her friends drive minivans. A high-school classmate has kids bound for college. Nancy drives a compact car and eats most meals alone and feels awkward at baby showers.

She is single. People wonder why. They never say it, but their eyes betray it. “You aren’t married?” is the question. Why not? is the thought. Is something wrong? Something awry? Abnormal?

 

Serving on a church staff exacerbates the contrast. She dutifully nods as members tell family holiday stories and husband-wife vacation adventures. She spent last Christmas with her parents, then drove home alone. And she’d enjoy a trip, but travel partners are hard to come by. How can she love the church family when they have what she wants?

 

She occasionally feels vulnerable at night. What was that noise? She feels self-conscious at parties. Do I go alone? And she’s having to cope with envy. Not anger. Not red-hot jealousy. Certainly not hatred. Just envy. A



flicker of resentment toward women who have what she doesn’t. And she’s concerned.

Well she should be. For what is a flicker today can turn into a fire tomorrow.

Suppose you spotted a flame in your house. Not a blaze and certainly not a fire, but tiny tongues of heat dancing on the hem of a curtain, on the fringe of the carpet, to the side of the stove. What would you do? How would you react? Would you shrug your shoulders and walk away, saying, “A little fire never hurt any house.”

 

Of course not. You’d put it out. Douse it, stamp it, cover it—anything but allow it. You would not tolerate a maverick flame in your house. Why? Because you know the growth pattern of fire. What is born in innocence is deadly in adolescence. Left untended, fire consumes all that is consumable. You know, for the sake of your house, you don’t play with fire.

 

For the sake of your heart, the same is true. A warning should be offered about the fire in the heart, which, left unchecked, can burst into a hungry flame and consume all that is consumable. The name of the fire? Solomon tagged it. “Jealousy is cruel as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire” (Song of Sol. 8:6 RSV).

Paul was equally aggressive in his declaration. “Love does not envy” (1 Cor. 13:4 NKJV). No doubt he’d read about and seen the results of unmanaged jealousy.

 

Look at Joseph’s brothers. They started out taunting and teasing Joseph. Harmless sibling rivalry. But then the flicker became a flame. “His brothers were jealous of him” (Gen. 37:11 NIV). Soon it was easier to dump Joseph into a pit than see him at the dinner table. Before long, Joseph was in Egypt, the brothers were in cahoots, and Jacob, the father, was in the dark. He thought his boy was dead. All because of envy.

 

And what about the Pharisees? Were they evil men? Criminals? Thugs?

 

No, they were the pastors and teachers of their day. Little League coaches and carpool partners. But what did they do with Jesus? “They had handed Him over because of envy” (Matt. 27:18 NKJV)

 

And Max, don’t forget Max. As long as we are listing the names of people prone to jealousy, put my name on the list. I began smelling smoke when I learned of a church across town. A friend came back with this report:

“The church is great! It’s bursting at the seams! It’s the largest one in town.”

A more spiritual Max would have rejoiced. A more mature Max would have thanked God. But the Max who heard the report didn’t act mature or spiritual. He acted jealous. Can you believe it? Rather than celebrate God’s work, I was obsessed with my own. I wanted our church to be the biggest.

 

 

Sickening. The Lord didn’t leave me to indulge in such territorialism for long. In a profound moment of conviction, he let me know that the church is his church, not mine. The work is his work, not mine. And my life is his life, not mine.

My job was not to question him but to trust him. “Don’t be jealous. . . . Trust the LORD and do good” (Ps. 37:1, 3). The cure for jealousy? Trust. The cause of jealousy? Distrust. The sons of Jacob didn’t trust God to meet their needs. The Pharisees didn’t trust God to solve their problems. The writer of this book didn’t trust God to expand his kingdom. I didn’t do so at great risk. What are the consequences of envy?

 

Loneliness tops the list. Solomon says, “Anger is cruel and destroys like a flood, but no one can put up with jealousy!” (Prov. 27:4). Who wants to hang out with a jealous fool? In a cemetery in England stands a grave marker with the inscription: SHE DIED FOR WANT OF THINGS. Alongside that marker is another, which reads: HE DIED TRYING TO GIVE THEM TO HER.1

Sickness is another consequence. The wise man also wrote, “Peace of mind means a healthy body, but jealousy will rot your bones” (Prov. 14:30).

 

Violence is the ugliest fruit. “You want something you don’t have, and you will do anything to get it. You will even kill!” (James 4:2 CEV). “Jealousy,” informs Proverbs 6:34, “enrages a man” (NASB). The Jews used one word for jealousy, qua-nah. It meant “to be intensely red.” Let me ask you, have you seen such envy? Have you seen red-faced jealousy? Are you acquainted with the crimson forehead and the bulging veins? And—be honest now—have they appeared on your face?

If so, you need to do what Nancy did. Stop listing what you want, and start trusting God to provide what you need. Listen to her story:

It was a few days before my . . . annual staff Christmas party. It came to my attention that I might be one of the few singles in attendance. It was such a dreadful thought, and of course, I truly didn’t want to go! But as I prayed, I realized that God wanted me to go and HE wanted to be my partner. I didn’t know how this could happen, but I began to pray that I would recognize His presence beside me every moment and that I would radiate that presence. So, “we” went to the party!

As “we” entered, I immediately saw a potential male interest with a beautiful woman. It didn’t faze me. As “we” walked from room to room, I socialized, encouraged those I saw, and truly practiced putting others first. As “we” left that evening and got into my car for the long drive home, I burst into tears . . . tears of joy and pain. I rejoiced to feel the peace and presence of Jesus in a tangible way, despite the pain of singleness.

The following Monday a friend stopped by my office and said, “I noticed you at the party and wondered if it might be hard for you to be there alone. But I just wanted to tell you that you radiated God’s joy that night.”

Since then, I’ve attended countless weddings, receptions, class reunions, and parties with Jesus as my partner. I can’t say it’s been easy, but I know that with each event my faith has grown. Jesus is a real, tangible presence—as real to me as any other person. I continue to grow in my understanding of what it means to partner with Him daily in the small things and the big things and what it means for Him to be the ever-present, always available lover of my soul.

God withholds what we desire in order to give us what we need. You desire a spouse; he gives you himself. You seek a larger church; he prefers a stronger church. You want to be healed so you can serve. He wants you confined so you can pray. Such is the testimony of Joni Eareckson Tada. Three decades after a diving accident rendered her a quadriplegic, she and her husband, Ken, visited Jerusalem. Sitting in her wheelchair, she remembered the story of the paralytic Jesus healed at the pool of Bethesda. Thirty years earlier she’d read the account and asked Jesus to do the same for her.

 

That day in Jerusalem she thanked God that he had answered a higher prayer. Joni now sees her chair as her prayer bench and her affliction as her blessing. Had he healed her legs, thousands of prayers would have been sacrificed to her busy life. She sees that now. She accepts that now. Jealousy was eclipsed by gratitude as she surrendered her will to his. Nancy trusted her Father with her singleness.

Joni trusted her Father with her disability.

 

And Susie trusted her father with her pearls. At the age of six her most treasured possession was a string of pearls. The fact that they were fake didn’t bother her. She wore them everywhere and played with them every day. She loved the pearls.

She also loved her daddy. His business often took him away for days at a time. The first day home would always be one of celebration. As an adult Susie can still remember the time he spent a week in the Orient. When he finally returned, the daddy and daughter played all afternoon. As he put her to bed, he asked this question: “Do you love me?”

“Yes, Daddy. I love you more than anything.”

“More than anything?”

“More than anything.”

 

He paused for a moment. “More than the pearls? Would you give me your pearls?”

“Oh, Daddy,” she replied. “I couldn’t do that. I love my pearls.” “I understand,” he told her and kissed her good-night.

As she fell asleep, she thought about his request. When she awoke, she thought about it some more. It was on her mind that morning and later in the day. Finally, that night, she went to him with her pearls. “Daddy, I love you more than these. Here, you take them.”

“I’m so glad to hear that,” he said, standing and opening his attaché case.

“I brought you a gift.”

 

She opened the small flat box and gasped. Pearls. Genuine pearls.4

You suppose your Father wants to give you some as well? He offers authentic love. His devotion is the real deal. But he won’t give you the genuine until you surrender the imitations.

What pearls is he hoping you’ll release? What costume jewelry would he love for you to drop? Would you exchange the lesser gifts for the highest gift of knowing God? If you would, then your envy will pass. Jealousy has no fire when true love is received.

 

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