1 Corinthians 13:4

Sermon preached on January 24, 2016 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2016. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

"Irish novelist and playwright Samuel Beckett received great recognition for his work—but not everyone savored his accomplishments. Beckett's marriage, in fact, was soured by his wife's jealousy of his growing fame and success as a writer. One day in 1969 his wife Suzanne answered the telephone, listened for a moment, spoke briefly, and hung up. She then turned to Beckett and with a stricken look whispered, 'What a catastrophe!'Was it a devastating personal tragedy? No, she had just learned that Beckett had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature!"

(Today in the Word, February, 1991, p. 15)

Jealously is a terrible thing. Everyone knows it. It's one of the few vices which has a color associated with it—green. You've all heard the phrase,

"Green with envy."

That phrase is believed to come directly from William Shakespeare. In Othello, Lago warns Othello:

"Beware, my lord, of jealousy; it is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on."

It's been suggested that Shakespeare was comparing a jealous man to a green-eyed cat that toys with its prey before killing it.

But there is some evidence that the association of green with jealously goes back even before the time of Christ. In the seventh century B.C. the Greek poet Sappho wrote of a forlorn lover being green. Some think the early Greeks interchanged 'green' and 'pale' to denote sickness. The Greeks thought that when you were ill or jealous, the body produced too much bile, giving the skin a green tint.

It's not very flattering if someone tells you that you look green. It's like they're telling you that you should go to the ER, and quick. Jealousy is like that. In some ways it destroys the one who harbors it. Proverbs 14:30 says,

"A heart at peace gives life to the body,
but envy rots the bones."

The same could be said of jealously as is said about bitterness.

"Being bitter is like drinking poison and waiting for the other guy to die."

God hates jealously. One of the reasons God hates jealously is because it is incompatible with love. Our text says that love, (1 Corinthians 13:4)

"does not envy…"

In Galatians 5:19ff the acts of our old nature are compared with the fruits of the Spirit. Paul wrote, (Galatians 5:22–23)

"But the fruit of the Spirit is
love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness
and self-control.
Against such things there is no law."

In opposition to those things, Paul said,

"The acts of the sinful nature are obvious:
sexual immorality,
impurity and debauchery;
idolatry and witchcraft;
hatred, discord, jealousy,
fits of rage, selfish ambition,
dissensions, factions and envy;
drunkenness, orgies, and the like.
I warn you,
as I did before,
that those who live like this
will not inherit the kingdom of God."

Jealously destroys those who entertain it.

But what exactly is jealously?

The Greek word that Paul used can refer to jealously in a good sense or jealousy in a bad sense. The word essentially indicates a strong desire or interest in something—either good or bad.

We have an example of good jealously in 2 Corinthians 11:2–3 where the apostle Paul expressed his jealousy over the fact that some so called 'super apostles' in Corinth were leading the Corinthians away from Christ. He wrote,

"I am jealous for you
with a godly jealousy.
I promised you to one husband,
to Christ,
so that I might present you
as a pure virgin to him.
But I am afraid that just as Eve
was deceived by the serpent's cunning,
your minds may somehow
be led astray from your sincere
and pure devotion to Christ."

That was good jealously. These false teachers were leading Christians away from Christ and Paul was jealous with a godly jealously.

In the same way a husband or wife can be jealous if their spouse is doing something inappropriate. That is not sinful. It's the proper reaction. They have an intense interest in it.

But jealously can also be bad and that's how it's most often used in the Scripture. This bad jealously is defined, (BDAG, 427)

"to have intense negative feelings over another's achievements or success…"

Jonathan Edwards, (Charity and Its Fruits, p. 112)

"Envy may be defined to be a spirit of dissatisfaction with, or opposition to, the prosperity and happiness of others as compared with our own."

Bad jealously as all about you wanting yourself to be exalted and others to be put down.

What this means for you is that

you must never let negative jealously have a place in your life.

If you're jealous of others in this way it means that you don't love them. Such feelings are inappropriate to a follower of Jesus. In Romans 13:12–14 Paul put it this way,

"The night is nearly over;
the day is almost here.
So let us put aside the deeds of darkness
and put on the armor of light.
Let us behave decently,
as in the daytime,
not in orgies and drunkenness,
not in sexual immorality and debauchery,
not in dissension and jealousy.
Rather, clothe yourselves
with the Lord Jesus Christ,
and do not think about how to gratify
the desires of the sinful nature."

In 1 Corinthians 3:3 he said to the Corinthians,

"You are still worldly.
For since there is jealousy
and quarreling among you,
are you not worldly?"

Rather than putting others down—we should seek to esteem them. In Romans 12:10 the Holy Spirit tells us to,

"Be devoted to one another
in brotherly love.
Honor one another above yourselves."

1 Peter 4:10–11 tells us why spiritual gifts have been given—to help others and to glorify God. It's not about you—it's about others and God's glory. That's the way you are to use them.

"Each one should use
whatever gift he has received
to serve others,
faithfully administering God's grace
in its various forms.
If anyone speaks,
he should do it as one speaking
the very words of God.
If anyone serves,
he should do it
with the strength God provides,
so that in all things God
may be praised through Jesus Christ.
To him be the glory and
the power for ever and ever. Amen."

The way to greatness in the kingdom of God is to help others. In Mark 9:35 Jesus said,

"If anyone wants to be first,
he must be the very last,
and the servant of all."

To help us fight against jealously, we should note four things.

First, you should recognize that

how deeply ingrained envy is in your heart.

This is a sin that you always have to guard against. It's ingrained in your old nature so much that you always need to guard against it.

There are some sins that I don't really worry about committing. Take drunkenness for example. I don't drink. I don't like the taste of alcohol so, unless that changes, I'm not really concerned about becoming a drunkard. I concentrate on guarding myself in other areas, areas I know that could be a real problem for me.

Perhaps you feel that way about jealously—that you don't need to worry about it, that it'll never be a problem for you. I hope not. But what we should understand about jealously is that it's there in our old nature, ready to sprout, even when you think it's not there. In Luke 9:43–48 Jesus said to His disciples,

"Listen carefully to what
I am about to tell you:
The Son of Man is going to be
betrayed into the hands of men.
But they did not understand
what this meant.
It was hidden from them,
so that they did not grasp it,
and they were afraid to ask him about it.
An argument started among the disciples
as to which of them would be the greatest.
Jesus, knowing their thoughts,
took a little child and had him stand beside him.
Then he said to them,
'Whoever welcomes this little child
in my name welcomes me;
and whoever welcomes me
welcomes the one who sent me.
For he who is least among you all—
he is the greatest."

Jesus was telling them He had to die—and at that very point they were arguing about who would be the greatest among them. How deeply self-centeredness, self-love is rooted in us. How we have to guard against jealously.

Remember Saul, when after Samuel anointed him to be king over Israel. He was so humble and modest. When Samuel told him that he was going to eat with him, Saul asked why he would say such a thing to him. After Samuel anointed him and called all the tribes of Israel together to reveal their king to them, first the tribe of Benjamin was chosen, then Matri's clan, then Saul son of Kish. But when they looked for Saul—he could not be found. He was hiding among the baggage. He was so humble—how could he become jealous of anyone?

But in 1 Samuel 18:6–9 we read,

"When the men were returning home
after David had killed the Philistine,
the women came out from
all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul
with singing and dancing, with joyful
songs and with tambourines and lutes.
As they danced, they sang:
'Saul has slain his thousands,
and David his tens of thousands.'
Saul was very angry;
this refrain galled him.'
They have credited David
with tens of thousands,'
he thought,
'but me with only thousands.
What more can he get but the kingdom?'
And from that time on
Saul kept a jealous eye on David."

Your old nature is so self-centered, so loves the applause of others, so loves itself more than others—that jealously can spring up at any time. Jealously is in your heart, ready to sprout, ready to do much evil. Watch yourself. Guard against jealously.

Story abut two great theologians,

My second point is a great antidote to jealously. It is this:

It is God who gives grace to you and others as He sees fit.

If that is the case—how can you be jealous of someone else? In Ephesians 4:7–13 we read,

"But to each one of us grace has
been given as Christ apportioned it.
This is why it says:
'When he ascended on high,
he led captives in his train
and gave gifts to men.'…
It was he who gave some
to be apostles, some to be prophets,
some to be evangelists,
and some to be pastors and teachers,
to prepare God's people
for works of service,
so that the body of Christ
may be built up until
we all reach unity in the faith
and in the knowledge of the Son of God
and become mature,
attaining to the whole measure
of the fullness of Christ."

Jesus gives these gifts to the church. In 1 Corinthians 12:11 Paul emphasizes the Spirit's role in spiritual gifts. He declared,

"All these are the work
of one and the same Spirit,
and he gives them to each one,
just as he determines."

The Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts just as He determines. According to His wisdom, His glorious plan—He gives spiritual gifts.

1 Corinthians 12:28 tells us that God is the one who appoints men to office and service in the church.

"And in the church God has appointed
first of all apostles,
second prophets, third teachers,
then workers of miracles,
also those having gifts of healing,
those able to help others,
those with gifts of administration,
and those speaking
in different kinds of tongues."

1 Corinthians 12:18 tells us that God does this according to His good pleasure. It says,

"But in fact God has arranged
the parts in the body,
every one of them,
just as he wanted them to be."

The same is true of the material things of this earth.

God also gives material things to whomever He chooses.

In Jeremiah 27:5 God said,

"With my great power
and outstretched arm
I made the earth and its people
and the animals that are on it,
and I give it to anyone I please."

All our material things come to us from God, from His deciding to give us this and not that. In Job 42:12 we read,

"The Lord blessed the latter part
of Job's life more than the first."

It then goes on to describe Job's possessions.

In addition to that,

everything good you have, talents, abilities, goodness—is a gift from God's grace that God decided to give you.

In 1 Corinthians 15:10 Paul wrote,

"But by the grace of God
I am what I am,
and his grace to me
was not without effect.
No, I worked harder than all of them—
yet not I,
but the grace of God
that was with me."

We are God's workmanship. (Ephesians 2:10) What we are, all our talents, all our goodness, is because God has made us that way.

The point of all this is that since God gives grace and gifts and offices to His people as He sees fit, that He gives material things as He sees fit—what right have we to disagree?

Jesus knows what He is doing. 1 Corinthians 1:24 Jesus is referred to as,

"Christ the power of God
and the wisdom of God."

Colossians 2:2 refers to Christ and says about Him, (verse 3)

"Christ, in whom are hidden
all the treasures
of wisdom and knowledge."

God has placed each one of us exactly in the place we find ourselves. If you're jealous of someone else you are basically disagreeing with God's wisdom in placing you where you are. How foolish to do that.

Serve God where you are. Use the gifts God has given you, even if they are small ones—to the best of your strength and ability. Romans 12:3–4 says,

"For by the grace given me
I say to every one of you:
Do not think of yourself
more highly than you ought,
but rather think of yourself
with sober judgment, in accordance
with the measure of faith
God has given you.
Just as each of us has one body
with many members,
and these members
do not all have the same function,"


don't harbor jealously because it's the way to destruction.

Jealousy, if given freedom to develop, will lead you to do things that you never imagined that you could do. As soon as Saul gave into jealously—what happened The very next verse says, (1 Samuel 18:10)

"The next day an evil spirit from God
came forcefully upon Saul."

God would not put up with Saul's jealousy of David. Saul's jealousy was one of the things that contributed to Saul's destruction.


ensure that you don't provoke anyone to jealously.

The women singing David's praises after he killed Goliath did David a great disservice. The danced and sang, (1 Samuel 18:7)

"Saul has slain his thousands,
and David his tens of thousands."

That provoked Saul's jealousy of David. We read, (1 Samuel 18:8)

"Saul was very angry;
this refrain galled him.
'They have credited David
with tens of thousands,
he thought, but me with only thousands.
What more can he get but the kingdom?' "

Give glory to God, not to men.

Lastly, consider the example of Jesus.

He saw that we were lost in sins, that on our own we were destined for hell. Jesus, who was far, far above us, humbled Himself, came to this earth, took our nature upon Himself—and died for our sins. He became our servant.

Thus we are not to be jealous of others, rather we are to serve them. Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner write, 1( Corinthians, PNTC; p. 644)

"Love teaches us not to envy but to ask, 'How best do I serve these for whom Christ died, whatever my own desires?'"