A dictionary definition of envy would be something like “a feeling of discontent aroused by someone else’s possessions.” That is what I mean by being unsatisfied. However, love gives one a feeling of being satisfied. The person who is unsatisfied is still looking for his identity, wanting to know who he is.
Three things can be said about envy. First, it is of the flesh; it flows from nature. We don’t have to go to school to learn how to be envious; everybody grows up that way.
Envy is also a feeling. The feeling may or may not be verbalized, but it is there; you feel it. Envy comes from the Greek word that means “to boil,” that is, with hatred. Often we won’t admit that we feel this way. It flows from our dissatisfaction with ourselves and the feeling that other people are so much better off. Yet when this loves comes, we just don’t feel that way!
Envy is based on fear. Fear because of what we don’t have, being threatened by what others do have. But envy is misleading. Someone has put it like this: “If envy were not so tragic, it would be comical, because it is always based on a misconception of the other person’s position.” So, someone might say, “If only I had his money, what freedom I would have!” But when we are satisfied, we say: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want” (Ps. 23:1). There comes a time when the love of God is poured into our hearts, and we don’t feel any envy at all. We become happy with the way God made us and the way He has led us. That is what agape loves does for us: it doesn’t envy, and it is not threatened by another person’s position. Whenever we are tempted to envy someone, we need to remind ourselves that we don’t know the other side. Perhaps if we knew the facts better we would realize there is not so much to be envious of.
Love … does not envy … —1 Corinthians 13:4
Excerpted from Just Love (Christian Focus Publications Ltd., 1997).