Love Inconsistent with an Envious Spirit
"Charity envies not."--1 Corinthians 13:4
Having already seen the nature and tendency of Christian charity, or divine love, with respect to the evil received from others, that it “suffers long,” and also with respect to doing good to others, that it “is kind,” we now come to the feelings and conduct to which the same charity will lead us in respect to the good possessed by others, and that possessed by ourselves. And in reference to the good possessed by others, the apostle declares it to be the nature and tendency of charity, or true Christian love, not to envy them the possession of any good whatever which is theirs — “Charity envieth not.” The teaching of these words plainly is,
THAT CHARITY, OR A TRULY CHRISTIAN SPIRIT, IS THE VERY OPPOSITE OF AN ENVIOUS SPIRIT.
In dwelling on this thought, I would show, I. What is the nature of an envious spirit; II. Wherein a Christian spirit is the opposite of such a spirit; and, III. The reason and evidence of the doctrine.
I. The nature of envy. Envy may be defined to be a spirit of dissatisfaction with, and opposition to, the prosperity and happiness of others as compared with our own. The thing that the envious person is opposed to, and dislikes, is the comparative superiority of the state of honor, or prosperity or happiness, that another may enjoy, over that which he possesses. And this spirit is especially called envy, when we dislike and are opposed to another’s honor or prosperity, because, in general, it is greater than our own, or because, in particular, they have some honor or enjoyment that we have not. It is a disposition natural in men, that they love to be uppermost; and this disposition is directly crossed, when they see others above them. And it is from this spirit that men dislike and are opposed to the prosperity of others, because they think it makes those who possess it superior, in some respect, to themselves. And from this same disposition, a person may dislike another’s being equal to himself in honor or happiness, or in having the same sources of enjoyments that he has. For as men very commonly are, they cannot bear a rival much, if any, better than a superior, for they love to be singular and alone in their eminence and advancement. Such a spirit is called envy in the Scriptures. Thus Moses speaks of Joshua’s envying for his sake, when Eldad and Medad were admitted to the same privilege with himself in having the spirit of prophecy given them, saying (Num. 11:29), “Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them!” And Joseph’s brethren, we are told (Gen. 37:11), envied him when they had heard his dream, which implied that his parents and brethren were yet to bow down before him, and that he was to have power over them. From such a spirit, persons are not only unwilling that others should be above them or equal to them, but that they should be near them. For the desire to be distinguished in prosperity and honor is the more gratified just in proportion as they are elevated, and others are below them, so that their comparative eminence may be marked and visible to all. And this disposition may be exercised, either in reference to the prosperity that others may obtain, and of which they are capable, or in reference to that which they actually have obtained. In the latter form, which is the more common, the feeling of envy will be manifest in two respects: first, in respect to their prosperity, and next, in respect to themselves. And,
1. It will be manifest in an uneasiness and dissatisfaction with the prosperity of others. Instead of rejoicing in the prosperity of others, the envious man will be troubled with it. It will be a grievance to his spirit to see them rise so high, and come to such honors and advancement. It is no comfortable feeling to him to hear of their having obtained such and such advantages and honors and preferments, but, on the contrary, very uncomfortable. He is very much of the spirit of Haman, who, in view of all “the glory of his riches, and the multitude of his children, and all the things wherein the king had promoted him,” still could say (Est. 5:13), “Yet all this availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting in the king’s gate.” From such a spirit, the envious person stands ready to rejoice at anything that happens to diminish the honor and comfort of others. He is glad to see them brought down, and will even study how to lower their estate, as Haman did how to humble and bring down Mordecai. And often, like Haman, he will show his uneasiness, not only by planning and scheming, but by actual endeavors of one kind or another, to bring them down; and the very first opportunity of pulling them down that offers, he will gladly embrace. And it is from this disposition, that the sight even of others’ prosperity often sets the envious on talking against them and speaking evil of them, even when perhaps they do not know them. Envying them the prominence they have obtained, they hope, by speaking evil of them, in some measure to diminish their honors, and lower them in the esteem of men. This suggests, again,
2. That the opposition of the envious to the prosperity of others will be manifest in a dislike of their persons for it. Seeing how others prosper, and what honors they attain, the envious dislike, and even hate them, on account of their honor and prosperity. They entertain and cherish an evil spirit toward them, for no other reason but that they are prospered. They are embittered against them in spirit, only because they are eminent in name or fortune. Thus Haman, it is said (Est. 5:9), “was full of indignation against Mordecai,” because he saw him “in the king’s gate,” and because “he stood not up, nor moved for him;” and Joseph’s brethren (Gen. 37:4, 5) “hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him,” because his father loved him, and when he had dreamed a dream implying their inferiority, “they hated him yet the more.” And so the envious generally resent the prosperity of others, and their coming to honor, as if in it they were guilty of some injury to themselves. Sometimes there is a settled hatred toward others upon this account, leading, as in the case of Joseph’s brethren (Gen. 37:19-28), to acts of the greatest cruelty and wickedness. But this may suffice for the nature of this envy; and I proceed to show, (Please click here to continue reading, "Love Is Inconsistent With An Envious Spirit")