I Corinthians 13:4 says that love does not envy. Envy, jealousy, covetousness, and the like involves looking at the world—especially the worlds of other people—and wishing you had it for yourself. That’s not loving, though, because wanting stuff and status more than you want save a soul isn’t going to turn anyone to Jesus. So what does love do?
Envy’s opposite is contentment, which is trusting that—regardless of whether we’re lavished in luxury or imprisoned and impoverished—God has always been sovereign, He still loves us, and He will take care of us. The Bible says countless times that God is a good father and gives us good gifts, and so much of Scripture is just a list of examples of His provision— from giving Adam a wife in the garden to giving the Israelites manna through the desert, or even giving us a Savior for our darkest moments. Being content means saying, “I accept whatever You give me, because I trust in You.”
To say it more simply, the problem with envy isn’t wanting stuff. The issue is a lack of trust in God. This is why love does not—cannot—envy: God is love, and He cannot distrust Himself! Likewise, if we are living and loving as Christ did, we’ll be totally dependent on Him, and we won’t be wishing for the things He hasn’t chosen to give to us. Our reliance on His plan will overcome our desire for comfort.
It’s especially wrong for us to be jealous of people who do not have Christ. On the outside, it might look like the people in the world are achieving their goals and living the life others only dream of living, but you must remember that they’re doing it in their own strength. They’re striving for it. They’ll burn out, sooner or later, or they’ll at least have to come to terms with the fact that all the gain in the world won’t fulfill their soul the way they hope it will. Solomon would be the first to tell them that worldly winnings are vain because they’ll eventually fade away. People cannot take their achievements into the afterlife.
You, however, have eternally lasting rewards because Christ conquered sin and death. The greatest obstacle you’ll ever have to hurdle has already been accomplished. What more could you possibly want?
Psalm 37:1 says it this way: “Do not fret because of evildoers, nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.”
Any way you slice it, truly loving someone involves showing them Christ in some way or another. That’s why not envying plays a part in loving others: when you wind up shipwrecked, beaten, in prison, but you still keep praising Jesus anyway, the world will see. They’ll find themselves wanting what you’ve got, even though they expected it to be the other way around.