Love Does Not Envy or Boast

“Love does not envy or boast.” (1) I find it interesting that the two verbs are paired together: envy and boast. Both are rooted in the acts of comparing and competing, which sometimes lead to unhealthy results. Paul warns us to “not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” (2)

Hmm. 🤔 It sounds like being conceited (prone to boasting) leads to envy. I would have thought it might be the other way around. I figured first we envy someone, then become one of the envied, and eventually become conceited. But Paul writes that those who are conceited make others angry—and perhaps discontented—which leads to everyone envying one another. Therefore, someone who is envious is already a proud, arrogant, conceited individual who loves to boast. What are these people boasting about? Probably how great their lives are due to how great they are.  

Hmm. 🤔 But if their lives are so great, of what and of whom are they envious? Are they never satisfied? Exactly. They are envious of anything that they cannot obtain. It is a never-ending discontentment. Haman is a perfect example of this. Remember him? He was King Ahasuerus’ right-hand man. He boasted about “the splendor of his riches, the number of his sons, all the promotions with which the king had honored him, and how he advanced him above officials and the servants of the king.” (3) He also boasted about his special relationship with Queen Esther. And yet, he was not content because one guy (Mordecai) was not impressed with Haman—one guy did not envy him. It made him furious.

So . . . at the root of our boasting seems to be an insatiable desire for others to envy us. To envy is to want what others have; to boast is to want others to envy what we have! 🤪 Envy is included in Paul’s list of the works of the flesh, alongside of “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.” (4)  Yeah. Little “things like these.” 🙄 It’s a serious problem.

Here’s the cycle: We boast about our greatness, which satisfies our need to feel good about ourselves . . . for a little while . . . until we see something that we want . . . and then we become envious . . . and angry . . . and are not content until we have it . . . so we get it . . . and then boast about how great we are, which satisfies our need to feel good about ourselves  . . . for a little while . . . 😏 You get the picture.

And so Paul writes, “Love does not envy or boast.” They are cousins, and we need to steer clear of both. But how do we do this? There is only one way. Paul writes, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (5)  Instead, we are to “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” (6)  What happens when we do that? We will be filled with “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control”(7)—little things like that.  😉

By the way, Haman’s story did not end well. He built a gallows for Mordecai to be hanged on and the king hanged Haman on it instead. 😮

It’s best not to envy or boast. 😬

1 Corinthians 13:4 (2) Galatians 5:26  (3) Esther 5:12  (4) Galatians 5:19-21   (5) Galatians 5:24  (6) Galatians 5:16 (7) Galatians 5:22-23


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