In Massachusetts when we talk about “The Green Monster” we are usually referring to that giant green wall in our world-famous ball park plastered with the names of Fenway’s sponsors. The rest of the world, though, knows there is a different green monster (or green-eyed monster depending on your upbringing) that is far more dangerous than a foul-ball into the bleachers.
Paul writes in I Corinthian 13:4 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy.” NIV
Note that this is the first place in the definition where Paul tells us something about what love is not. That’s significant. Love is not a lot of things, but the first thing love is not, is envy. The first thing love does not participate in is ungodly possessive envy.
Envy is defined as:
ζηλόω (zēloō)- 1) to burn with zeal a) to be heated or to boil with envy, hatred, anger1)in a good sense, to be zealous in the pursuit of good b) to desire earnestly, pursue 1) to desire one earnestly, to strive after, busy one’s self about him 2) to exert one’s self for one (that he may not be torn from me) 3) to be the object of the zeal of others, to be zealously sought after c) to envy
Now as we look at the definition “zeloo” is not always bad. Even in Scripture “zeloo”, envy or jealousy, has its place under the direction of the Spirit.
Paul writes just one chapter later: “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.” I Cor. 14:1 NIV
That is “follow the way of love and “zeloo” spiritual gifts.” What?… But Paul you just said if I am following the way of love I will not “zeloo”.
Well dear reader there needs to be an understanding that there is a righteous “zeloo” and an evil “zeloo” in all of us, a Jekyll and Hyde, a two-faced coin.
The righteous “zeloo” is called zeal and the evil “zeloo” is called envy… same plant different root.
Righteous zeal has its root in Christ. For example Paul writes:
“I am jealous (zeloo) for you with a godly jealousy (zelos). I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.” 2 Cor. 2:11
Here Paul’s jealousy is motivated to protect the Corinthian’s and keep them from evil so that Christ might have a pure church. Paul’s motive is the Corinthian’s best. His heart is other centered.
James however writes about “zeloo” this way: “You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet (zeloo), but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God.”
Evil “zeloo”, envy, has its root in self. It is not interested in the best of others. It wants what it wants and will do anything it has to to get it.
The husband who is wickedly jealous of his wife will lock her in and not let her out to see friends. The wife who is wickedly jealous of her husband will accuse him of an affair not because there is any evidence but because she is feeling insecure about herself.
At its root selfish envy is about fear and inadequacy. That is why love cannot have envy as one of its components because as the Scripture says: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18
God help us to be zealous for You and content with that!
I hope you are enjoying the “Ferocious” series. Today I might be hanging out at the Corrie Tenboom house!