Paul states, “love does not envy or boast” (1 Cor. 13:4). The word that is added today that wasn’t in yesterday’s text is “not.” Yesterday the statement was positively stated, but today Paul gives a negative statement. Both passages still focus on being, what love is and what it isn’t.
The term translated “envy” is properly a word that is onomatopoeia. Onomatopoeia is “the formation of a word, by imitation of a sound made by or associated with its referent.” (www.dictionary.com)
The sound that is mimicked in this word is a bubbling over of water from the heat. It refers to such passion that boils over from rivalry or jealousy. A boiling over of envy or anger is a good understanding also.
Paul is saying that true love doesn’t look on another with envious eyes. It doesn’t express jealous or envious tendencies because of what one has or enjoys. It is not envious of another’s abilities either. True love rejoices over the blessings, abilities, and possessions of the loved one. It delights in the benefits of others instead of wanting those benefits for self.
Love also is not boastful. That is, it doesn’t need to show off, brag excessively, or draw attention to itself for its abilities, accomplishments, etc. Again, love is not focused on itself, but it focuses on the good of others.
Some of these Corinthian Christians were envious of the spiritual gifts of others because they were not entrusted with the same spiritual gifts. Because some believers did receive gifts that were deemed prominent or attractive, boasting had grown problematic. It caused many to draw attention to themselves.
Paul is driving home the point that both sides are not aware of the true nature of love when they acted in such ways. Love doesn’t look on another with envy, and love doesn’t boast about itself or the blessings it may enjoy.
If I could state is in a positive tone. Love is thankful and humble. The envious want what others enjoy because they are not thankful enough for the blessings they do enjoy. The boastful are proud and arrogant and don’t realize or remember that any blessings they enjoy are a direct result of God’s grace in Christ. When one truly realizes and understands that all blessings come because of God’s grace alone, they are humble.
If the Corinthian Christians focused on and desired the more excellent way, they would forget about themselves and desire the glory of God and the good of the body. That is the whole thrust of Paul’s argument here.
In 1 Corinthians 12:7 Paul clearly states, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” The members are endowed with spiritual gifts and the presence of the Holy Spirit for the common good of the body. This isn’t about individual realizations or self promotion. This is about the glory of God displayed in the body of Christ through the employment of spiritual gifts by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Do we always look at the blessings, possessions, and abilities of others with thankful hearts? Are we thankful that God displays His grace and mercy in the lives of fallen, sinful creatures even when those blessings may fall on other creatures and not us?
Do we ever develop an air of superiority or pride and think we are better than others because of what we may possess or the abilities we have? Do we ever seek to call attention to ourselves because of these possessions, abilities, or actions? How often do we truly and honestly contemplate than anything this side of eternal judgment is God’s grace and mercy to us? He never gives us what we truly deserve if we are His children.
How are you doing on possessing and expressing true, biblical love?