ou ze-loi, ‘knows neither envy nor jealousy:’ both are included under the more general sense of ze-los.
Thomas Aquinas: Then when he says, Love is not jealous, he mentions in particular the virtuous works which charity produces, and because two things pertain to a virtue, namely, to refrain from evil and to do good, as it says in Ps 34 (v. 14): “Depart from evil and do good”; and in Is (1:16): “Cease to do evil, learn to do good”; first, he shows how charity avoids all evil; secondly, how it accomplishes the good. (v. 4c). But man cannot do evil effectively to God, but only to himself and to his neighbor, as it says in Jb (35:6): “If you have sinned, what do you accomplish against him?” and later: (v. 8): “Your wickedness concerns a man like yourself.” First, therefore, he shows how charity avoids evils against one’s neighbor; secondly, how evils are avoided by which someone is disarranged in himself.
Evil against one’s neighbor can exist in the will or emotions and externally. It exists in the former, especially when a person through envy grieves over his neighbor’s good. This is directly contrary to charity which inclines a person to love his neighbor as himself, as it says in Lev (19:18). Hence it pertains to charity that just as a person rejoices in his own goods, so he should rejoice in the goods of his neighbor. It follows from this that charity excludes envy. And this is what he says: Love is not jealous [envious]. Hence it says in Ps 37 (v. 1): “Be not envious of wrongdoers”; and in Pr (23:17): “Let not your heart envy sinners.” As to the outward effect he adds: it does not deal wrongly, i.e., perversely, against anyone. For no one deals unjustly against one he loves: “Cease to do evil” (Is . 1:16).
William Barclay: Love knows no envy. It has been said that there are really only two classes of people in this world--"those who are millionaires and those who would like to be." There are two kinds of envy. The one kind covets the possessions of other people; and such envy is very difficult to avoid because it is a very human thing. The other kind is worse--it grudges the very fact that others should have what it has not. It does not so much want things for itself as it wishes others had not got them. Meanness of soul can sink no further than that.
Barnes & Murphy: Envieth not. ou ze-loi. This word properly means to be zealous for or against any person or thing; i.e., to be eager for, or anxious for or against any one. It is used often in a good sense, (1 Corinthians 12:31); but it may be used in a bad sense--to be zealous against a person; to be jealous of; to envy Acts 7:9; 17:5; James 4:2, "Ye kill and envy." It is in this sense, evidently, that it is used here--as denoting zeal, or ardent desire against any person. The sense is, love does not envy others the happiness which they enjoy; it delights in their welfare; and as their happiness is increased by their endowments, their rank, their reputation, their wealth, their health, their domestic comforts, their learning, etc., those who are influenced by love rejoice in all this. They would not diminish it; they would not embarrass them in the possession; they would not detract from that happiness; they would not murmur or repine that they themselves are not so highly favoured. To envy, is to feel uneasiness, mortification, or discontent at the sight of superior happiness, excellence, or reputation enjoyed by another; to repine at another's prosperity; and to fret one's self on account of his real or fancied superiority. Of course, it may be excited by anything in which another excels, or in which he is more favoured than we are. It may be excited by superior wealth, beauty, learning, accomplishment, reputation, success. It may extend to any employment, or any rank in life. A man may be envied because he is happy, while we are miserable; well, while we are sick; caressed, while we are neglected or overlooked; successful, while we meet with disappointment; handsome, while we are ill-formed; honoured with office, while we are overlooked, he may be envied because he has a better farm than we have, or is a more skilful mechanic, or a more successful physician, lawyer, or clergyman. Envy commonly lies in the same line of business, occupation, or rank. We do not usually envy a monarch, a conqueror, or a nobleman, unless we are aspiring to the same rank. The farmer does not usually envy the blacksmith, but another farmer; the blacksmith does not usually envy the schoolmaster or the lawyer, but another man in the same line of business with himself. The physician envies another physician more learned or more successful; the lawyer, another lawyer; the clergyman, another clergyman. The fashionable female, who seeks admiration or flattery on account of accomplishment or beauty, envies another who is more distinguished and more successful in those things. And so the poet envies a rival poet; and the orator, a rival orator; and the statesman, a rival statesman. The correction of all these things is love. If we loved others--if we rejoiced in their happiness, we should not envy them. They are not to blame for these superior endowments; but if those endowments are the direct gift of God, we should be thankful that he has made others happy; if they are the fruit of their own industry, and virtue, and skill, and application, we should esteem them the more, and value them the more highly. They have not injured us; and we should not be unhappy, or seek to injure them, because God has blessed them, or because they have been more industrious, virtuous, and successful than we have. Every man should have his own level in society, and we should rejoice in the happiness of all. Love will produce another effect. We should not envy them, because he that is under the influence of Christian love is more happy than those in the world who are usually the objects of envy. There is often much wretchedness under a clothing of "purple and fine linen." There is not always happiness in a splendid mansion; in the caresses of the great; in a post of honour; in a palace, or on a throne. Alexander the Great wept on the throne of the world. Happiness is in the heart; and contentment, and the love of God, and the hope of heaven, produce happiness which rank, and wealth, and fashion, and earthly honour cannot purchase. And could the sad and heavy hearts of those in elevated ranks of life be always seen, and especially could their end be seen, there would be no occasion or disposition to envy them.
Lord, what a thoughtless wretch was I,
But oh! their end, their dreadful end!
Now let them boast how tall they rise,
Their fancied Joys how fast they flee,
Now I esteem their mirth and wine
John Albert Bengel: It does not grieve at another’s good, nor rejoice at another’s calamity.
Joseph Benson: Love envieth not — The advantages, gifts, or graces, which others possess, but rather takes pleasure in them, and by friendly participation makes them its own.
H. Blair D.D.: Envy is a sensation of uneasiness arising from the advantages which others are supposed to possess above us, accompanied with malignity towards those who possess them. The character of an envious man is universally odious. All disclaim it; and they who feel themselves under the influence of this passion carefully conceal it. But it is proper to consider that among all our passions, both good and bad, there are many different gradations. Sometimes they swim on the surface of the mind, without producing any internal agitation. They proceed no farther than the beginnings of passion. Allayed by our constitution, or tempered by the mixture of other dispositions, they exert no considerable influence on the temper. Though the character in which envy forms the ruling passion be one too odious to be common, yet some tincture of this evil disposition mixes with most characters in the world.
John Calvin: A third excellence is — that it counteracts emulation, the seed of all contentions. Under emulation he comprehends envy, which is a vice near akin to it, or rather, he means that emulation, which is connected with envy, and frequently springs from it. Hence where envy reigns — where every one is desirous to be the first, or appear so, love there has no place.
Alan Carr: 3. V. 4 Envieth Not - True love is not jealous over the abilities or possessions of another. Instead of being jealous when others prosper or excel, love is pleased when they do well.
(Ill. Jealousy is one of the most vile of sins that we harbor in our hearts! It was Eve's jealousy of God that motivated her to take the forbidden fruit. It was jealousy that put Daniel in the lion's den. It was jealousy that put Joseph in that pit! Yet, Godly love does not get jealous, rather it is pleased when others do well!)
Stephen J. Cole: Selfless love is not jealous. The word means to eagerly desire, and it is used both positively and negatively in the Bible. Jealousy in the negative sense is related to greed and selfishness. The jealous person wants what others have, he wants things for himself. He is too selfish to applaud others’ success; he has to have all the attention. In the family, a jealous husband refuses to trust his wife. He doesn’t want to recognize her abilities and contributions. He is jealous of the time she spends with the children or with her friends. He wants it all for himself. James says that jealousy is often the source of quarrels and conflicts (James 4:2).
J. Cross D.D.: To see that envy is utterly incompatible with charity, we need but glance at some of its characteristic qualities and fruits.
A. Donnan: Envy is one of the most malignant and, if we except vanity alone, the most empty of all human passions. Other affections have some good thing in view either real or apprehended; but envy has nothing for its object except an ill-natured pleasure in the hurt of our neighbour. Charity is quite inconsistent with envy, and, whenever it prevails, expels that malicious passion from the heart. Has God bestowed on others larger measures of knowledge and understanding, of honour and respect, of riches, of power and authority, of any blessing, spiritual or temporal? The charitable man, though eclipsed in these respects, does not look up to those who eclipse him with an envious eye. He takes not an ill-natured pleasure in the disappointments and misfortunes, in the decline and fall of those above him He does not attempt, by malicious detraction, to depreciate the merits of those who excel; and, though unable to rise to their standard, he does not enviously endeavour to bring them down to his own, and to keep all mankind on a level with himself He considers worldly blessings as the gifts of God, who may bestow them on what persons and in what degrees He pleases; and, satisfied with his own condition, he rejoices to see the glory of the giver advanced and the ends of the gift answered, who ever may be chosen by Providence for the accomplishment of these ends.
Henry Drummond: Generosity. "Love envieth not." This is love in competition with others. Whenever you attempt a good work you will find other men doing the same kind of work, and probably doing it better. Envy them not. Envy is a feeling of ill-will to those who are in the same line as ourselves, a spirit of covetousness and detraction. How little Christian work even is a protection against un-Christian feeling! That most despicable of all the unworthy moods which cloud a Christian's soul assuredly waits for us on the threshold of every work, unless we are fortified with this grace of magnanimity. Only one thing truly need the Christian envy--the large, rich, generous soul which "envieth not."
Jonathan Edwards: Charity, or a truly Christian spirit, is the very opposite of an envious spirit. ...
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,
Joseph Exell: Contented. “Charity envieth not.” Not that we should never strive for anything higher and better; but we should always be thankful for our position, and not constantly grumbling because some one else is a little ahead of us.
Exell & Spence: Envieth not. [Love's] negative characteristics are part of its positive perfection. Envy - "one shape of many names" - includes malice, grudge, jealousy, pique, an evil eye, etc., with all their base and numerous manifestations.
Lee Gatiss: Ou zeloi This may refer to some sort of proselytism / competition between factions along the lines of Galatians 4:17-18, or it may refer to the covetousness stirred up by excessive talk about charismata. The second is likely given Paul’s insistence that love ou perpereuetai does not cause envy in others by boasting about its own achievements.
John W. Gregson: Not jealous. It envies no one nor what another possesses. It is never greedy.
Matthew Henry: Charity suppresses envy: It envieth not; it is not grieved at the good of others; neither at their gifts nor at their good qualities, their honours nor their estates. If we love our neighbour we shall be so far from envying his welfare, or being displeased with it, that we shall share in it and rejoice at it. His bliss and sanctification will be an addition to ours, instead of impairing or lessening it. This is the proper effect of kindness and benevolence: envy is the effect of ill-will. The prosperity of those to whom we wish well can never grieve us; and the mind which is bent on doing good to all can never wish ill to any.
S. Lewis Johnson: You know that in the Christian church, there is frequently jealousy among Christians because some play one part in the church and others play another and the other would like to play the part of the other. So that jealousy and pride and selfishness characterize local churches just as they characterize the church at Corinth. There is resentment often. There is dissatisfaction with the place that we have in the body of Christ. And Paul, in saying to us that love does not envy, is putting his finger on the local church and the needs that are found in almost all local churches. One does not have to go over this country much to know that in almost all of the Christian churches in one form or another, these problems either exist or they have existed or they will exist. Love does not envy.
Now, last weekend I went down to Salado, and we had a conference there. And we aggravated the Arminians a little bit because the messages were largely directed towards Arminianism in criticism, friendly criticism, loving criticism, of course of the Arminians. And while we were down there, Martha and I, on Saturday afternoon when there were no meetings, we walked around in Salado again. And she’s been down there so many times, she knows all the places to go, that is, the places to shop. She knows all of them. And so we went in a little store that I don’t think she had been in. It’s new. And while I was there, I saw a few little books, and I bought them. They are humorous little books. For example, one of them was entitled “Men and Other Reptiles.” [Laughter] And then another one, which I’m going to remind the little church in Fort Worth that I occasionally preach in on Sunday morning, which is full of lawyers, “Lawyers and Other Reptiles” [laughter] another little book. And there is one also called the “Sports Page,” which is quotations, unusual quotations from sports figures, and so immediately I bought that. I practically have read it through already because I love sports quotations.
And there was a quotation of Jimmy Connors in it, the tennis star. Jimmy Connors said -- and if you’ve watched Jimmy Connors play through the years you know he’s got really a tremendous urge to win. In fact, that’s probably the main reason he was a top-notch tennis player. He said, "I hate to lose more than I like to win. I hate to see the happiness in their faces when they beat me." [Laughter] Would you call that envy? It’s something like it, isn’t it? Well, it’s obvious that Mr. Connors, at that moment at least, is not controlled by Christian love. Love does not envy.
J.H. Jowett: "Love envieth not." And what is envy? To envy any one is to repine at their superior excellence. But the repining leads to something worse. Envious repining is the parent of malice and ill-will. Nay, envy drags after it a whole brood of evil spirits. I think the great tempter must be exaltingly satisfied when he has inserted into the life of anyone this germ of envy. There are some insects which insert their eggs into the bodies of others, and at first the insertion seems to be comparatively harmless. But the inserted life begins to develop, and to feed upon the body in which it dwells, and matures and strengthens itself by the entire destruction of the other. And so envy is somehow or other introduced into our spirits, and may at first appear nothing very harmful. But it begins to develop and mature, until it has devoured the whole of our spiritual life.
Here are these Corinthians, endowed with various gifts. One had eloquence, another had wealth, another had a wonder-working faith. And they became envious one of another. The one who had eloquence envied the one who had faith, and from envy he passed to ill-will and disparagement and slander. And the disposition became so prevalent that this Corinthian Church became the dwelling-place rather of Satan than of Christ. Well, you know how prone we are to this disposition to-day. Everywhere we are exposed to its insidious allurements. Here are two ministers. One has an influence assuredly broadening, and a congregation steadily increasing. The other has a congregation slowly diminishing, and an influence apparently shrinking.
Oh, how terribly strong is the temptation to envy and ill-will! Is it otherwise in social functions? When one who has moved in your circle becomes a general favourite and is greatly courted and admired, while you are partially overlooked or altogether ignored, how fierce is the temptation to envy, and slander, and ill-will! And so it is everywhere and in every life.
When we turn with this thought in our minds to gaze upon the personality of John the Baptist, I think it shines with most supernal light. Here he is by the Jordan, the popular favourite; vast crowds enrol themselves in his discipleship. And here comes Jesus, and the crowds about John begin to melt away; his popularity begins to wane, and the enthusiasm which he enjoyed gathers about the Nazarene. But there is no envy! He quietly and joyfully says--"He must increase, but I must decrease." I am only as the moon, and now that the sun is risen, I must fade away into obscurity. "He must increase, but I must decrease." No envy, I say. And why? Because John loved the Nazarene. He loved His mission; he loved Him with a great and passionate love, and with love there can be no envy. There is only one thing that can kill envy, and that is love. Everything else is impotent. If you want to destroy the envy that is lurking in your heart, you must have created in your heart the atmosphere of love, and the secret of that atmosphere you can learn at the foot of the Cross. "Love envieth not."
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