Love Does Not Envy or Boast (I Corinthinans 13:4)
Topic: One Truth: Walk in Truth Passage: 1 Corinthians 13:4
Let me begin by reading 13:1-7...If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.  Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant  or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
So our focus this morning is right there in the middle of verse 4: “love does not envy or boast”. What does God have for you in these words? Three parts to discovering that, to unpacking this phrase: the context, the connection, the cross.
1. The Context: What Love Looks Like
Like tens of thousands of songs and movies and books out there, this chapter trumpets the importance of love. 4-7 is not necessarily a definition of love, but it is a description of love. Therefore, it challenges anyone who simply says “I'm loving,” or “I love you”. It tests the walk in light of the talk. This is what love looks like. It's like sportsmanship. You may not have a great one-sentence definition, but you know the look or lack of sportsmanship when at a game, right?
Context! 13 is sandwiched between two chapters about how the church can and should function together, united. Sadly it was struggling, big time. Paul is bringing them back to genuine love as the missing ingredient (in spite of their words?)
2. The Connection: What Envy and Boasting Have in Common
So that means envy and boasting aren't what love looks like, right? To be motivated by love for someone is not compatible with being motivated by resentful jealousy towards them or arrogant posturing over them. “I love you...even though I hate you for having that $500 gift card.” “I have only love for you...which is why I am so much better than you.”
But why does Paul put envy and boasting together like this? I think what connects them is their relationship to contentment (or the lack thereof). When you aren't content with what you have, is it more or less likely you will be envious of what others have? In the same way, when you aren't content with your value as person and how people esteem you, is it more or less likely you will be tempted to brag about why they should?
3. The Cross: How Christ Satisfies
Now we could leave it at that moral lesson: “Really want to be loving? Don't envy; don't brag. Be content instead.” But if we left it there, there's no possibility for real change. Want to really love? Then you need real change. You need a new heart. Look at chapter 1:4-9. Listen to how Paul speaks to the issue of contentment. Here:
I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus,  that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ,  who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (I Corinthians 1:4-9)
Why is Christ mentioned five times in those five verses? Because of what Paul says in 1:18...For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. The word of the cross, the gospel, the Good News is good news about true contentment. When you are satisfied with the wealth of God's love, a love that truly provides and protects, a love that doesn't shift with what you do, but is anchored by what Jesus did, then things like envy and boasting are less tempting. You see, gospel-inspired love sets you free to truly love. It allows you to be happy for someone else's gain, and to build up others in humility (the opposites of envy and boasting). There's a reason I Corinthians 13 ends with seeing Jesus “face to face” (v. 12). Only loving Him can empower us to this kind of love.
More in Misc. Messages
October 1, 2017Loving the Prickly Among Us (Ephesians 4:1-3)
June 25, 2017The Mind of Christ Among Ourselves (Philippians 2:3-11)
April 30, 2017God Wants Your Money (II Corinthians 8:1-5)