APC 12th July 2020 “Love is not jealous”
Welcome and Introduction
Good morning everyone and welcome to our Sunday Morning worship. Today we continue our reflections on what it really means to love. This is probably the most important subject for us to understand and with God’s help to put into practice. We have already discovered that true love ‘is not selfish’ and that ‘it keeps no records of wrongs’. Today we will be meditating on the truth that ‘love is not jealous’. But as always, let’s pause to centre our thoughts on God. Let’s pray…
Loving God, we thank you for this new day that you have given us- for the opportunity it brings, the things we will enjoy in it, the times we will share with family with friends and with you, the beauty we will see in the world around us, the people we will meet and the life we will live.
Loving God, receive our thanks.
We praise you that we have so much to thank you for, so much that is good, that brings us pleasure, that causes us to rejoice. We praise you that you are always looking to bless us, to help us to celebrate life in all its fullness.
Loving God receive our praise.
Forgive us that we sometimes fail to count our blessings – that we let familiarity blind us to how fortunate we are, and fail to thank you for your many gifts. Forgive us that we fail to make the most of all we have received, constantly seeking more and more instead of appreciating all that we have and everything you have made us to be.
Loving God, receive our confession
Lord of all, assure us once more of your loving mercy, your constant forgiveness, your continuing love. Teach us to accept everything you have given us, every way that you have made us.
Enable us to show you our thanks not just in our words but in our daily living – Create within us hearts that are truly grateful, mouths that celebrate all that is good and spirits that have learned to be genuinely content in every circumstance.
Loving God, receive our worship, in the name of Christ, Amen.
Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name,
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day, our daily bread, And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us,
And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil,
For Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory,
For ever and ever, AMEN.
Exodus 20 v 17 Don’t be jealous of….
17 “You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.”
1 Corinthians 13 v 4-8 The Nature of God’s Love
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.
1 Timothy 6:6-10 Godliness with Contentment
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
Reflection “Love is not Jealous”
I once got the privilege of visiting Kenya for a couple of months. I went out with a mission team when I was in my mid-twenties. One of our main tasks was to help rebuild a primary school in a rural village. We thought it would be a good idea to bring the children at the school a gift. So we produced a football. It was clear from their excitement, wide eyes and broad smiles that many of them had never seen a real football before. It was such a novelty in fact, that lessons were suspended for the day. In less than half an hour a volleyball net had been constructed out of plant fibres and the game began. We were delighted at how much pleasure such a simple gift could bring. But then something happened that took us by complete surprise. The children began to fight over the ball to such an extent that the game had to be abandoned.
Afterwards, I couldn’t help thinking how foolish we’d been bringing only one ball among so many children. We’d greatly underestimated the internal human desire to want something that we’ve never seen or touched before, or that somebody else owns. That desire is called coveting, being jealous or becoming green with envy. I saw the strength of that desire that day in a way that was both surprising but also frightening.
It’s because our internal desires can be so strong that God says to us “Do not covet.” It’s because of the potential to cause hurt to ourselves and other people that St Paul reminds the Corinthians that true love is not jealous or envious.
But why does envy have such negative potential?
Well, one reason is because jealousy can so easily overtake us that it causes people to fall into even greater sins.
We see this in operation in the biblical account of King David. He seriously broke both the 6th and the 7th commandments of God. He committed adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, one of his soldiers. Then when he discovered that Bathsheba had become pregnant, he arranged for the murder of her husband to try and cover up his own sin.
But all of this began with David seeing Bathsheba sunbathing and desiring her within his heart. It all began with envy; the desire to have something which he knew belonged to someone else. And if we think, “well I would never do that” remember David was described in the bible as “a man after God’s own heart,” a spiritual man, a man of great faith. Yet unguarded desire within his heart caused him to commit adultery and murder. Despite receiving God’s forgiveness, David’s life and Kingdom were never the same again.
Of course having strong desires within is natural and not necessarily wrong. It’s what attracts us to our husband or wife. Having ambition and vision are excellent, if the motivation and method are right and good.
But internal desires for things we don’t currently possess can easily develop into the wrong type of jealousy. This sort of envy can happen in every area of our lives. That’s why in the 9th commandment God warns us not to covet our neighbour’s house, our neighbour’s spouse, his servants, or his ox and donkey. His house represents his security, his wife represents his marriage, his servants refer to his leisure time since having servants freed someone to do other things. In ancient times, the size of your herd represented your wealth, so the ox and donkey is a reference to a person’s wealth and status.
Nothing much has changed. Over 2000 years later since this commandment was first received and recorded, security, marriage, leisure, wealth, work and reputation are still the 6 main areas of life that cause the most envy and strife in our society.
One great problem of our western lifestyle is not that we don’t have things, it’s just that other people have more or have a particular image or talent that we don’t.
Unfortunately the marketing industry fuels this envious desire by brainwashing us into thinking that we need more and more of everything. In his book ‘Born to Shop’ Mike Storey suggests that modern advertising doesn’t encourage us to keep up with the Jones’s’ but rather to ‘keep upset with the Jones’s’. Apparently, aggressive coveting causes people to buy more than merely wanting.
Whether it’s feeling ugly in comparison to the photo-shopped images we see on Instagram, feeling short changed if we can’t afford a foreign holiday every year, being jealous of the preacher up the road who seems to be able to fill their church every week, or like the Corinthian Christians who wanted the spiritual gifts and
position of power that someone else had been given, all of us are tempted to become deeply jealous. This inner attitude can cause us to say or do other things that are wrong, whether that’s cheating on our taxes or speaking badly about someone else. Both are unloving, because they bring hurt to ourselves and to other people.
But perhaps the greatest danger of our inner jealousy is that it tempts us to become deeply dissatisfied with the life that God has given us and the people that God has made us to be.
Coveting can blind us to the goodness of God and cause us to distrust the promises that He has made to care for us and to provide for all our needs. Jealousy can also be an expression of a lack of faith in a loving heavenly Father who has made us the way we are and has put us where we are for a special purpose.
In effect, when we constantly hanker after another life we’re saying to God, “you must have made a mistake!” But God makes no mistakes. Each of us is special to Him. Each of us is unique. Each of us have been placed in particular circumstances with individual abilities to do something good for God right where we are, just as we are. When we are envious and jealous of others, we are not loving God the way he deserves.
But does this mean that every desire to want something else is wrong? No it doesn’t. Not all coveting is bad. It is not wrong to want the things that make life good, more fun and more enjoyable. It’s not wrong to want to change career or car or hairstyle! It’s not wrong to have ambition, to set new goals and achieve them. Providing that our desires are not causing us to break any of the other commandments or damage our faith and trust in a loving and caring God, it is normal and right to desire things that make life fine and good. Life is to be celebrated and enjoyed, not just endured.
One final thing remains to be said. While it is always right to be content with what we have, in one sense we should never be content with who we are. We must always covet the knowledge and the goodness, the mind and the character which so far we have not attained. In the NT the apostle Paul writing to the church in Corinth encourages them to covet the best spiritual gifts. The example of Jesus is always before us, and we must always with the help of God’s Spirit be trying our hardest to get closer and closer to this standard. It is always right for us to say, “I wish I was more like Jesus.” And it is right to do everything we can to be more like Him.
Love is not jealous. When our envy causes us to say or do things that cause hurt to ourselves or to other people we are not acting in love. But it’s still ok to want things that make life more fun or enjoyable and to have ambition.
And it’s always right to want to be more like Jesus every day.
Reflect What are you jealous for? Which of those things are good and which of those are unloving?
May God give us all the grace that we need to recognise and covet that which is right and good. Let us pray…
Oh Lord, You are our shepherd and we should not be in want,
but so often we struggle to be content and we do want;
We forget that you have graciously provided us with every spiritual blessing in Christ and everything we need for life and godliness.
Thank you at times, for not giving us what we want
because often our desires would draw our heart from being satisfied in You.
Help us to be content in You with what You have given us.
Help us not to be so focused on our earthly desires or what the marketing world tells us we should have.
Protect us from coveting possessions or people,
talent or influence, relationships or prestige.
Keep our hearts from being anxious for what we don’t have
and make us thankful for the numerous gifts that You have already given.
According to Your Word and steadfast love,
fill us with the joy and satisfaction of contentment in Christ.
Help us learn to be content in any situation like St. Paul
and to quickly reject the idolatry that dwells beneath the surface of our jealousy.
We ask you to continually bring to mind your faithful provision for all of our needs,
that Christ died for the sin of coveting,
that in Christ we are free to be content and live righteously,
and that godliness with contentment is greater gain than pleasing our appetites.
May we be humbled and changed by the ultimate example of contentment of Christ; becoming poor in order that we could become rich, and being content to go to the cross to fulfil the Father’s will to rescue a people for Himself who can be free from discontent and zealous for good works.
Help us to be deeply happy with how we look and with the gifts and abilities you have given us however different we may be to anybody else.
Help us to celebrate the beauty, the prosperity and the talents in others, recognising everything as a gift from you.
Take a few moments to pray for family, friends and circumstances that need God’s help…
It’s been a joy and privilege to share with you again today. Thanks again for logging on. Don’t forget we are planning to reopen our church on Sunday 26th July. You should have received a letter by email by the end of today letting you know our plans, to enable you to sign our Covid 19 policy and return it to us, and to give you plenty of time to prepare for what will be a wonderful opportunity to meet together again for worship.
If after reading the letter you have any further questions, then please do feel free to give me a call.
I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s reflection on the nature of Christian love. Please do spend some time in quiet over the next few days asking the Lord to show you the areas of your life where you are struggling with envy and jealousy which is causing you or others hurt. I hope you’ll join me again on Wednesday as we reflect on another characteristic of true love. In the meantime, let me lead you in a benediction after which I invite you as always, to say the grace together…
May the love of God surround you. May the love of God uplift you. May the love of God stand with you through the challenges ahead. May the love of God convince you, in every situation, to love. Go now to love others, even as Christ loves you.
And May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all now and for evermore, Amen.”
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