“Anyone can sympathize with the sufferings of a friend, but it requires a very fine nature to sympathize with a friend's success” (Oscar Wilde).
My friend had success. He was golden. I was the flake. Through 90 hours of graduate classes, he never failed to bring home all A’s. I never failed to bring home grades.
Not only was he smart, Mike was also Adonis – dark, wavy hair and dimples – the kind of guy at whom the girls batted their eyes. At me, they swung baseball bats.
When Mike signed up for softball, I thought I had my chance to outshine him. Silly me! The golden boy had a gold glove and caught every ball and always managed to slide in safely to second. I caught cold and slid in by the water cooler on the bench.
Mike’s success continues. He preached for a church of a couple thousand people. He’s published several popular books. His calendar is packed with speaking engagements all over the world, and he holds a position at a prestigious university. It would be easy to envy his success. Easy, but wrong.
“Love does not envy” (1 Corinthians 13:4).
It’s wrong to be jealous of another’s success. Wrong because God says so, but also wrong because it is so self-destructive.
The church in ancient Corinth was successful in many ways: affluence, education, and sophistication – things for which they had worked hard. They were also richly blessed. God gave some of them amazing abilities to speak in languages they had never studied. Yet, there were also Christians in that church who were poor and struggling. In addition, not everyone had the highly visible and very impressive gift of tongues.
These and other factors led to fights – divisions and rivalry. The church was on the verge of splintering into competing factions. Paul insisted that the solution was love. It still is.
Jealousy still threatens. One sibling makes it big and the other wants to break off family ties. One friend is more popular and the other wants to find a new bff. One church member gets more public recognition than others and some are ready to quit.
The antidote for envy, then as now, is love. That’s not having warm feelings. It’s wanting what is best for the other person. If we want what is good for someone, and they get it, why should we then be jealous? We both got what we wanted.
Love is envy free. May God help us to also be.