This is not an unfamiliar story, but one often forgotten. It’s one you’ve more than likely experienced today. It’s a story that started in the first garden on Earth. Where beautiful mystery was skewed into a false truth, a false reality. “Over there is something better,” it whispered. She listened. He followed. The Fall. rebellion. His Faithfulness. rebellion. His Faithfulness. The Son came. Death and all its friends defeated – a beautiful mystery. Redemption. And soon – a new heaven and earth.
To fully grasp what Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 13 – this redemption story is crucial to know. Paul is writing during the second to last line, “Redemption,” and this is also the part of the narrative we are still living in. We have the hope of the beautiful mystery of Jesus; yet, we eagerly await full restoration and the Glory of God’s Kingdom to come.
We pick up again in our 1 Corinthians 13 series with the end of verse 4 - “…Love does not envy or boast…”
See, when the serpent (labeled as “it” in the story) is speaking with the women, he suggests that the grass is greener on the other side, it will lead to knowledge and wisdom and nothing will be hidden from her – can’t she see it? All she had to do was walk over and take a taste for herself.
She eats and the man with her joins in. Rather than leading to a joyful wisdom, it breeds shameful knowledge and guilt.
When Paul is talking about envy in his letter to the Corinthians, he’s addressing their typical response to the greener grass, our typical response to the success of others, envy. Instead of responding in excitement for the honor and praise of others, we mutter, “why isn’t that me?” or a slew of other comments streaming from a fountain of jealousy, anger, and bitterness.
This has become the habit of social media and one few acknowledge. It’s talked about in terms of self-pity or inflicting insecurities, but can we be honest with ourselves for a moment? The “greener pastures” we witness on social media can plant a seed of envy, which grows to coveting someone else’s life. When looking on social media have you ever wanted what someone else has? Have you ever wanted to have their life? It sounds dramatic, but it’s one of the most common sins we’ve taught ourselves to tolerate.
The second act Paul uses to contrast against Love is to “boast.” This is an act that cuts to the heart, to the “why” behind our actions. The best way I think to identify boasting is the simple question of “Whose kingdom is being built up? Yours? Or God’s?” Paul addresses the Corinthians in a second letter where he begins to tell them about all of his sufferings – things that just make him a super cool Christian – yet, he does this to point his readers back to Christ. He recognizes no good thing comes from him, but is generously given to him from the Father.
Both of these things, “envy” and “boasting,” have the same root – discontentment. If you’re not content with there the Lord has you, then you’re going to crave someone else’s life. If you lack contentment with where the Lord has you, then you’re also prone to seek others to affirm you and your accomplishments, thus boasting by building up your own kingdom.
But remember? We are in the State of Redemption. Jesus Christ knows the wickedness of our hearts. He knows our temptations to be envious or boastful and yet He chooses to pursue us. He brings us to a place with Him, where Love leaves no room to envy and no room to boast – for in Him we already have everything, pushing us to boast only of His goodness.