19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I tell you about these things in advance — as I told you before — that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, self- control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit. 26 We must not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Man, what a list! I may not practice sorcery, drunkenness or carousing, but selfish ambitions, envy, outbursts of anger, hatreds, strife and jealousy? He’s got me there!
I used to look at this list and cringe, wondering how in the world I could stop myself from feeling and thinking and acting on these things. However, at a Bible study on love last week, we were asked how love and envy were connected.
4 Love is patient, love is kind.
Love does not envy,
is not boastful, is not conceited,
5 does not act improperly,
is not selfish, is not provoked,
and does not keep a record of wrongs.
6 Love finds no joy in unrighteousness
but rejoices in the truth.
7 It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.
My husband and I talked about it that weekend and it came down to this bottom line fact: love is about giving while envy (and all of the listed sins) are about getting. Think about that and review the list. Promiscuity is getting for ourself sexual pleasure. Dissensions and factions are about getting our own way. Jealousy is all about getting what someone else has.
Then it made me think of James:
1 What is the source of wars and fights among you? Don’t they come from the cravings that are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. You do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your evil desires.
Could it be that simple? Could it be that every desire of ours to “get” something for ourselves is what leads us to “act out” those sins? I think our expectations about getting treated “the way we deserve” falls into this category, too, because then we get REALLY hateful and think it is justified. We get frustrated and angry and envious because we don’t have what we want, so we become focused on “getting” instead of giving (better known as “loving”).
So basically, the only way for us to stay out of sin is to love God and love others all the time. We need to live to love, regardless of what we do or don’t have, regardless of how others treat us. Of course, we don’t inherently have that capability to agape (sacrificially give of ourselves for the benefit of others) love. The ONLY way to love is to be abiding in the vine, connected by our spirit to His Spirit, allowing Him to literally love through us.
But I also believe that, as long as we believe someone else is blocking us from what we believe should be ours, be it money, material, love, acceptance, or nice treatment, we will be so filled with envy and selfish desires that we won’t have room for love inside of us. So which comes first, the chicken or the egg, the refusal to focus on what we don’t have, or the focus on Jesus? I guess it is both simultaneously, the constant battle to love instead of live selfishly.
So my goal is to stay reminded of His will and attitudes by reading the Word, and listening to and obeying His still small voice alerting me that I am veering off course. I must rely completely on Him to guide me and fill me with His love, because I cannot manufacture either one. I want to be a giver and not a getter.