Question: "What does it mean that love does not envy (1 Corinthians 13:4)?"
Answer: First Corinthians 13 offers one of the Bible’s richest expositions regarding love. Verse 4 notes that love “does not envy.” So, selfish jealousy is at odds with God’s type of love.
The Greek word translated “envy” means “to burn with zeal.” Literally, the sense is “to be heated or to boil over with envy, hatred, or anger.” In the context of 1 Corinthians 13, the idea is that love does not focus on personal desires. It is not eager to increase possessions. God’s type of love is selfless, not selfish.
Envy is the opposite of God’s command not to covet (Exodus 20:17; Deuteronomy 5:21). “Love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10). The one who truly loves will be in conformity to the Ten Commandments, and envy will be excluded.
In contrast to God’s command, the Corinthian believers were ranking some spiritual gifts as more important than others and envying those who had the “best” gifts. In chapter 12, Paul points out that the different gifts are meant to serve one another and build up the church. No one person has all the gifts, but each child of God has at least one, and love demands that each gift be used to serve others rather than self.
“Envy rots the bones” (Proverbs 14:30). When we crave what someone else has rather than being grateful for what God has given, we hurt ourselves. Instead of envying others, we are called to love them.
True love—God’s love—rejoices when others are blessed. There is no room for envy. Love does not seek to benefit itself and it is content with what it has, because its focus is on meeting the needs of the loved one.