The Final Envy, By Diane Yoon


As I am writing this meditation, I am listening to Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus. I notice my head gently swaying this way and that way with the flow of the music. This music moves me. My little ‘dancing’ is a channel of appreciation for the music and, at the same time, a kind of catalyst to receive what is to come; it is never static. In the face of beauty, I am almost forced to open myself up, to become vulnerable toward it, to constantly give myself up in order to be one with it. 


As inadequate as my analogy is (and I am not just referring to the questionable definition of my movement as a ‘dance’) it is not surprising that, for centuries, the reciprocal dynamic of the three persons in the Trinity has been imagined as a kind of dance.   


I often forget that love is not what God does but who God is — God, the three persons in the eternal dance of “giving way” in order to celebrate and delight in one another. 


Upon his triumphant entry to Jerusalem, Jesus enters the temple and cleanses it. He drives out those who are selling animals and overturns the tables of money changers. There the disciples remember that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (Psalm 69:9) 


It is interesting that the Greek word translated ‘zeal’ shares the same root with the word translated as ‘envy’ in our 1 Corinthians passage. They both come from the verb zeo, which means to boil with heat. 


Love does not envy but love is zealous.


Our human zeal is often directed inward and is fixated on our own desires and interests. When we direct our gaze at others, our zeal turns to envy, the desire that ultimately seeks the destruction of the other. To put it another way, envy is possessive; it wants to usurp the other into one’s self. 


What we see in the Godhead, in the eternal three-in-one, is just the opposite.


The community of the Trinity is defined by love. Love which does not envy because it never negates the other for its own sake; it cannot envy because love always desires that “there be life.”


When I was an undergrad, my pastor once told me that it is impossible for man to keep the Ten Commandments because, even though we might be able to keep the first nine by extraordinary effort and legalism, there is no human power or law that can prevent us from breaking the last one — you shall not covet. 


The humble but zealous Jesus, “on a foal of a beast of burden” (Matthew 21:5) steps into these crowds of people who cannot free themselves from their covetous, envious nature. He takes this burden onto himself and steps right into the heart of death, so that upon his resurrection, upon the death of death, we might have life.


This is love. Zealous love, free of envy. Love that invites us to let go of our self-interest, to let go of our envy, and to join the eternal dance. It’s a love in which we are perfectly safe to become vulnerable, to give ourselves away and become one with the beautiful God who loves us.


In what areas in your life do you experience envy? And how has God helped you in overcoming your self-interest?


How do you see Jesus showing his gratitude and humility in the Gospels?


How can we cultivate habits of gratitude in our lives?