Love Is Not Envious

Morality is about learning how to love, for if we can’t love we are nothing (see 1 Corinthians 13:1-3). Our Lord teaches us how to love in the Beatitudes and in the family, a true school of love. Pope Francis tells us: “Love is experienced and nurtured in the daily life of couples and their children” (Amoris Lætitia, 90).

Sinful covetousness comes naturally to children as they fight over toys or a bigger piece of cake. If one child is having fun playing with a toy another child will get envious and grab the toy, saying: “It’s mine…” Often a tug-of-war fight ensues until the toy breaks. In the process each child sends a message to the other: “This toy is more important to me than you are.” This is why envy—sadness in another’s possessions or success—is so destructive: it leads to valuing things over persons and to hurting others through hatred, murmuring, and detraction that uses unjust means to acquire what others have (see CCC 2538-40).

St. Paul’s canticle says love is not jealous or envious, zelói in Greek (1 Corinthians 13:4), as Pope Francis explains:

“This means that love has no room for discomfiture at another person’s good fortune (see Acts 7:9; 17:5). Envy is a form of sadness provoked by another’s prosperity; it shows that we are not concerned for the happiness of others but only with our own well-being. Whereas love makes us rise above ourselves, envy closes us in on ourselves. True love values the other person’s achievements. It does not see him or her as a threat. It frees us from the sour taste of envy. It recognizes that everyone has different gifts and a unique path in life. So it strives to discover its own road to happiness, while allowing others to find theirs” (Amoris Lætitia, 95).

In marriage and family, nothing is mine and yours but everything is ours. Couples in good marriages combine their finances after their wedding and then consult each other before making extraordinary purchases. Each one gives his all to marriage and family… it’s not a 50-50 proposition, but 100-100: God calls us to give everything! When we begin to think of my time, or my money, or my rest, or how much energy and effort I have put in… whenever we make
comparisons, we close in on ourselves and tear apart the marriage and family bonds.

In the family, children learn to share like their parents do and avoid making comparisons with their siblings. There we discover the greatest joy is found in giving, as Jesus taught: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). As Pope Francis continues:

“In a word, love means fulfilling the last two commandments of God’s Law: ‘You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s (Exodus 20:17). Love inspires a sincere esteem for every human being and the recognition of his or her own right to happiness. I love this person, and I see him or her with the eyes of God, who gives us everything ‘for our enjoyment’ (1 Timothy 6:17). As a result, I feel a deep sense of happiness and peace. This same deeply rooted love also leads me to reject the injustice whereby some possess too much and others too little. It moves me to find ways of helping society’s outcasts to find a modicum of joy. That is not envy, but the desire for equality” (Amoris Lætitia, 96).

This poverty of spirit—cultivated in marriage and family—liberates us from the slavery to materialism to see material things as instruments in the service of love. It will move us to practice solidarity to alleviate the sufferings of others with a love for all peoples that transcends national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences.

Father John Waiss is the pastor of St. Mary of the Angels Church in Chicago, Illinois. He is also a member of Opus Dei, the prelature founded by St. Josemaria Escriva.