Why Does Paul Say “Love Is Not Jealous”?

by Pastor Ricky Kurth

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“God often says that He is a jealous God (Ex. 20:5; 34:14; etc.), and I John 4:8 says that ‘God is love.’ So how can 1 Corinthians 13:4 say that ‘love is not jealous’?”

This is an example of the kind of question that has to be answered by recognizing a translation error. The King James Version of the Bible says that “charity envieth not,” but I’m aware of at least two dozen new Bible versions that mistranslate the Greek word for “envieth not” as “is not jealous.”

Envy and jealousy are not the same. We know that jealousy cannot be a sin because God says He is jealous over and over (Deut. 4:24; 5:9; 6:15; 32:16,21; etc.), and “God cannot be tempted with evil” (James 1:13). On the other hand, envy is condemned as a sin numerous times (Prov. 24:1,19; Rom. 1:29; 13:13; 1 Cor. 3:3; Gal. 5:21,26).

Husbands and wives sometimes ask if it is wrong for them to be jealous. We know it’s not, for when some false teacher tried to woo the Corinthians away from grace by preaching the “Jesus” of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John to them (2 Cor. 11:4), Paul told them to put him on the pay-no-mind list, adding,

“For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (v. 2).

Paul would not have made that comparison if marital jealousy were sinful. That means we should be as “jealous for the Lord” as Elijah (1 Kings 19:10,14) when it comes to those who would try to entice grace believers to forsake the Christ of Paul’s epistles.

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