Speaking the Truth, Without Envy

What leaders say matters. The way they say it also matters!

Paul calls us to speak the “truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).Then he adds that love “does not envy” (1 Corinthians 13:4).So, servant leaders are called to speak “truth without envy.”

Envy is a desire to possess what another other person has. This may be a desire for what that person has materially or a position or honor that the person enjoys. I may envy that person’s success in ministry, business or career. Envy is a condition of my heart which will often be expressed in the way I talk. Speaking the truth without envy means that I speak truth with no desire to gain what the other person has. My speech does not change because of the other person’s success and I am able to rejoice in any success the other experiences.

As we reflect on what this means, imagine a situation in which a friend tells you that a peer of yours, working in the same profession, is doing much better than you are. You learn that their business (or church) is growing rapidly or that they just received a promotion in their career. After listing all the achievements, your friend looks at you and asks, “What do you think about that?” What will you say? How can a servant leader respond by speaking the truth without envy?   

Speaking the truth without envy requires balance.

Will you envy that person or speak the truth? What will you say if the truth is that you are envious? It’s not likely that you’ll say, “I really wish I was as successful as my friend!” It is more likely that because of envy, you will minimize their success, perhaps by suggesting that their success is not earned. You may respond, “I doubt they could have succeeded like that without cheating. They must be compromising, paying bribes or avoiding taxes.” If it is a successful church you may say, “They must have compromised the true Gospel if that many people are coming!”

In these responses you expose your envy and minimize the truth. Or, because of envy, you may change the “truth” of your own situation to make things look better than they really are. You may say, “That’s great but I’m also expecting a promotion soon!”

  Servant leaders acknowledge the truth, but without envy. The person has done well, perhaps because of God’s favor, or their hard work, or both. You might respond, “That’s awesome, I’m so glad for them!” Is that true? If, as you speak these words, you know that what you are speaking is not truth, it is pretending to rejoice while your heart is filled with envy. Servant leaders speak without envy and without changing the truth.

Speaking the truth without envy reveals maturity.

To see someone else succeed and not have envy in our hearts is a sign of maturity! We are naturally selfish and want the best for ourselves with little concern for others. It is hard to rejoice in another person’s success when our hearts are focused on our own success! No leader can speak the truth without envy unless they have died to their own selfish desires.

Servant leaders lay down their own egos and rejoice in the success of another. They recognize that their tongue is connected to their heart and until their heart is set free from envy, their speech will reflect their heart. It takes most of us a long time to reach this level of maturity!

Speaking the truth without envy reflects Jesus.

Jesus did not envy the success of others, instead He rejoiced in it. Consider His words, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12).

There is not a hint of envy as Jesus spoke of great success for those who would follow. In fact, Jesus seems to enjoy the reality that His disciples would do more than He had done. His ministry was confined to the nation of Israel while they would take the gospel to the nations. He was speaking the truth without envy and servant leaders learn to speak in the same way.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • What is my natural tendency, to speak “truth without envy” or to be “envious”? What is the result in my leadership?   
  • When have I spoken with envy? What was the result in my own life and in the life of the person to whom I spoke?  
  • Reflect on John the Baptist’s statement in John 3:27-30. In what way could John have been tempted to speak with envy? What can we learn from his example?
  • Can I think of another time when Jesus could have been envious but instead spoke the truth with no hint of envy? What can I learn from His example?

Copyright, Global Disciples 2019