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

Speaking the Truth, Kindly

Paul calls us to speak the “truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) and also says “Love is kind” (1 Corinthians 13:4). What does it mean for a leader to speak truth kindly? To be kind is to think about the other person’s feelings and not cause any harm or damage. So, leaders who speak truth kindly consider carefully how their words will impact the other person. They are intentionally careful not to cause harm to that person.

Speaking the truth kindly requires balance. Truth and kindness are both important and need to be balanced. Some leaders may be so concerned about kindness that they are afraid to speak the truth. This “kindness” damages the relationship because the truth is not revealed. But truth spoken harshly will also damage the relationship!

For example, if a worship leader prepares well but did not choose good songs, the pastor may say, “Those songs were terrible!” Is this the truth? Yes, but it was not spoken kindly! But if the pastor only says “You really prepared well,” it may be kind, but the truth that the worship leader needs to hear is not spoken. Both are needed.

The leader could speak truth kindly, “Thank you for leading the worship. I can tell that you prepared very well. However, I don’t think the songs were the best for our people. Let’s talk more about how to select good songs.” Servant leaders learn to balance truth with kindness.

Speaking the truth kindly reveals maturity. Some leaders speak truth with little care about the impact their message will have on the person who listens. They just want the truth to be known! They don’t stop to think about how the other person will receive their message.

Mature servant leaders think before they speak! They ask themselves, “What impact will the truth have on this person? What would I feel if I were in their place? How can I speak this truth as kindly as possible?” This is not easy and does not come naturally to most leaders, but kindness is a fruit of the Spirit. As leaders mature, God helps them to speak truth with kindness.

Speaking the truth kindly reflects Jesus. Jesus was able to speak truth in a kind way.

13People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them (Mark 10:13-16).

The disciples were rebuking children, sending them away from Jesus. They were not even attempting to be kind! Jesus was not happy when he saw them—he was “indignant” or angry with the disciples!

Many leaders speak harsh words very quickly when they feel angry. In this situation they might say to the disciples, “What do you think you are doing? I didn’t tell you to turn them away, you’re wrong. Stop rebuking those parents!” This is all true, but not kind! The disciples were wrong in rebuking the parents who brought their children to Jesus. And they needed to know the truth!

Jesus spoke the truth but did it kindly even when he was angry. He spoke so carefully that He had children in His arms as He spoke the truth. He corrected the disciples but didn’t embarrass them publicly for their mistake. He treated the disciples and the children with kindness. The disciples heard and saw the truth expressed so kindly that they never forgot the lesson.

Servant leaders make an impact by speaking the truth kindly. They carefully consider the impact their words will have on the other and use kindness to allow the truth to penetrate as deeply as possible.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

• What is my natural tendency: to speak “truth” or to be “kind”? What is the result in my leadership?
• When have I spoken truth, but not with kindness? What results did I see in my own life and in the life of the person to whom I spoke? How could I have spoken the truth in that situation with kindness? Do I need to apologize to that person?
• Can I think of another time when Jesus spoke kindly? What can I learn from His example?

Copyright, Global Disciples 2019.