“But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth.”
But if you have bitter envy
We should translate the word “envy” as zeal. A zealous person is an enthusiastic person (Ro 10:2). In this context, zeal is destructive because it is a “bitter” zeal.
The word “bitter” means to cut, prick; hence, it is something sharp and pungent. The idea is “harsh envy.” This is a person in an embittered state, a state of animosity. Eventually, an embittered person becomes malignant and cruel. Harsh jealousy is a passion that will poison our relationships.
He 12:14-15, “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled…”
Misdirected zeal has a harsh effect on our relationships.
Pettiness and jealousy expose a weak underside. This not only makes us insensitive to others, but it makes us insensitive to ourselves. The more insensitive we become to others, the more insensitive we become to ourselves. Envy keeps the cycle moving.
Eph 4:31, “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.”
Some zeal triggers quarreling and strife among fellow believers. If we keep zeal under control like explosions in a motor, zeal is good. If we allow zeal to explode uncontrolled, then it is not good. Many Christians operate without “wisdom and understanding” (3:13). Zeal without knowledge is dangerous.