A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body; but jealousy is like cancer in the bones (Proverbs 14:30, NLT)
We can thank William Shakespeare for giving us the term “green eyed monster” when describing the destructiveness of jealousy. In the story of Othello, Shakespeare demonstrates the devastating results of it—and why it truly is a “monster.” As it was in biblical days and Shakespeare’s day, so it is in our day. Jealousy and her offspring (resentment, anger, hatred, deceit, etc.) have been a root cause of sin in the church and in the world, and we would be wise to take a more serious look at it. It is so easy to fall into because it plays into our insecurities, which we all have. Jealousy kills love, destroys friendships and is described perfectly as a “malignancy of the spirit,” according to Proverbs.
I recently ran across a book by R.T. Kendall entitled Jealousy; The Sin No One Talks About. I can’t possibly do his book justice here, so I encourage you to read it for yourself. R.T. is painfully honest about his own struggles with envy, and his common sense and keen biblical insight make for an excellent perspective. His title is spot on—we don’t talk about our jealousies because it’s, well, embarrassing and makes us look petulant, immature and selfish, which we often are.
If you do a scripture word study on this topic, you will find hundreds of references to jealousy and envy, as they are synonyms. However, R.T. differentiates between the two in that envy is a more passive emotion, usually resulting from covetousness. Jealousy, however, goes beyond envy and is more active, a seething resentment of others’ successes. It is “bent on vengeance.” But both are equally destructive.
I have told my children countless times (and reminded myself) that anyone can weep with you. It is only your true friends who will rejoice with you when you are successful or blessed—and there may be less of them than you might think. You can lay that at the feet of jealousy.
Reading this book led me to a study of jealousy in scripture where I discovered it was the fundamental cause of all kinds of evil, from the beginning of human history. Sibling rivalry was fueled by jealousy—think of Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, Rachel and Leah, Joseph and his brothers, Moses and Aaron and Miriam, and that just takes us through Numbers! (I suspect it is still a major cause of fractured relationships between adult siblings today.) It was raging jealousy that led to Saul’s plots to kill David, the murder of the infants of Bethlehem by Herod, and the beheading of John the Baptist. Matthew tells us that the Pharisees plotted Jesus’ death because of their “envy” of him and his popularity. This is a serious sin, we best not take it lightly. It is not easy being green for the believer. It takes a great deal of negative energy and most definitely destroys our joy. Nothing good or godly comes of it.
Scripture also speaks of godly jealousy, an interesting twist on this subject. R.T. writes, “God’s Jealousy Proves His Love.” God’s jealousy is not sin, but springs from His immense love for us and His desire for our good. In contrast, human jealousy comes out of selfish desires, resentment, and impure motives. The Scripture above clearly indicates that peace of mind and jealousy are polar opposites.
So the question is this: what do we do when jealousy sets in? Here are a few suggestions:
Admit it, say it, call it out: “I am jealous of______ because_________.” This step is the most difficult, as we hate to admit our sin. But we must ask the Spirit to help us understand the root of our problem, the cause of our jealousy, or we will never confront it.
Confess it as sin, and as harmful to your spiritual wellbeing.
Pray a blessing on those of whom you are jealous. Pray it until you mean it.
Spend some time focusing on your own uniqueness, your calling, who you are, how God has gifted, blessed and used you.
Finally, cultivate thankfulness for God’s blessings in your life.
Repeat as needed.