If you know me, this article is for you. If you’ve ever discovered my arrogant heart by teaching me or disagreeing with me, this is for you. In a more general sense, if you’ve ever tried to collaborate with or constructively critique another person, and they lacked the teachability or humility...
Jealous. That was the only word that could describe the feeling I had when I heard a friend had gotten her book published. I was full of jealousy.
Writing a book (and getting it published) has been a dream of mine since I was a teenager. Yet now at age 53, it still has not happened. Not for lack of trying, mind you. But it just has not happened! So, when I found out it had happened for a friend, that proverbial “green-eyed monster” consumed me.
And here’s the saddest thing of all: my friend’s book was about her journey with her young son’s cancer. It was about how God had seen, supported, and strengthened her, her son, and her family through the darkest hours of their lives.
It was a book written with such gut-wrenching honesty and humility. And, it was meant to be an encouragement and blessing to other families dealing with childhood cancer.
How could I be jealous of that? But I was—to my shame!
What Jealousy Is
Jealousy is that sneaky sin that comes upon us unexpectedly, unannounced, and most certainly uninvited.
Jealousy can take the form of eagerness to obtain something that you don’t have, and this form of it is associated with covetousness and idolatry (see Colossians 3:5).
Covetousness is the worship of something (a house, a car, a job, a ministry) or someone (a husband, a child, a friend) that another has. Covetousness is so egregious to God, that he included it in the Ten Commandments.
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” (Exodus 20:17)
And God knows that when we idolize what another has, eventually jealous feelings will follow. What are we to do with jealousy, then?
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality… idolatry… jealousy… and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness… (Galatians 5:19-22)
For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? (1 Corinthians 3:3)
Jealousy is sin. It is the flesh’s response to covetousness, and it needs to be confessed and repented. Repenting jealousy is to agree with God that this feeling is wrong. It is not holy, healthy, or productive.
Jealousy can be so destructive—both spiritually, emotionally, and relationally. In fact, it can literally lead one to murder, the apostle James says in 4:2: “You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.”
The moment jealousy rears its nasty head, confess it. Don’t let it steep in your mind and embitter your heart. Confess, and find immediate and unfailing forgiveness and cleansing (1 John 1:9).
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
There is a reason why Paul contrasts the flesh and the Spirit in Galatians chapter 5. The two are constantly at war with one another. But that war was won when Jesus died and rose again, and we can also be victors through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
We can, through His help, conquer and counteract the sinful flesh with spiritual fruit.
Love for another and for the goodness God has shown them (whatever that may be), having patience with ourselves and God’s timing, and exercising self-control of our emotions all counteract jealousy.
A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot. (Proverbs 14:30)
Jealousy is not only covetousness but discontentment. Jealousy says, in effect, “God, I’m not happy or satisfied with who I am or what you’ve given me. I want to be more. I want more. I want what so-and-so is and has!”
I have had to come to the realization that God has not allowed me to publish, for whatever reason. I have had to accept that and find contentment in the writing opportunities he has given me.
I have to work at it, though. It does not come easily. I can relate to Paul’s comment in Philippians 4:11-13, that I, too, am “learning” to be content. It is an on-going process as I wait upon God and “learn” to be satisfied, content, with what he has given me already.
Jealousy is, in a way, saying that Jesus—who he is as our Savior and Lord, and what he graciously did for us on the cross—is not enough. None of us would say that outright. But jealousy is the feeling that expresses it, and it is an affront to him. May it not be so!
Rejoice with those who are rejoicing. (Romans 12:15)
Another counteractive “cure” for jealousy, as I found with my friend’s publishing success, is to rejoice with that person.
Rejoicing with another person takes the focus off of ourselves and puts it on God: what he has done for that person, how he has blessed them, the gifts he’s given them, the opportunities he’s provided for them.
Rejoicing with another is also borne out of love and kindness. Another manifestation of living out the fruits of the Spirit rather than the flesh.
Rejoicing in another’s good and godly fortune also maintains unity and harmony within the body of Christ. For where there is jealousy, there is strife, quarreling, disunity (1 Corinthians 3:3).
So, make the choice to rejoice.
Be Jealous…for others and for God!
I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. (2 Cor. 11:2, NIV)
If ever there is good jealousy, the Apostle Paul says it is jealousy for other believers and for God.
This “godly jealousy” is outward and upward focused, rather than self-focused. It is an eagerness for the good of others, especially spiritual welfare (i.e. their salvation and sanctification).
It is an eagerness for God to be glorified in this darkened world. That his name and power would be seen and manifested in miraculous ways. That sinful mankind would repent and turn to him, accepting the free gift of grace he offers through Jesus Christ. That they would find forgiveness and a relationship with God, their Heavenly, Holy Father (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Expressing holy, godly jealousy for his saving work on our behalf, and on the behalf of others, is acceptable and perfect. That jealousy does not offend him.
May it be that this outward, upward jealousy is the only type of jealousy we manifest in our lives.