Ethics, Morals, Behavior
Informal Thoughts on Jealousy
by Ed Vasicek
I have always thought of jealous adults as childish. But as I thought more and more about matters, I came to realize that many of the sins we see so clearly in childhood carry over into adulthood. We simply learn to hide them better. For many of us, the weaknesses and sins we displayed in childhood are still with us: jealousy, laziness, a critical spirit, fits of temper, etc.
The other day, I was teaching our Awana kids about how Laban was jealous of Jacob. God blessed Laban with wealth, measured in livestock in those days. Jacob, who started raising livestock with Laban's rejects, began to catch up to and surpass Laban (Genesis 30-31). Laban and his sons became so jealous that Jacob and his family had to escape for their lives. Had God not warned Laban in a dream, he may well have killed Jacob.
Johann Strauss Sr. was a jealous father. He was a musical genius, but he envied his son, Johann Strauss Jr., who surpassed him in genius and fame. When we speak of the "Strauss Waltzes," we are usually talking about the work of Johann Jr. Time and time again we hear stories about parents who are jealous of their children's talents, beauty, or "breaks in life." Others of us want our children to have everything so that we can move in with them!
Even those of us in ministry get jealous. I hear of some pastors (who I would not want in my family) whose churches grow leaps and bounds. Some of these guys don't know Genesis from Revelation and are professional manipulators, yet their churches blossom, while other faithful pastors who love the Lord see their churches actually dissolve. Of course, jealousy over good men whose ministries blossom is a temptation as well.
Like Laban, a lot of jealousy originates in a competitive spirit. If we are doing badly, we do not mind it so much as long as everyone else does badly. But if someone surpasses us, we are tempted to resent it. If someone's marriage seems happier, their job easier, their talents greater, their physique better, or their children more successful, that tendency seen in childhood (you got more toys than I did for Christmas; you have a 26-inch bike and I only have a 24; you were chosen first for the softball team, I was chosen last) can resurface with a vengeance.
We do not understand God's ways: he gives one talent to some, five to another, and to yet another ten. He tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice, to weep with those who weep. He commands us to look out not only for our own interests, but the interests of others. He labels jealousy among the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19) and lists it right after hatred. I think they are listed that way because they are closely associated. Laban's sin began with jealousy, as did Cain's. It progressed to hatred and would have culminated in murder, as did Cain's. Most Christians do not go around murdering others, but we do show our hatred in various ways: we slander, we withdraw from those we hate, we stew and become bitter, we take ourselves out of a position where the one we envy can "show us up."
If the person we are jealous of "rubs it in," that only makes it worse. If we are ever the one of whom another is jealous, we should not try to aggravate the situation through teasing or humiliating. But even if we are blameless (as Jacob and Abel were in their situations), and even if we do not encourage jealousy, others may still resent us.
Our church is noted for strong families, solid doctrine, and a level of sense not all that common today. I know as a fact that some people have rejected our fellowship for those very reasons. I know it sounds weird, but that is the way jealousy works. We tend to think that letting the Lord order our lives will draw others to him. But many timeseven if we are not arrogant about thingsit actually repels people.
So be on your guard from both angles. Deal with jealousy as a sin, because it is a sin, and a big one at that! And also be sensitive that sometimes when you are blessed, that blessing can actually hurt another emotionally (and I do not think it is sinful to feel hurt), or even provoke hatred (a clearly sinful response). God loves all his children, but we are tempted to think he loves some of us more than others. And he does bless some of us more than others, no doubt about that.
It is hard to rejoice in another's wonderful marriage retreat when your marriage is on the rocks. It's tough to rejoice at the birth of a new child when you and your spouse cannot conceive. It is difficult to rejoice at the marriage of a child who has always walked with the Lord when your child has caused you heartache after heartache and is an absolute mess. It may be painful to thank the Lord for healing someone when you are now a widow and your prayers for a spouse's healing were unanswered. There is a lot of pain out there, and we all (including myself for sure) need to work at becoming more sensitive to how our blessings remind others of their lack.
It is hard to go through life's rugged road without feeling hurt or sometimes even passed by. But we do not need to be jealous. Remember Laban. Remember Cain. Put off jealousy. You are not competing against your brethren, you are competing against yourself, the world, and the devil. Force your thoughts in line with the truth. Jealousy is a bummer.
Reprinted from the February 2001 Body Builder, a publication of Highland Park Church.
Highland Park Church
516 West Sycamore Street
Kokomo, Indiana, USA