Jealousy- feeling or showing envy of someone or their achievements and advantages.
- Feeling or showing suspicion of someone's unfaithfulness in a relationship
- Fiercely protective or vigilant of one's rights or possessions
Today's topic is about jealousy. Jealousy is a sin that displeases God. It is rooted in fear, not love. As I studied jealousy, I discovered that there are at least three different definitions for the word depending on the situation.
I will discuss each manifestation of jealousy below. Disclaimer: The stories and names used in this article are completely fictional. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Jealousy rooted in Covetousness
The first definition of jealousy is “feeling or showing envy of someone or their achievements and advantages”. It goes beyond simple dissatisfaction but notice how the definition includes the word “envy”. Envy is “painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess that same advantage”.
Lets say that a young woman just joined your church named Melissa. Melissa is a newcomer to the Gospel. However, you remember her from college as a wild rebellious girl who would sleep with many frat boys on campus. Now she has found the Lord and has changed her sinful ways. She is living for Jesus and has truly repented for her sin.
You are happy for her until one of the ministers becomes engaged to her. As you look over the wedding invitation that you just received in the mail, you immediately burn with jealousy. “Why is Melissa getting married and I am still single?” “I am a pure girl that never misses a church service. But this wild girl come here marry one of the ministers!”
Instead of being happy for Melissa, you secretly wish the minister would break the marriage off. You start comparing yourself to Melissa. “What makes her so different from me?” “Why did the minister want to marry a woman with such a past.” “He should have chose me instead”. It has gotten so bad that every time she raises her hand to praise the Lord during service, you become bitter when the light seemly hits her diamond engagement ring just right as a reminder that you are not the one wearing it.
You can no longer contain your jealousy so you have to vent to your circle of friends at the church. You want them to know once and for all who Melissa is. You want them to know how wild she was in college and how she would sleep with all the frat boys. You want them to know how she would dance wildly at parties and get so drunk that she would forget her name. Now you have your friends judging Melissa and looking down on her.
Do you see how damaging jealousy can be? It causes you take your focus off of God and direct it somewhere else. Instead of worshiping God during service, you are side-eying your neighbor with evil looks. You no longer look at the blessings God has bestowed upon you because you are constantly comparing yourself to other people and what they possess.
This is covetousness and one of the 10 commandments tell you that “Thou shall not covet”. Exodus 20:17 states specifically that “You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” When we covet something we yearn to possess something that does not belong to us. This can lead to other sins like stealing or even murder. Remember when Cain became jealous of Abel because his (Abel's) offering was accepted by God while his was rejected? Instead of focusing on himself and asking God how to improve upon his offering, Cain murdered Abel.
So what causes us to become jealous?
We become jealous when:
- We compare ourselves to others: One reason jealousy occurs is because we compare ourselves to others. We may recognize that another person may be prettier, more charismatic, work a better job etc. We begin to feel that life is unfair and that God is unfair. Instead of trying to be the best person we can be, we waste our energy comparing ourselves to others.We have to realize that other people are not our measuring stick, the Word of God is. Psalm 139: 14 states that “I am fearfully and wonderfully made”. There is no one like you. Even if you have an identical twin, you were still created different and unique in your own right.
- Low Self- Esteem: We also become jealous when we have low self-esteem. When we are not secure in who we are, we begin to feel sorry for ourselves and jealous of other people. We may have been rejected as a child so as an adult we find ourselves in situations where we react to people as a hurt child. Find your identify in God because Jeremiah 1:5 states “before I formed you in your mother's womb, I knew you”. So pray and ask God to help develop your gifts and talents so you can walk in the way that He will have you to go.
- Discontent: The third reason we may become jealous is because we are discontent. Philippians 4:11 states that whatever state you find yourself in “be content”. You may be renting an apartment but your dream is to one day own a home. That is a good dream to have, but we have to be careful not to become discontent with our situation while we are still in the apartment. It is easy to have a laundry list of things you see wrong with living there. However, instead of complaining praise God that you have a roof over your head. Praise Him that you have the money to pay your rent. Keep the right attitude while you are waiting for God to open the door to home ownership.
- Lack of trust in God: We also covet when we do not trust God. We may feel like our dreams are too big for God, because they are too big for us. Well guess what? Nothing is too hard for God (Jeremiah 32:27). When we see the hand of God moving in another person's life, know that God will move in your life as well. He is no respecter of persons, what He will do for one, He will do for all. “For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future” Jeremiah 29:11. God has good plans for our lives, awesome plans. His plans are bigger than the biggest dream we could ever imagine. God just want us to put our trust in Him.
Jealousy in Relationships
The second type of jealousy is the one that we usually see in abusive relationships. One partner may have a fear of losing the other and jealousy takes hold. It does not matter if there is a real threat to the relationship or something that is imagined.
This goes beyond the envy and covetousness displayed in the first example. Instead of wanting what someone else has, this form of jealousy manifests as losing what you have (the relationship). These individuals are always perceiving a constant outside “threat” to their relationship.
Let's take “Jeremy and Brittney” for example. They've had a lot of ups and downs because Jeremy fears a man will come and “steal” Brittney away from him.” Growing up, he witnessed his mother leave the family for another man named Jim. From as young as he can remember, Jeremy remembers his father standing outside of where his mother stayed yelling and screaming and wanting to beat Jim up.
Scarred by that childhood experience, he believes that all women can be “stolen away” if you do not keep a tight hold on them. Unfortunately, Brittney did not recognize the red flags in the beginning. She mistook his frantic calls and frequent texts as “concern”. She thought that it was sweet of him to be constantly thinking of her.
However, now she sees the obsession he has for her. Jeremy is always accusing her of looking at other guys while they are out. They argue over this all of the time and now he has begin hitting her. “What should I do?” she constantly ask herself.
Jeremy obviously has some unhealed wounds stemming from his childhood. Childhood trauma can affect our adult relationships. It has a profound impact on our emotions and how we interact with people. Since Jeremy had some trauma around his parents marital issues he developed a distrust for women. His mother's extramarital affair had a lasting impression on how Jeremy relates to women.
Mistaking Possessiveness for Love:
Brittney ignored important indicators of abuse because she mistook possessive behavior for love. Relationships can stir up such passionate emotions that it blinds good judgment. The way to avoid this is to allow God to perfect you as a single and wait for Him to bring the right person into your life. Use your singleness to become whole in God and watch Him bring into your life the right person that He has prepared for you.
Overly Protective of one's possessions or position
The last form of jealousy is one I never considered until I read the definition. Similar to relationship jealousy, this person perceives a threat from a third party to their possessions or position.
Bob is a senior manager for a fortune 500 company. He is a very hard worker and has spent the last 20 years securing his place within the company. His ultimate goal is to become CEO is a couple of years.
However, there is new talent at work. A recent “college boy” named Ralph who just graduated and is now being trained by Bob. Bob recognizes the gifts and talents Ralph possess and believes that the “college boy” poses a threat to him becoming CEO. “What if they choose the new talent over me Bob thinks?”. So he decides to deal passive aggressively with Ralph by not giving him clear direction hoping that he will quit or get fired. Though he know what he is doing is wrong, Bob just wants Ralph “out of the way”.
What causes this type of jealousy? Let's discuss it below.
Fear that someone will displace us:
Though man may give people promotions, God is the ultimate promoter. Promotion comes not from the east or from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge, He puts down one and sets up another. (Psalm 75: 6-7). Everything that happens in the world has to first be approved by God. God is all knowing and nothing catches Him by surprise.
Instead of focusing his attention on Ralph, Bob needs to keep his eyes on God. God is the one in control and he is a just God. He is a rewarder of the diligent seeker. The word of God says that the diligent hand shall rule (Proverbs 12:24). Bob has to recognize that God sees his hard work but he has to walk in integrity in order to receive favor for a promotion. God may want to promote Bob to CEO and may have even sent the young talent to assist him in getting that new position. However, in his jealously, Bob is so afraid that someone will take his spot that he does not see God's hand in it.
What Bob fail to realize is that what he is doing will backfire. God does not like for us to put a stumbling block before our brother (Romans 14:13). Even if God wanted to promote Bob, Bob is messing it up for himself. He is sabotaging his own career by mistreating Ralph.
In closing I hope you have learned that jealousy is ultimately rooted in fear. Fear is the opposite of love, and perfect love casts out all fear. (1 John 4:18). Have a perfect love toward God and your neighbor and refuse to allow fear to stir up jealousy in your heart.