Envy and jealousy can have some very serious consequences depending on
the situation. Scripture says that envy slays the simple minded (Job
5:2). Envy and jealousy can cause a whole host of internal problems in
our lives (Prov. 14:30, 23:17). Envy and jealousy are things that
characterize the world (1 Cor. 3:3). And God tells us through the
Apostle Peter that we are to rid ourselves of envy (1 Pet. 2:1).
God is a Jealous God?
But there is a problem with envy and jealousy – the Bible tells us over
and over from beginning to end that God is a “jealous” God (Exod. 20:5,
34:14, Deut. 5:9, Josh. 24:19). How is God’s jealousy different from our
jealousy? Is there more than one side to jealousy? The Apostle Paul,
when writing to the Corinthian Church, said he was jealous for them (2
Cor. 11:1-5). How do we understand jealousy and envy?
Positive & Negative Sides
Jealousy has two sides to it – a positive and a negative. When we’re
jealous for another person, we’ve got their best interests in mind. But
when we’re jealous of another person, we launch into this selfish
journey that results in a lot of headaches and heartaches. Self-centered
jealousy is certainly a sin we should learn to avoid.
An Acient Greek Legend
There’s an ancient Greek legend that sets the stage in which we confront
and learn to tackle the joy-stealer of jealousy. It seems a young Greek
athlete ran in a race and placed second. In honor of the winner, the
village placed a large statue of the athlete in the town square.
As you might imagine the second place runner was attacked by envy and
jealousy. He struggled with those joy-stealers to the point where he
made plans to destroy the statue. Every night, just after dark, he went
out and chipped away at the foundation of the statue, expecting it to
fall on its own someday. One night, however, he chipped too much. The
statue’s weakened base suddenly cracked and fell on top of him. He died
under the crushing weight of the person he had come to despise.
But the truth is, he died a long time before the statue fell on him. In
reality he cased to live when envy and jealousy began to govern his
life. He became a slave to the joy-stealer of jealousy.
Envy means to Boil Within
To be jealous means to strike out at what somebody else is, or what
somebody else has. God’s word says that we ought to “rejoice with those
who rejoice and weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15).
But the jealous person ends up doing just the opposite of what God’s
word prescribes for our ultimate happiness and joy. He rejoices when
others week, and weeps when they rejoice. Another person’s setback is
his opportunity for advancement. When the person of whom he’s jealous is
successful, he boils on the inside. In fact, the Greek word we translate
as “envy” means “to boil within.”
Nothing more Destructive than Envy & Jealousy
Jealousy can eat away at a person’s insides. Proverbs 14:30 suggests
that a “heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.”
No joy-stealer is more destructive to self and to relationships than the
joy-stealer of jealousy and envy. To close our study without learning to
tackle jealousy would leave you and me vulnerable, even though we may
have learned to conquer all the other joy-stealers in life like
discouragement, anger, resentment, temptation, guilt, procrastination
and even fear. Why leave this joy-stealer that can subtly steal away the
peace and joy gained by conquering all of the others?
Jealousy can make its way into our lives through a number of different
networks or circles in which you and I move. And if we’re aware of its
favorite places in our lives perhaps we’ll be able to guard ourselves a
little bit better.
First of all jealousy can enter our lives when it comes to…
Jealous of Wealth
Jealousy is found in the arena of possessions and wealth. For instance
look at Genesis 26:12-15. It describes Isaac’s accumulated wealth and
how his neighbor’s – the Philistines – “envied him.” Isaac’s possessions
are mentioned three times, so we know he had a lot of stuff.
This is interesting because the Philistines certainly weren’t poor by
any means but they still envied what Isaac had. You can have a lot and
still be jealous. To be fair, though, it’s easy to want just a little
bit more than we already have whether you’re well off or have very
We can also be jealous of others when it comes to…
Jealous of Power
Not only can we envy someone else’s possessions, but also their power.
In the Book of Numbers we find that Miriam and Aaron were jealous of
Moses’ power and position among the people so they began to criticize
him along with his family (Num. 12:1).
We also see that the tribe of Korah fell into the same trap (Num. 16:1).
In the books of Kings and Chronicles we read story after story of kings
who usurped the power of other kings, often by criminal and traitorous
acts. Only to have the same thing happen to them once they reached the
pinnacle of power. History is littered with the ruins of nations whose
leaders, motivated by jealousy and envy, led them to war.
I believe that – from a purely human motivation – jealousy was one of
the main reasons the Jews had a part in the crucifixion of Jesus and,
later on, the reason they persecuted his apostles (Acts 7:54-8:1). They
feared that their own power was eroding.
Power circles can be a breeding ground for jealousy in the business
world – and even in the church. Whose organization is biggest? Who’s
getting the most media attention? Who has the largest staff or the most
employees? What person or group can exercise control over another? What
person polices the other? Power can promote jealousy among those who
Then there is…
If there is a circle where Christians are most vulnerable, this is
probably it – individually and corporately. Remember the story in the
Old Testament regarding Saul and David? David became the young hero in
Israel after he defeated Goliath.
Jealousy began to grow in Saul’s heart as he saw the hearts of Israel go
out to David. Saul spent the rest of his life trying to eliminate the
object of his jealousy, tracking David all over the Judean wilderness
trying to kill him. He remained a captive to his jealousy until he died.
Local Church Jealousies
The local church, I am sorry to say, is a place where jealousy lurks big
time. The enemy is just waiting for a chance to attack us. Perhaps it is
because the church is a “volunteer” organization. People give their
money and “volunteer” their time, and as a result, feel they are
entitled to certain things whether it’s roles of leadership, or
recognition for special acts of service or giving.
People are jealous of one another across the board – people jealous of
other people and their God-given abilities and even spiritual gifts.
Parents are envious of other parents and even of the other parents’
children. There is an ever-so-subtle but constant striving in our midst.
How shrewd and sinister the enemy is so as to stir up jealousy and envy
in our midst. But even worse, how nave we are to give in to it!
The church of Jesus Christ is the last place the joy-stealer of jealousy
should ever find a home because grace and love can infect us, making us
impervious to envy’s attacks.
Not only does jealousy’s network include possessions, power, and
performance. It also incorporates…
An amazing example of envy occurred once when Paul was in jail for
preaching the Gospel. While he was in jail, others were taking advantage
of his imprisonment and preaching the Gospel, hoping to gain for
themselves some of the attention Paul had received.
Look at Philippians 1:15-18: “Some indeed preach Christ from envy and
rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love,
knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former
proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me
in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in
pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”
Motives Don’t Matter if Job gets Done
Paul had a very interesting response. He said that even though others
were preaching the Gospel using envy as a motive, he took comfort
knowing that the Gospel was being proclaimed.
It’s interesting what he didn’t do. He didn’t respond in anger or
resentment. Those reactions would have revealed jealousy in his own
life. Those responses would have meant that Paul was envious that others
were gaining fame and a following that was rightly his.
He was content to sit in his jail cell and allow God to sort out the
motives in men’s hearts. What a lesson in that for you and me! He was
simply happy that the Gospel was being preached. You can get a whole lot
done if it doesn’t matter who gets the credit for it.
We may not be wealthy or powerful, or have what in our eyes appear to be
significant roles to perform or even, other professionals to compete
with – but we’re all people. And unfortunately, jealousy shows up most
often in the relationships we have with other people just like
ourselves. This is probably where we see it the most and certainly where
we see it the most in the bible,
In the Old Testament, Cain was jealous of Abel, Ishmael was jealous of
Isaac, and Jacob and Esau were jealous of each other. Joseph’s brothers
were so envious of him that they sold him into slavery.
Prodigal Son’s Brother
In the New Testament, the prodigal son story gives us a sad illustration
of jealousy. Look at Luke 15:11-32, for example. We’re often so involved
in focusing on the prodigal and his return to the father that we miss
the burning jealousy of the older brother.
He was incensed that his father had never rewarded him for his
faithfulness and obedience, and here the prodigal was being welcomed
home like a hero. His jealousy had blinded his eyes to his own
Pharisee-like misunderstanding of his father’s love and grace.
When Jealousy Visits, Love takes a Hike!
Here’s what happens: When jealousy visits, love takes a hike. The two
can’t coexist in the same heart. Rest assured that if you’re struggling
with jealousy, you’re also struggling with love.
Even the godliest people we know can struggle with jealousy. Look at
Psalm 73. Asaph saw what the unbelievers had and he wanted a piece of
their action. But he also saw not only their end but what god has in
store for those who love Him.
“Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for
me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was
envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”
Jealousy Comes Within our Own Networks
Before we look at the characteristics of jealousy, it’s important to
remember that jealousy will most likely raise its head in the networks
we have and circles in which we live.
As a pastor and preacher, I’m not jealous of plumbers, painters or the
presidents of large organizations, as much as I admire and respect what
they do. My temptations with jealousy are going to come in the networks
of other pastors. In the same way, your struggles with jealousy will
likely most often happen for you in your own networks in which you run.
Years ago I came across a fable that illustrates my point:
Fable of the Holy Man
The Devil was crossing the Libyan Desert when he came across a group of
junior devils that were tempting a holy man. They tried to tempt him
with the flesh, with doubts, with fear, and then with lies. But, nothing
they did could tempt the holy man to sin. The Devil asked the junior
demons to step aside so that he might show them how to get at the old
man. The Devil leaned forward and whispered in the man’s ear, “Have you
heard the news?
Your brother has just been made Bishop of Alexandria.” With that, the
cloud of jealousy clouded the now not-so-holy man’s face – and the Devil
We can do that same thing where we work, where we walk, and where we
worship. Be careful about becoming jealous in the circles in which you
Father I ask that you be the one who is seen on my behalf through out all my life that not at any point should I be filled with jealous and envy. But, that at all times, your wholeness may be seen in me; I pray this Jesus’ name. Amen.