How much are you willing to pay for the luxury of jealousy? I sacrificed contentment and joy for a few years envying other ministries. I sinned against God and I robbed myself of enjoying my own backyard because I frequently sighed for the greener grass in other yards. Somehow, I overlooked the fact that those people battled weeds, weather and rodents too.
God performed wonderful works in the church I served in at that time with salvations, healings, restorations and such. Nevertheless, for a couple of years I managed to maintain this “Oh that IS really great, but….” attitude. I celebrated the victories each time, but of course ongoing, normal challenges waited to be faced after the victory dances died down. I’d mutter things like, “I’ll bet pastor So and So doesn’t have to deal with this stuff at his church,” and other jealous, self-pitying comments in that vein.
When we struggle with envy, this is what we do. We look at other’s lives and decide they are making out much better than we are. We minimize the wonders God performs in our lives because we are too busy wanting what someone else has. Often, the truth is we know nothing except our limited viewpoint from our backyard. Satan whispers in our ears about the lush beauty of someone else’s grass while covering our eyes to their lawn problems. Also consider that their lawn might indeed be perfect but what we can’t see is that they’ve got black mold inside their house.
In the book of Obadiah, we see generational strife between two peoples who should have been allies and instead became enemies due to the sin of jealousy hundreds of years earlier. Jacob, the forefather of the Israelites, envied his brother Esau, the forefather of the Edomites, in his position as their father, Isaac’s favorite and due to receive all the blessing and fortunes as the firstborn son.
Jacob’s mother, Rebekah fostered this jealousy and even conceived a devious plan to steal Esau’s birthright. The irony is that God wanted to prosper Jacob and cause him to receive the firstborn blessing, but this is surely not how he planned to do it. Instead, Jacob and his mother’s deception set in motion events that reverberated evil for many generations to come.
- The jealousy of Jacob’s youth continued right into his own dysfunctional family unit, with his two wives, Rachel and Leah. Barren Rachel felt tremendous jealousy towards fertile Leah. Leah envied the love Jacob showered on Rachel and her two sons but only shared with her in smaller measure, even though she presented him with many sons. And in this messy, emotional stew, Leah’s boys learned jealousy at home.
- Jacob and Leah’s sons, brothers to Joseph, son of Rachel and Jacob, zealously carried the family banner of jealousy. This caused to almost murder Joseph and sell him into slavery. The price they paid with their father’s grief and their own fearful guilt in Egypt years later, is something to see.
The Bible shares several other stories of envy ending poorly. I assure you these people also did not fully consider where they might end up once they started down jealousy road.
- David envied Urriah for his beautiful wife, Bathsheba. He stole her virtue, caused Urriah’s death and then David and Bathsheba paid a dreadful price through the death of their child.
- Finally, the tragic story of King Saul’s jealousy of David is a cautionary tale to anyone who thinks God is treating someone else a bit better than themselves. In this case, Saul suffered the consequences of his own sin. Instead of being genuinely repentant, he became insanely jealous of God’s new man. Saul moves from anointed of God to suicidal madman, with jealousy coaxing him on.
How can we recognize, repent of and refute jealousy in our lives before we wind up crumpled by our own jealousy?
- Take note of whom you criticize. Sometimes judgement is rooted in jealousy. We want to bring people down, so we feel better about ourselves
and not feel jealous of them. That’s not the way to do it.
- Pay attention to your unguarded daydreams. Are they filled with potential and possibilities from God or are they consistently musing over the trappings of someone else’s life?
- Notice how you feel when someone is living in or receives something for which you are desiring or believing. God wants us to be authentically joyful for them and trustfully peaceful about his process in our lives.
- Choose deliberate thanks for every bit of goodness and mercy in your life. Start your prayer times with thanking, not asking.
- Be honest with yourself and God when jealousy’s fingers start to clench your heart. Everyone is tempted by envy, but we do not need to give way to it. Ask God to replace your discontent with contentment and hope.
- Memorize Scripture to toss back at Satan when he tempts you this way. Here’s some suggestions: 1 Cor. 13:4, Proverbs 14:30, Gal. 5:22-23, Psalm 37:1-3, James 3:14-16