I know a thing or two about jealousy. We all have sins that we tend to struggle with more than others. I have struggled with jealousy since I was a child. I remember watching a classmate in kindergarten color with colored pencils. I didn’t even know that such amazing products existed! One day, her mother came to pick her up early. After she left, I noticed that one of her fabulous colored pencils was on the floor, under her desk. It was worn, and the bottom was even broken. Still, I loved everything about it and figured, in my 5-year-old wisdom, that she wouldn’t miss it, since it was on the floor and broken. So, I picked it up and put it on my desk. As far as I know, she never did miss it. Still, that was the day that I began to learn a lesson that I have continued to learn over and over. You cannot love someone well if you are jealous of them. Jealousy is a joy-killer, and it can impact our lives and relationships in significantly negative ways.
Many portions of the Bible talk about jealousy. Most of the time, the words “jealousy” and “envy” come from the same Hebrew word, qānā, which means “zeal” or “envy.” Other Scriptures speak of the word “jealousy” differently. For example, Exodus 34:14 says that God is a “jealous God.” Since God is holy and cannot even look at sin (Habakkuk 1:13), we can conclude that jealousy is not always a sin. He has an appropriate zeal for what belongs to Him. However, we are sinners, and our jealousy is often rooted in sin. We want things that do not belong to us.
Jealousy kills the fruit of love for others in my life. It can cause me to belittle their achievements. If I notice that a friend is more physically fit than I am, I might think, “Well, her husband doesn’t go to work as early as nine, and he can stay with the children when she runs.” If a friend’s child has a very impressive victory or achievement, I might think, “Her parents live nearby. They’re able to watch her other children while she supports that one. I have to have all of my children with me all the time.”
When I let the sin of jealousy get a foothold in my heart, everything becomes a competition. I have to be a better church member, a better mother, a better friend, and a better community member than the person I feel jealousy toward. It’s exhausting. Romans 12:10 says, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” If my goal is to “outdo” someone, it should be loving them and showing honor toward them. Trying to make myself look better, and, consequently, trying to make them look worse is no way to show honor.
Harbored jealousy destroys the ability to have pure motives. In Psalm 139:23, the Psalmist asks God to search his heart and know his thoughts. I have to admit that there have been times when, if I was being completely honest, I would have asked God to a put on a blindfold on me. I knew that my motives were born out of a desire to be noticed, to be esteemed, and, ultimately, to be perceived as better than the object of my jealousy. Why? Why do I want others to think that I’m better than someone when Christ commanded that I love my neighbors as myself (Mark 12:31)? If I love my “neighbor,” I should want the best for her……right?
When I am jealous of someone, I lose joy for the wonderful aspects of my own life. God has given each of us unique combinations of understanding, talents, and circumstances. When we covet what God has given to others, we are not fully appreciating what has been given to us. We are not appreciating the unique person that God has made us to be.
Often, our jealousy is born out of what we think a person’s life is like rather than what it is really like. We might see how well she dresses, hear how articulate she is, or get a whiff of how expensive her perfume smells. However, we can’t see the struggles that she faces in her private life. It could be that she struggles with an invisible illness. Perhaps her parents say cruel things to her. Worse, maybe she says cruel things to herself. Regardless of what she might be going through in her life, jealousy will not help her. Only loving her with the love of Christ will. If you catch yourself feeling jealousy toward someone, don’t just try to stop it. Replace jealousy with love. Overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). Pray for her, befriend her, and be a good listener.