We normally think of jealousy as being a negative characteristic, a sin similar to envy. And we may think that jealousy is rooted in insecurity. Yet there is appropriate jealousy as well as improper jealousy. Righteous jealousy is a Divine (godly) trait. When we worship false gods (possessions, money, our career, sexual immorality, self-promotion, obsessions with things, self-worship, etc.), we provoke God’s jealousy over our idolatry. You may say, “How could that be?” But God says in (Exodus 20:4-5), “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God….”
God is “jealous” in the sense that He expects full devotion, not a light or lukewarm commitment. Worship belongs to God and He is right to be jealous of it. God alone deserves our worship and praise (Jeremiah 10:6-7). He commanded His children to worship Him alone. He will not tolerate the worship of other gods.
God is jealous when someone takes something that rightly belongs to Him and keeps it for himself or gives it to another. Similarly we can have appropriate jealousy, when someone takes something that lawfully belongs to us.
On the other hand, there is an unrighteous jealousy that gives birth to animosity. This kind of jealousy goes hand and hand with insecurity. Most people do not readily admit their deep feelings of envy, finding it easier to focus on the jealousy of others. But if we are honest in our self reflection, we may find uncomfortable feelings beneath our pretentious surface. For instance, you may say, “Why can’t I be like her/him? How come they have it all, and I don’t?” We may try “to keep up with the Joneses”. There is nothing wrong with desiring to have talents, skills or even nice things. But when our desire for more overrides the will of God, we can find ourselves dissatisfied with what God has given us. This is a dangerous place to be as it can lead to ruin and destruction.
Another problem with improper jealousy is that it can poison our relationships. The venom of jealousy can eventually bring relational separation and pain.
This brings to mind the story of Joseph. Joseph is an important figure in the first book of the bible, Genesis. His life story is at times heartbreaking, but it ends victoriously. Joseph was his father’s (Isaac’s) favorite son. His jealous brothers planned to kill him, but settled for selling him into slavery in Egypt. How could his own flesh betray him? Sadly, jealousy can blind people to the point that they deny their own family.
As Joseph endured years of slavery and later prison (he was falsely accused of rape by the king’s wife), he continued to believe in God and remained hopeful. He glorified God even in the midst of his darkest hours and he managed to help other prisoners by giving them hope and comfort. God showed His mighty power through Joseph’s life and Joseph eventually became the second most powerful person in Egypt.
What do we learn from Joseph’s perseverance and his servant’s heart? The Bible encourages us to combat jealousy by renewing our way of thinking. We can accomplish this by reading the Bible, praying, obeying God’s commands, and fellowshipping with mature believers. We are blessed to have such great access to the throne of God through Jesus as our advocate. God’s word can enable us to be joyful for someone else’s success, talents, and achievements.
As we start thinking less about ourselves and instead focus on God and on the needs of others, our hearts will begin to change. We can keep this in the forefront our minds, even in the thick of unpleasant circumstances, because of God’s love for us. He desires to show His power through our struggles.
The Bible clearly tells us that we are to have the perfect kind of love that God has for us. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not ENVY, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5)