While my wife and I were taking a leisurely afternoon stroll in a quaint community near our home, I overheard a few conversations standing in line at a coffee shop and sitting outside on a park bench. The first was about the couple’s second home on Cape Cod. The second was in reference to the luxury vehicle one man had just purchased for his daughter. What was it about their casual comments that tugged on me? I don’t like to admit it, but both sparked a tinge of jealousy in my heart…a response I neither desired or appreciated. I was surprised how quickly it emerged.
Upon reflection, what I experienced is well known to the biblical writers, and to centuries of Christ followers just like me. “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones” (Proverbs 14:30). “Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?” (Proverbs 27:4). “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity…hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition…” (Galatians 5:19-21). The only One who can handle jealously in a godly manner is God – the One who is jealous for our love and attention above all other loves vying for our affection.
Jealousy is one of those ugly words we’d all prefer expunged from our vocabulary and experience. Like it’s sibling envy and its cousin anger, jealousy is what eeks out of a heart that’s not fully at peace, vulnerable to various alternatives to godly fondness. Jealously raises its head when we’re not content with our own circumstances, and prefer anothers to our own. Jealousy emerges when we’re in a complaining spirit and desirous of what’s seemingly out of reach. Jealousy wreaks with a stench of disharmony from within and wreaks havoc on our walk with others.
In what ways has your heart grown jealous recently? Is someone around you making more money, enjoying more happiness, expressing more delight, looking more beautiful, sounding more intelligent, owning more possessions, or appearing more athletic than you? If you’re not able to celebrate their personal life circumstance, then perhaps there’s a seed of jealousy burrowing it’s head down deep in the soil of your heart. Left unattended, it’s bound to grow into rage, dissension, factions and envy, or other less desirable responses.
Exploring the condition of our heart requires us to look authentically in the mirror of our attitudes toward others and within ourselves. Most likely, if you’re experiencing jealousy, the invitation from God is to find your joy in Him. “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another…if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12: 15-18). And, learn the secret of contentment “whatever the circumstances…in need…in plenty…in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4: 11-13).