“But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” (James 3:14-16)
Jealousy is certainly a monstrous sin. It rips and rends our relationship with God our Father. It goes marauding through our Christian communities, trampling love, devotion, and fellowship underfoot. Finally, it devours our personal happiness, fulfillment and well-being before shambling off to terrorize new victims.
First of all, jealousy and envy are sins against God. Like greed and every other vice that focuses on the “Self,” jealousy rips our love, trust, and devotion away from God and places the emphasis on our own sinful desires and rebellious tendencies. Sometimes I don’t believe that God has given me everything I need. I often doubt that His withholding of certain things from me is for my own good. My sinful human heart tells me that I deserve much more than what God provides.
Of course, you and I know what we really deserve when we stop to think about it; nothing more or less than temporal suffering and death followed by eternal torment in Hell. God has given us so much more (and less!) than we deserve. We live a life filled with beauty and pleasure. We need so little, yet God pours out His blessings on us abundantly every day. And in His mercy and grace, God has placed the scourge of His wrath squarely upon the shoulders of His Son, Jesus Christ, while lavishing us with His love and affection. Reflecting on these facts reveals the truly petty nature of our common jealousies.
Secondly, a jealous heart opens the floodgates for all manner of wicked behavior toward our neighbors. We find “every evil practice” in the presence of selfish ambition because we are so easily enticed to sin when confronted by someone who is receiving the goods, attention, or lifestyle to which we feel entitled. Like the early morning workers in the vineyard (see Matthew 20), we readily begrudge others of the blessings and riches that we deem them “unworthy” of receiving – forgetting that God has been much more than fair with dispensing our own wages. Our selfishness is quickly inflamed to sin against them in thought, word, and deed because we cast an envious eye upon their blessings – when we should be rejoicing with them and helping to preserve and protect our neighbor’s goods, property and life.
Finally, after the monster of jealousy has reduced our relationships with God and man to smoldering ruins, it will turn upon us and devour our very heart and soul. As Proverbs 14:30 says, “A heart at peace gives life to body, but envy rots the bones.” When we willfully refuse to recognize the many blessings that God has showered upon us, life has a way of shriveling up and withering away. We become consumed by our own bitterness, always pining for those things which the Devil convinces us we need in order to be “happy” but which God lovingly withholds from us in order to reveal the true way to happiness: Walking with Him in humble praise and service.
Jealousy and envy are deadly adversaries, threatening our own personal well-being as well as the larger community of Christians and the witness we bear to the world. Arm yourself with the mighty weapons God has provided to fend off this green-eyed beast: a joyful thankfulness for all that God has done for us; peace that comes from contentment with God’s physical and spiritual blessings rather than the trappings of earthly pelf; goodness that puts the “self” aside and rejoices in the good fortune of others; faithfulness to our true calling of seeking first God’s kingdom and His righteousness rather than vain pleasures or riches; self-control to hold our bitterness and resentment in check, drowning the old sinful nature and calling forth the warrior to selflessly go and serve. Jesus’ victory on the cross not only frees us from the eternal consequences of sin, but also from the earthly terrorizing of sins like jealousy, guarding our hearts and minds through His love.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I thank and praise You for providing so richly and abundantly for all my physical and spiritual needs, especially for the gift of faith which You have bestowed upon me through the Holy Spirit. Grant that praising You and serving others would come first in my life and that the doors of faith would be opened for all, that they too might receive the blessings of Christ’s righteousness; in Jesus’ precious name. Amen.