Today I want to write about a topic that is rarely talked about in our churches, yet is something that almost all of us have seen: Jealousy. Having been in ministry for forty years I have noticed that jealousy has crippled countless Christian lives. It has caused dedicated workers to abandon their call, it has ended close friendships, it has cut people off from church fellowship, and it has driven believers to irrational behavior. It is a poison that must be stopped in each heart. We must not ever let it take root in ourselves, and we must warn others of its danger.
The Scripture is filled with examples of jealousy. The first to be mentioned is Cain, jealous that his brother’s sacrifice was accepted and not his. Without going into the reasons why his sacrifice was not accepted, we can easily see that this jealousy led first to separating himself from God and then eventually to killing his brother. Sin, in the form of jealousy, was crouching at the door, and Cain could not master it (See Genesis 4). We see jealousy again between Jacob and Esau, where we are told that Esau allowed a root of bitterness to destroy his life (Hebrews 12:15-17). Then there was the jealousy Joseph’s brothers had concerning Joseph (Genesis 37, especially verses 5, 11, 18-20). The jealousy here led to the drama, with all its sin and heartache, that is recorded in Genesis 37-50. We still haven’t even left the first book of the Bible!
In almost every case of jealousy mentioned in the Scriptures (and there are quite a few) very serious consequences resulted. In Numbers 12, Aaron and Miriam nurture that spirit of jealousy against Moses. The consequences are that Miriam is struck with dreaded leprosy. Another vivid example of jealousy, and it consequences, begins when King Saul hears the women of the city sing, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” From that day forward, Saul becomes jealous of David (I Samuel 18, especially verses 6-9, 12, 15, 28-29). The jealousy became so intense that Saul repeatedly tries to kill David. Saul’s relationship with Jonathan his son is destroyed because of this jealousy. The rest of I Samuel is essentially this story. Saul is driven crazy because he allowed jealousy to take root in his life. Actually, this jealousy opened the door for an evil spirit to harass Saul (I Samuel 19:9). Jealousy is a poison that enslaves, blinds, and can even destroy the life of God in our lives and in those around us. It produces insane behavior.
There are more examples in the Scripture. We are told in the New Testament (James 3:14-16) that jealousy is demonic and leads to disorder and every evil thing. I have observed that most church splits and division among church leadership have at least some connection to jealousy. Jealousy may not always be the central issue of the division, but it often keeps the offended and separated parties from being able to appropriate the clear Biblical principles of relationship. Sadly, most of you reading this have yourselves seen far too many examples of this. Having had the opportunity to see some of these situations closely, I can testify that jealousy has been a major factor in preventing Biblical resolution from taking place.
Jealousy strikes at all levels of our society. We see in the political arena. We can point to examples in history where wars have started because of jealousy. We see it within sports teams and between teams. We see it in the entertainment industry, the media, in education, and in business. We see jealousy among students of schools of all levels. We see it between spouses and among siblings. This corrupted world is filled with jealousy. But among God’s people? We cannot tolerate it! We have to recognize it for what it is, and reject it and its evil lies that destroy our unity!
My admonition to all of us is that we diligently guard ourselves from this poisonous spirit of jealousy that will destroy us and the work of God around us. And let’s talk more openly about this evil within the Church. If not, we will continue to fell prey to the ugly spirit of jealousy. We will continue to see division. We will continue to see workers abandon their calling. We will continue to see ruined lives.
Question: Where have you seen the affects of jealousy?