If a person discovered they had cancer, most people would do everything they could to get rid of this terrible disease. As seen in Proverbs 14:30 jealousy is compared to such a serious illness: “Jealousy is like bone cancer.” [NCMM] Most people are not willing to admit they are jealous of others, for that would be an attack on their own weakness. However, jealousy is a disease of the emotions that infects most people. James 4:5 states that humankind has a “tendency to envy” - an almost inborn inclination to become jealous of another. What causes this? It is simple - ego.
In the Scriptures the Hebrew and Greek most often translated “jealousy” have a good and bad form. It is the latter we will consider here. Most people know what jealousy is when they see its manifestations in other people, but seldom in themselves. Jealousy may be defined as “resentful suspicion of another’s motives.” It is the kissing cousin of envy which is a covetous greed for something possessed by another - beauty, wealth, social position, influence, authority, intelligence, education, riches, opportunities, promotion, or respect accorded others. [Ecclesiastes 4:4; 9:6; Ezekiel 35:11] The first reported case of jealousy is that of Rachel regarding Jacob’s other wife [Genesis 30:1], though we might expect it in Cain.
Jealousy ALWAYS stems from egotism and selfishness [James 3:14], and it is ALWAYS manifest in negative speech or slander, or worse - physical harm. [Acts 13:45] Jealousy drove the Jewish hierarchy to kill Jesus and persecute his disciples. [Matthew 27:18; Mark 15:50; Acts 5:17; 7:9]
It is almost unthinkable - beyond comprehension - that one could be jealousy of another’s spiritual blessings and privileges. However, such has been the case from the beginning. It is likely that jealousy over God’s approval of Abel moved Cain to slay his brother. [Genesis 4:5] Where there is hatred, or an extreme dislike, usually jealousy may be found. [1 John chapter 3]
Some Christians may become jealous of another who manifests God’s blessing and direction. This was the case with Joseph and his brothers. For Genesis 37:11 says, “His brothers grew jealous of him.” [Acts 7:9] Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him because of his spiritual blessings in seeing a vision. Of course, we can sympathize a bit with the feelings of Joseph’s brothers. If some one came to us and said they had a vision of all of us bowing and kissing their feet, we might be taken back a bit. However, we cannot sympathize with the actions of Joseph’s brothers.
Jealousy spawns political ambition. Miriam and Dathan became jealous of Moses’ authority, leading to punishment by God. Psalm 106:16, 17 records the event:
“When men in the camp were jealous of Moses and Aaron, the holy ones of the LORD, the earth opened and swallowed up Dathan and the company of Abiram.” [RSV]
Even Aaron became jealous of the spiritual blessings that came upon others:
“But there remained two men in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad: and the Spirit rested on them; and they were of those who were written, but had not gone out to the Tent; and they prophesied in the camp. There ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp. Joshua the son of Nun, the minister of Moses, one of his chosen men, answered, My lord Moses, forbid them. Moses said to him, ‘Are you jealous for my sake? would that all Yahweh's people were prophets, that Yahweh would put his Spirit on them!’” [Numbers 11:26-29 WEB]
It is jealousy that drove king Saul to hate David and his men. [2 Samuel 21:3] When Saul heard the women sing in praise of both David and himself, “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his tens of thousands,” it enraged the king. Jealous persons are tormented when they hear others praised in their presence. For this reason even honest persons must be careful when praising others that they do not needlessly arouse jealousy in others.
Jealousy is a mark of Christian immaturity and a lack of spirituality. Paul writes to the Corinthian congregation:
“And so, brothers, I was unable to speak to you as [spiritual] persons, but rather as fleshly persons, as infants in Christ. I gave you only milk to drink and not solid food, because you were unable to accept it. Neither are you able even now. For you are still fleshly because jealousy and strife are in your midst. Are you not yet fleshly? Are you not walking as humans do?” [1 Corinthians 3:1-3 NCMM]
Jealousy is associated with and manifest by other bad qualities that can infiltrate an entire congregation. Again, at the end of his second inspired epistle Paul warns the Corinthians:
“But, I am afraid that somehow when I arrive I shall not find you [Corinthians] as I would wish, and you might not find me as you wished. Instead, [I would find] strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, backbitings, whisperings, self-inflations, disorders.” [2 Corinthians 12:20 NCMM]
Note those things associated with jealousy: strife, anger, contention, slander, suspicion whispering, inflated egos - all leading to disharmony.
Paul shows the association of jealousy with egotism and confrontational attitudes:
“If we continue to live spiritually we will also conduct ourselves spiritually. May none of us become self-centered, nor adversarial with one another, nor [become jealous of one another].” [Galatians 5:25, 26 NCMM]
Jealousy is earthly, animalistic and satanic. It is always the cause of disunity within the Church. James 3:13-16 describes the difference between to kinds of “wisdom”:
“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him [or, her] prove it by his [or, her] good conduct with works in wisdom’s meekness. However, if you have in your heart bitter jealousy and selfishness, do not boast and continue to lie against the truth. This is not the wisdom that descends from above, but rather, is earthly, [animal], demonic. For where there is jealousy and selfishness there is disorder and the practice of every kind of evil.” [NCMM]
Thus, if disorder is present, it is likely jealousy is the motivating force.
A degree of jealousy exists in all of us, for we all like to be praised and told we are doing well at something. But, if ego and pride become unnatural, then jealousy can begin to take deep root. Like a climbing vine, it can be almost unnoticeable at first, but in the end it will swallow the framework around which it grows.
Jealousy is one of “the works of the flesh” that could cause a Christian to lose his or her Kingdom inheritance. [Galatians 5:20, 21] Because of this all too real and serious danger, every disciple of Christ must work very hard to root out any feelings of jealousy. Where jealousy exists, love is absent, for “love is never jealous.” [1 Corinthians 13:5]
In order to stop it one must cease becoming fleshly in their thinking. Paul writes:
[Romans 13:13, 14 NCMM]
“As in daylight let us walk in good behavior … not in strife and jealousy. Rather, put on the Lord Jesus Christ and give no fleshly forethought which results in [envy].”
By “putting on the Lord Jesus Christ” jealousy will vanish. If jealousy remains - no matter the claims of, “I am a Christian” - the claim is false and the person is not clothed in the frame of mind and disposition of the Lord Jesus.
Peter also exhorts,
“Put off all harmfulness, deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all kinds of slander.” [1 Peter 2:1 NCMM]
Harmfulness of another is often motivated by jealousy. So, when moved to harm another, or work evil to them, think what engine is it work in the non-Christian makeup. Admit that there is a degree of deceit and two-faced hypocrisy - along with wicked manipulations - and these are spawned by jealousy. Think that every time a negative word or a slanderous remark is made about another, the motive is jealousy.
Jealousy not only causes a spiritual cancer - as hate may also cause physical illness - but it can even work great harm to the object of such jealousy. Proverbs 27:4 puts it,
“There is the cruelty of rage, also the flood of anger, but who can stand before jealousy?” [NCMM]
Jealousy can cause even the strongest person - such as a man like Moses - to behave improperly or completely stumble. Though a great flood can move large boulders, the slow and constant drip of water will wear away the greatest stone. Just so, a strong Christian may be able to withstand a temporary deluge of hateful rage, but over many years the Chinese “water torture” of jealousy can crumble even a great faith.
Psalm 106:32, 33 explains what befell the great leader, in part due to slander:
“[Israel] made Moses angry at the waters of Meribah so that it did not go well him because of the people. It was because they provoked his spirit that he spoke rashly with his mouth.” [NCMM]
Thus, the principle stated at Ecclesiastes 7:7,
“Oppressive [words] may drive even a wise person crazy.” [NCMM]
Sometimes we share part of the blame for causing a godly person to err.
Surely jealousy is an evil that the Christian must root of his or her system. It ruins others, and causes physical, emotional and spiritual illness to the jealous one. Love will push jealousy out of its dark corners. Truth will expose jealous feelings and drive them from the spirit. Faith and trust will replace jealous feelings with peaceful harmony. Empathy and compassion will change jealousy into understanding and patience. If we cease jealousy and envy we will find our relationship with God much improved and we will follow the footsteps of the Lamb into everlasting glory.
Nazarene Commentary 2000© by Mark Heber Miller
Back to Index to Biblical Articles