Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?
Jealousy has been the downfall of humanity since our very beginning.
In Genesis 4 it was Cain’s jealousy of his brother Abel that led to murder. While it might be easy to dismiss their story as inapplicable to ourselves, since we probably don’t have a criminal record for murder and are not tempted to obtain one, it is possible to bring ruin to those we envy without ever laying a hand on them, through a snide word here and a blessing withheld there. Not only that but jealousy, when left unaddressed in our hearts, will crush us and overwhelm us.
Jealousy flourishes when others receive more or achieve better than we do. It can penetrate our minds even as we observe the lives of people we don’t know well, simply because we perceive them to have some form of advantage unavailable to us. When someone else experiences happiness because of success or a good reputation, jealousy may manifest as a kind of sadness for ourselves that excludes any gladness for the other. Consider the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32): when the elder brother watched his father celebrate the homecoming of his delinquent younger brother, he refused to cheer along. Why? Because even though he had never lost good standing with his father, he resented the joyous forgiveness and recognition given to another.
Jealousy can make us hostile toward those who have never meant to harm us. When Joseph’s brothers observed how their father loved him, “they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him” (Genesis 37:4). Suddenly, at their breakfast table, relationships were broken—and through no fault of Joseph’s! He had done nothing by his own design to intentionally harm or hinder his brothers, but they hated him because seeds of jealousy were planted deep in their hearts.
Jealousy also fails to recognize that God knows what He is doing when He apportions gifts. When we are jealous of another’s success, we say to God, “You ought to understand that I am supposed to be there… I should look like her… I should have what he has.” But shall the potter have to endure such questions from the clay (Isaiah 64:8)? Why do we think we can question God’s divine wisdom as He deals with us and with others? He has made us and arranged our circumstances exactly as He desires.
Rare is the man or woman who does not struggle with jealousy for one reason or another, at one time or another. So what is the cure for it? With the Holy Spirit’s help, it is to name jealousy for the sin that it is and ask Him to help us daily to root it out, purposefully and ruthlessly. And, again with the Spirit’s help, we can consider all that we have in Christ—for as we think about the spiritual blessings that are ours through Him, jealousy withers and contentment grows in its place. Do not let envy grow in your heart today—and if and where it has done so, root it out.
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Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg, published by The Good Book Company, thegoodbook.com. Used by Truth For Life with permission. Copyright © 2021, The Good Book Company.