"Her piece is bigger!" my child protested as he pushed away the piece of apparently-too-small-birthday cake.
"I want a bigger one like hers."
As I rolled my eyes and heaved an annoyed sigh, I realized the pieces of cake were different sizes. Obviously, I didn't pay careful attention to how equally I cut the cake. I plopped the smaller piece in front of the baby and returned to cutting more uniform slices. What I really wanted to say was, "So what that your cake isn't as big as your sister's? Life's not fair. Eat your cake."
Jealousy is a surprisingly easy and readily available trap.
I didn't say that though, because I can relate to those feelings of apparent injustice. I may not fuss (outwardly) over a smaller piece of cake, but I've been known to stomp my foot heavenward when I don't get what someone else gets. Something inside me wants to have everything I want and everything everyone else has. Maybe you can relate?
I could make lists of things I'm quick to envy:
- my friend's new house
- the new furniture she just picked out
- her perfectly maintained flower beds
- her always-clean car
Maybe it's her:
- free time
- fit figure
- ability to turn every Pinterest project into reality
Perhaps I envy:
- the way her kids obey in public all the time
- the way her husband showers her with romantic gestures
- the success she's experiencing in ministry
Whatever it is, when someone possesses something and I don't, my inner five-year-old screams with jealousy.
In Exodus 20:17 the Scripture calls this coveting: "You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's." In other words, the Bible calls these all-too-common feelings, sinful.
Jealousy indicates three false assumptions on my part:
- If she has something, I should have it too.
- If God loves me, He will provide me with everything I want.
- My happiness, satisfaction, peace, and security depend on my hopes, dreams, and desires being fulfilled my way.
James 3:13–18 says if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, this isn't the wisdom from the Lord. It calls such jealousy "earthly, unspiritual, and demonic." And where "jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice."
In my life, this looks like:
- bitterness toward friends who have things I don't
- doubt and distrust toward God
- anger, discontent, and frustration over my own life and circumstances
Jealousy is a surprisingly easy and readily available trap. Like an x-ray exposes fractured bones, jealousy exposes weak faith and sinful discontentment. Proverbs 14:30 says,
"A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot."
If this verse convicts you down to your rotting, jealous bones, take heart. It isn't too late for the Spirit to perform a bone-marrow transplant, carefully cutting away jealousy and self-righteousness (selfish ambition), healing them with the cleansing blood of the gospel that says, "You aren't righteous; you don't deserve forgiveness, but despite your sin, God gives you both in Christ."
Here are three Gospel Truths to stop jealousy in its tracks:
- I need nothing other than what I've already been given in Christ.
"His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises" (2 Pet. 1:3–4).
- God does love me.
"By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us" (1 John 3:16).
- My happiness, satisfaction, peace, security, and obedience directly depend on whether or not I place my hope in Christ.
"In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory" (Eph. 1:11–12).
Ultimately, the Holy Spirit gives me the wisdom and strength I need to flee the enemy's grip of jealousy and selfish ambition. Instead of obsessing over what I don't have, I'm called to stand in awe of what I do have: the forgiveness of God through the sacrifice of Christ.
Meditating on God's grace through Christ will facilitate thanksgiving. And when jealousy gives way to the Spirit, it's rotting fruit is replaced by what James calls a harvest of righteousness: the "wisdom from above" that is pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, and sincere (James 3:13–18).
If jealousy is a familiar foe, don't grow comfortable and complacent. Instead, settle in for the long haul, prepared to fight the good fight, and ask the Holy Spirit to assist you daily in decomposing jealousy and growing in Gospel gratitude.
How will you uproot jealousy in your life this week?