ABC Extra – Hey, Jealousy!

March 5, 2012 at 5:15 am 5 comments

One of the things I’ve always wished for is more hand-eye coordination.  From the time I was a child, I have never been particularly adept at doing anything that required my hands and eyes to work coordinately.  This comes out especially in the arena of sports.  A baseball – I cannot hit it.  A basketball – I cannot dribble it.  A football – I cannot catch it.  This is why, to stay fit, I run and lift weights.  There is no hand eye coordination required.

I have always marveled at those who could crush a baseball or swish a basketball or catch a football.  After all, these athletes can do things I could never hope to do.  Honestly, I am more than a little jealous of some of these folks.

Jealousy is a strange emotion.  We usually think of jealousy as a strident yearning of the heart after something someone else has.  We can be jealous of someone else’s talent.  Or we can be jealous of someone else’s wealth.  We can even be jealous of someone else’s piety – his self-control, her gentle spirit, his ability to be content rather than jealous!

In the Bible, the word “jealousy” has both a positive and a negative use.  In its negative sense, it describes “envy.”  Solomon warns, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones” (Proverbs 14:30).  In its positive sense, jealousy describes “zeal.”  As Isaiah famously prophesies concerning the birth of the Messiah: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over His kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:6-7).  So what is the difference between sinful envy and holy zeal?  Envy is jealousy of someone while zeal is jealousy for someone.

Envy sees something someone else has and says, “I want it,” and either seethes with resentment because what is desired cannot be had, or uses dishonest or even diabolical means to attain what is desired.  King Ahab is the poster child for this kind of jealousy.  When the king tries to cut a deal with one of his subjects, Naboth, to purchase from him a vineyard, Naboth refuses.  When he is turned down, the story says Ahab “lay on his bed sulking” (1 Kings 21:5).  So Ahab hatches a plan.  He has Naboth stoned and commandeers his vineyard.  Ahab’s envy knows no bounds.

Zeal, on the other hand, is a deep desire and affection for something with which God has entrusted you.  As such, you are jealous for it, desiring to protect it and keep it from harm.  In Numbers 5, the law speaks of the jealousy a man has for his wife.  And indeed, a man should be jealous for his wife.  For God has given a man a great gift in a wife – and he should honor and protect her.  As Solomon says, “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22).

Jealousy is not all bad.  When God prohibits all forms of idolatry in the First Commandment, He explains His reasoning thusly:  “I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep My commandments” (Exodus 20:5-6).  God is jealous for us.  Beautifully, this simply means He loves us.

What kind of jealousy marks your life – jealousy for someone or jealousy of someone?  Do you seek to honor and protect those you love or do you seek to take that which you do not have?  One kind of jealousy flows from love.  The other flows from greed.  May you, as God’s child, be jealous with a “godly jealousy” (2 Corinthians 11:2).

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Rev. Kevin Jennings  |  March 5, 2012 at 6:49 am

    Hi, Zach! I think you’re right that jealousy is definitely an “of” experience. Like you, I’m often jealous of athletes and especially smart folks. But, jealousy doesn’t always, if even usually, take the form of violent passion. Most times, jealousy takes the form of what Jesus condemns in the Sermon on the Mount (looking intently, etc.).

    I think of Thurber’s “The Secret Life of Walter Mittty” as an example of my thought. Walter Mitty is the hapless hero, never quite able to do the things he’d like to be able to do and always wanting to show up his detractors (the incident with the snow chains comes to mind). Mitty, in a very passive way, is jealous of those around him, daydreaming and wanting to “best” his neighbors.

    All of us have these episodes from the time we’re children. They aren’t really struggles, either, because there’s no enactment. Perhaps this is the most dangerous form of the jealousy of which you speak, which, at heart, is idolatry.

    On the other hand, in Hebrew, jealous and zealous are the same word. What determines the meaning? Context!

  • 2. Rev. Kevin Jennings  |  March 5, 2012 at 6:52 am

    One more thing… Some of us are jealous of those who write exceptionally good blogs. Keep up the good work!

  • 3. Pastor Zach  |  March 5, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    Hi Kevin,

    That’s a great illustration of jealousy! And you are right, one of the dangers of jealousy is how easily it is hidden and how often it is either not noticed or sadly justified.

    I hope things are going well!


  • 4. Marlene Mueller  |  March 6, 2012 at 6:10 am

    My question is not with jealousy, but with the mind and heart. Scripture seems plain that ideas and thoughts start in the heart. However, in our Bible cell we’re studying a book by Joyce Meyers called “Battlefield of the Mind”. How do the thoughts we have flow from the mind, if it all starts in the heart?

    • 5. Pastor Zach  |  March 6, 2012 at 9:11 am

      Hi Marlene,

      Joyce Meyer seems to be presenting a false dichotomy when she speaks of the “battlefield of the mind” over and against the “battlefield of the heart.” When we take our stand against Satan and his schemes, we do so with our whole being, just as we love the Lord with our whole being: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). Thus, being a Christian involves all of us, not just part of us. I don’t know if she teaches this in her book, but I do know that Joyce Meyer has been known to teach that if you think something with your mind, you can make it true in your life. I would take issue with this. As Christians, we are not called to make things true with our minds. Instead, we are called to trust with our minds in what is already true, and what is already true is revealed to us in Scripture. We cannot actualize things just by thinking them.

      When it comes to “where things start,” when Jesus says things such as, “For out of the overflow of a man’s heart, his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45), it is important to note that the therm “heart” here does not simply to the seat of our emotions, as we use this term; instead, it refers to our whole being. The Bible uses the term “heart” as the core of our being involving everything in us, including our minds, our souls, etc.

      I hope this helps clear things up! Let me know if you have any other questions.



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