Jealousy is not always a bad thing. Yes, it can be sinful, but there is also a godly jealousy which we all should seek. Let us take a brief look at both.
“For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice” (Jam 3:16-17).
In this verse, selfishness and jealousy are connected. More specifically, self-seeking precedes jealousy. When we are focused too much on what we want, and on what we don’t have, we become jealous of what others possess. The more we seek ourselves, the less we focus on God. Christians must learn to be content with what blessings God has given to us.
“But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way” (1 Cor 3:1-3).
Here we learn that envy is also connected to strife and division. If envy and jealousy are present among people, then strife and division are not far behind. Often it is accepted that jealousy is some sort of internal sin by which nobody else is affected. It’s true that jealousy starts out on the inside, but that jealousy can grow into a resentment that will manifest itself on the outside through strife and division. In this instance, the Corinthians were jealous of who had preached the word to them. Jealousy today among Christians can center on things such as worldly possessions and wealth, position in society, looks, intelligence, or skills. Christians can also be jealous of fellow Christian’s talents of a spiritual nature, such as their level of spiritual maturity, prominence, and reputation among brethren, or critical thinking and communicative skills. Instead of envying the talents of others, let us reflect and learn from them, and continue to do the best that we can.
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh. For these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal 5:16-21) “Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another” (Gal 5:26).
Jealousy is mentioned as a work of the flesh in Galatians chapter 5. In fact, jealousy is mentioned three times in the context of verses 16-26. The word jealousy is used once, and the word envy twice. We learn here that if we practice jealousy, we will not inherit the kingdom of God.
“I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Cor 11:2-3)
Paul here was jealous for the Corinthians with a godly jealousy; he desired that they follow Christ and no one else. This is a kind of jealousy that we should feel as Christians. We should desire just as Paul did, that all people come to Christ, and only to Christ.
“You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God...” (Ex 20:3-5)
The supreme creator of all has told us that we are to serve him and only him. Let us heed the warning he as given us, and devote our lives to his service, all the while being content, and not giving in to feelings of sinful jealousy.