May 6, 2013
How to Avoid Jealousy
A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones (Proverbs 14:30, NIV).
Friend to Friend
We all know what it is like to be green with envy. We all struggle with jealousy at some point in life. Let’s be honest. How often do we look at another person and covet what we perceive to be their success? How many of us are not content to serve God with the gifts He has given us while whining about the fact that others have the gifts we want. We convince ourselves that our longing for a bigger platform is to further the Kingdom when, in reality, that longing is for self-promotion, fame and recognition. Ugly, isn’t it? Jealousy is one of the most dangerous emotions because it is one of the most destructive.
“Anger is cruel, and wrath is like a flood, but who can survive the destructiveness of jealousy?” (Proverbs 27:4).
“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice” (James 3:13-16).
James asks, “Who is wise and understanding among you?” The word “wise” describes one with moral insight and/or skill in the practical issues of life. The word “understanding” means “intellectual perception.” James asks these pointed questions and then calls for a spiritual “Show and Tell” when he says, “Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”
James is sending us a strong message that wisdom and understanding are not measured by degrees, but by deeds. In other words, it is not how much we know that counts, but how much we are living that matters. We can talk a great spiritual game, but if we have a jealous heart, if we harbor envy, allowing it to creep into our lives and ministries, taking up residence, then we have no wisdom and are living a lie.
James defines jealousy as “bitter envy and selfish ambition” (James 3:14). “Bitter envy” literally means, “a nasty jealousy” while “selfish ambition” refers to “a contentious selfishness” or “a hostile ego.” “Selfish ambition” can also be translated as a “party spirit,” and was a term used by the Greeks to describe a dishonest politician who works the crowd, using every opportunity and every possible method to draw attention to himself in an effort to win votes. James is painting an ugly picture of jealousy.
I read about a fisherman who loved to catch crabs. After many years of experience, he learned that he never needed a top for his crab basket. If one of the crabs starts to climb up the sides of the basket, the others will reach up and pull it back down. What a perfect picture of jealousy! A jealous person tears others down in order to promote himself. And isn’t our world filled with people who do that?
“You are still not spiritual. You have jealousy and arguing among you. This shows that you are not spiritual. You are acting like people of the world” (1 Corinthians 3:3).
People of the world secretly cheer when their enemy fails.
People of the world are driven by ego.
People of the world want what everyone else has.
People of the world are suspicious of everyone, trusting no one.
People of the world resent the success of others.
People of the world are taught by envy and jealousy to take care of self above all others.
John and Dave were hiking when they spotted a mountain lion staring at them. John froze in his tracks but Dave sat down on a log, tore off his hiking boots, pulled a pair of running shoes from his backpack and quickly put them on. John looked at him in amazement! “You can’t outrun a mountain lion!” he said. Dave shrugged and responded, “I don’t have to! I just have to outrun you!” I am so glad that God’s people are not like that, aren’t you? Actually, Paul is writing to God’s people, warning them that jealousy is deadly to the unity of the church. Jealousy springs from a heart of insecurity and bubbles out in self-centered actions, arrogant words and divisive attitudes. We must realize that jealousy and envy are in direct opposition to the very nature of Jesus Christ and as a result, produce ungodly results such as:
Jealousy triggers the release of a false pride. I read the story of a proud woodpecker that was tapping away at a dead tree when the sky unexpectedly turned black and the thunder began to roll. The woodpecker went right on working. Suddenly a bolt of lightning struck the old tree, splintering it into hundreds of pieces. Startled but unhurt, the haughty bird flew off, screeching to his feathered friends, "Hey, everyone, look what I did! Look what I did!" The jealous man must be first in everything. He cannot stand to see anyone except himself in the limelight. Pride is driven to boast. Pride is self-worship.
Few jealous people realize that they are jealous, and even if they did, would deny it. Jealousy always opposes truth because truth always exposes jealousy. In James 3:13-16 James describes a destructive sequence that is initiated by envy and jealousy. First, selfish ambition leads to a party spirit, a spirit of rivalry. In order to “win the election,” we must resort to boasting, which usually involves lies. When jealousy is present in our hearts, we oppose truth and our very life becomes a lie.
James 3:16 explains that where there is “envy and selfish ambition,” there is disorder. A world dominated by jealousy is a world in chaos. “Disorder” literally means “insurrection” and portrays the idea of an angry mob. In other words, when jealousy fills the heart, the life will be in chaos. Priorities are wrong. Focus is misplaced; contentment vanishes while joy and peace disappear. We become inward and our hearts unhealthy. Jealousy is simply not good for you.
- Sinful habits
James 3:16 explains that jealousy not only creates disorder and chaos, it invites “every evil practice” to take up residence in our lives. Jealousy gives the enemy a foothold, a command post from which he oversees the building of sinful habits. “Evil” literally means “worthless” or “of no account.” Jealousy consumes our lives with the pursuit of worthless things that do not matter.
Ecclesiastes 4:4 “All labor and all achievement that spring from man’s envy of his neighbor…is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”
Jealousy is a spiritual cancer that will invade and destroy whatever it touches. Everything we do from the motive of jealousy is empty and does not count in Kingdom work. We need to brutally and honestly examine every heart motive, and choose against anything or anyone who promotes jealousy and envy.
Lord, forgive me for allowing jealousy to be present in my life. I confess it to you as sin. Please strengthen me and help me guard my heart against any kind of envy. I love You, Father. You are all I need. Teach me to walk in Your ways and fill my heart with Your love and kindness.
In Jesus’ name,
Now It’s Your Turn
Are any of the following characteristics or behaviors present in your life? If so, can you identify its source? What steps do you need to take in order to find victory in each area? Record your answers in your journal.
- Sinful habits____________________________________________
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