I have been struggling so much with jealousy. Always have. I really need help, but I’m looking for something beyond being told that the Bible says it’s wrong. I know it’s wrong. What I need help with is how to tackle jealousy. Also, how do I tell the difference between good jealousy and bad jealousy? God describes Himself as a jealous God, so there is a good kind, right? Can you help?
I want to start by thanking you for asking this question. Often we’d like to know what is right and wrong ― but we leave it there. The morality or ethics may become clear but when it comes to it, we don’t know how to go about living it out. So, I am glad that your question is primarily about how to tackle jealousy, rather than merely about whether it’s right or wrong.
Let me start off, though, by answering the latter part of the question. Is there such a thing as good jealousy? If so, what differentiates it from sinful jealousy?
More often than not, the Bible talks negatively about jealousy. It’s portrayed as a sin that must be avoided (Galatians 5:19-21; Proverbs 6:34; James 3:14-16). But it is also portrayed as an attribute of God (Exodus 20:5, 34:14; Nahum 1:2). How do we resolve this? What is the right kind of jealousy and what is wrong? These are natural questions to have.
In the context of this covenant relationship, God can rightly be jealous with His people
One of the most important principles in studying Scripture is to read and understand the context. To understand what is happening and why helps us understand the text better. For example, when we read chapters 20 and 34 in Exodus, we see that it is fair for God to be jealous. In the first verses of chapter 20, we see God as the One who chooses Israel, redeems and rescues them, and enters into a covenantal relationship with them.
This means that God made Himself exclusive to them, in one sense. And they were to be His people, exclusively. In the context of this covenant relationship, God can rightly be jealous with His people. All their affections, love, and worship should be directed to and belong to Him alone.
John Piper explains good jealousy to be “a joyful desire to receive the affections from another person that really belong to you, or an appropriate indignation if the affections that belong to you are not being given to you”.
Consider a biblical marriage, where the husband and wife get into a lifelong covenant relationship with each other. Both of them have the right to feel jealous when they see their spouse not giving them the affection that belongs to them. We cannot tell our spouse that they are wrong to feel jealous, because we know that we ought not to have any other love or affection apart from the other.
Before we look at how to tackle this sin, it is important to understand its root causes. Like any other sin, jealousy flows out of our hearts. And that’s where we need to start. Many things may instigate jealousy in a person, but at its core, it is often because of fear, comparison, or insecurity.
Now, we move on to the ‘how’ of tackling jealousy.
Jealousy flows out of an unsatisfied heart. We want more or we want better. Friend, take heart, for you already have the greatest gift that anyone can ever be given.
God sent His son Jesus to die for the very sin you’re struggling with, save you from it, and bless you with eternal life (Matthew 1:21; Romans 6:23). Now with this gift comes every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus that you and I can enjoy today on earth (Ephesians 1:3).
These gifts are much more worthwhile and meaningful than anything we can be jealous of. So firstly, cherish the gift of salvation. Knowing Jesus and all that He has done for us is a great gift to enjoy. We must persevere daily to be satisfied in Jesus and the blessings that flow out of the gospel.
Another way to fight jealousy is by being thankful, content, and learning to count our blessings.
We must persevere daily to be satisfied in Jesus and the blessings that flow out of the gospel
Don’t stop at celebrating the blessings the Lord has poured into your life. Fight the sin of jealousy by celebrating with others as they are blessed.
When you see or hear that God has blessed someone, wish them. Be happy for them. When we are grateful for God’s goodness in the lives of others, it takes our mind off of wanting what they have.
Secondly, pray to God to bless them even more: The Lord’s blessings on them are for their good. So, pray that He will graciously bless them with even more.
This will not only help the issue of jealousy, but change our focus from what they have to who they are. We will inevitably start to care more about the person we’re praying for rather than his or her material things.
When we are grateful for God’s goodness in the lives of others, it takes our mind off of wanting what they have
Romans 13:14 says, “…make no provision for the flesh”. It is important that we take the initiative to intentionally step back from conversations or situations that can cause us to be jealous.
Just like with any other sin, it is important for us to be accountable about jealousy. Share your struggle with fellow believers; let them check in on you.
Confess your struggle and have your accountability partners and leaders pray for you. Let them see what helps you and what doesn’t. These friendships will help you be in the right environment and guide you the right way.
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