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How do I deal with jealousy?

Weekly Q&A

How do I deal with jealousy?
Posted on September 14, 2021  - By Tobin Mattackal

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 dont 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?

Even jealousy has a good face

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.

The root of sinful jealousy

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.

How to tackle jealousy?

  • Cherish your greatest gift.

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 youre 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.

  • Be grateful and content.

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 

  1. Nothing we have on earth belongs to us. Sure, we may have worked hard to get to where we are. But why we have what we have is purely because of God’s goodness.
    He faithfully takes care of the needs of His children according to His will. So, we ought to start by being thankful for whatever the Lord has given us, whether small or big.
    The very realisation that nothing is ours helps us to change our perspective from wanting more — or wanting what others have — to being faithful with what we do have.
  2. Contentment is described as being “in a state of peaceful happiness”. Being content in this world is not easy. With the media — and our friends — constantly telling us that we can have a better life with better things, being content is often a tough ask.
    Still, many of us try to be content, without really knowing what it means to be so. Here is an example from Scripture: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). This is one of the most misinterpreted verses in the Bible — once again, because the context of this passage is missed.
    Paul, who is in prison, has suffered immensely for the sake of the gospel. And yet, he is thanking the church at Philippi for their heart to support his work.
    But as Paul thanks them, he encourages them by saying he has found the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. That secret — as he reveals in verse 13 — is that Christ is the ultimate state of peaceful happiness. Christ is all that he wants and needs.
    The Bible teaches that contentment is resting in the God who satisfies the deepest need of our hearts. Persevering to be content in Him is, therefore, one of the strongest ways to fight jealousy.
  3. If you’ve been to Sunday School, you will, no doubt, be familiar with the chorus, ‘Count your blessings, name them one by one’. Beyond being a good song to sing, its words hold some great reminders for daily living. The Lord is constantly showering us with blessings that we may or may not see. Taking time to reflect and count them will surprise you what the Lord has done. 
  • Celebrate others’ blessings.

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

  • Avoid conversations that might trigger your struggle.

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.

  • Accountability and confession.

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.

Tobin Mattackal

About Tobin Mattackal

Tobin Mattackal completed his Masters in Bible Studies at Criswell College in Dallas, Texas. Raised in the UAE, he spent his university days discipling youngsters and reading Scripture with them. He is currently serving at his local church in Bangalore, India, and is devoted to sharing the good news of salvation with the lost.



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