Love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire. – Song of Solomon 8:6 NIV
Jealousy is one of the strongest drives known to man. It comes from the root word for zeal and means “to burn with an intense fire.” Scripture pointedly says, “Wrath is fierce and anger is a flood, but who can stand before jealousy?” (Proverbs 27:4).
There are actually two forms: a legitimate jealousy based upon love, and an illegitimate jealousy based upon envy. Legitimate jealousy sparks when someone you love, who belongs to you, turns his or her heart away and replaces you with someone else. If a wife has an affair and gives herself to another person, her husband may have justified, jealous anger because of his love for her. He is longing to have back what is rightfully his.
The Bible describes God as having this kind of righteous jealousy for His people. It’s not that He is envious of us, wishing He had what we have (since He already owns everything). It’s that He deeply longs for us, desiring for us to keep Him as our first love. He doesn’t want us to let anything take precedence over Him in our hearts. The Bible warns us not to worship anything but Him because “the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God” (Deuteronomy 4:24).
With this established, we will shift our focus to the illegitimate kind of jealousy that is in opposition to love – the one that is rooted in selfishness. This is to be jealous of someone, to be “moved with envy.”
Do you struggle with being jealous of others? Your friend is more popular, so feel hatred towards her. Your coworker gets the promotion, so you can’t sleep that night. He may have nothing wrong, but you became bitter because of his success. It has been said that people are fine with our succeeding, just as long as it is not more than theirs.
Jealousy is a common struggle. It is sparked when someone else upstages you and gets something you want. This can be very painful depending upon how selfish you are. Instead of congratulating them, you fume in anger and think ill of them. If you’re not careful, jealousy slithers like a viper into your heart and strikes your motivations and relationships. It can poison you from living the life of love God intended.
If you don’t diffuse your anger by learning to love others, you may eventually begin plotting against them. The Bible says that envy leads to fighting, quarreling, and every evil thing (James 3:16, 4:1-2).
There is a string of violent jealousy seen throughout Scripture. It caused the first murder when Cain despised God’s acceptance of his brother’s offering. Sarah sent away her handmaiden because Hagar could bear children while Sarah could not. Joseph’s brothers saw he was their father’s favorite, so they threw him in a pit and sold him as a slave. Jesus was more loving, powerful, and popular than the chief priests, so they envied Him and plotted His betrayal and crucifixion.
You don’t usually get jealous of disconnected strangers. The ones you’re tempted to jealous of are primarily in the same arena with you. They work in your office, play in your league, run in your circles … or live in your house. Yes, if you aren’t careful, jealousy can also infect your marriage.
When you were married, you were given the role of becoming your spouse’s biggest cheerleader and the captain of his or her fan club. Both of you become one and were to share in the enjoyment of the other. But if selfishness rules, any good thing happening to only one of you can be a catalyst for envy rather than congratulations.
He may enjoy golf on the weekend while she stays home cleaning the house. He boasts to her about shooting a great score and she feels like shooting him.
Or perhaps she is constantly invited to go out with friends while he is left home with the dog. If he’s not careful, he can resent her popularity.
Because love is not selfish and puts other first, it refuses to let jealousy in. It leads you to celebrate the successes of your spouse rather than resenting them. A loving husband doesn’t mind his wife being better at something, having more fun, or getting more applause. He sees her as completing him, not competing with him.
When he receives praise, he publicly thanks her for her support in aiding his own success. He refuses to brag in such a way that may cause her to resent him. A loving wife will be the first to cheer for her man when he wins. She does not compare her weaknesses to his strengths. She throws a celebration, not a pity party.
It is time to let love, humility, and gratefulness destroy any jealousy that springs up in your heart. It’s time to let your mate’s successes draw you closer together and give you greater opportunities to show genuine love.
Determine to become your spouse’s biggest fan and to reject any thoughts of jealousy. To help set your heart on your spouse and focus on their achievements, take yesterday’s list of negative attributes and discreetly burn it. Then share with your spouse how glad you are about a success he or she recently enjoyed.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15)