Mark 10:35-45; 1 Corinthians 13:4
Facing The Problem Of Jealousy
"Oscar Wilde used to tell a fable… The Devil was once crossing the Libyan Desert when he came upon a group of small fiends who were tempting a holy hermit. They tried him with the seductions of the flesh; they sought to sow his mind with doubts and fears; they told him that all his austerities were worth nothing. But it was of no avail. The holy man was impeccable. Then the Devil stepped forward. Addressing the imps he said, 'Your methods are too crude. Permit me for one moment. This is what I would recommend.' Going up to the hermit he said, 'Have you heard the news? Your brother has been made Bishop of Alexandria.' The fable says 'A scowl of malignant jealousy clouded the serene face of the holy man.'" (Daily Readings; Sangster; pg. 200)
The Bible tells us to weep with those who weep and to rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15). Why is it that we find it sometimes harder to rejoice with the rejoicing ones than to weep with the weeping ones? Because we cannot envy people's sorrows, but it is easy to envy people's joy.
Notes William Barclay, "It may be said that envy is the last sin to die. It reared its ugly head even in the apostolic band. The other ten were envious of James and John, when these two had seemed to steal a march upon them in the matter of precedence in the coming Kingdom (Mark 10:41). Even at the last supper the disciples were disputing about who should occupy the seats of greatest honor (Luke 22:24). So long as self remains active within a man's heart there will be envy in his life. E.G. Selwyn calls envy 'the constant plague of all voluntary organizations, not least religious organizations.' C.E.B. Cranfield says that 'we do not have to be engaged in what is called 'church work' very long to discover what a perennial source of trouble envy is.' Envy can only die when self dies." (Daily Study Bible; I Peter; pg. 225)
"We may define this vice as pain, grief, or annoyance felt at the happiness, success, or fortune of another; displeasure or regret aroused by the superiority of another – plus a certain degree of malice or malignity am a desire to depreciate the person envied… It was the secret hurt you felt when somebody with whom you had matched yourself in thought or with whom others matched you, surpassed you or was considered to have surpassed you. It was the secret elation and gloating you found in your heart when he stumbled and fell. That was jealousy! It is deadly in its nature and can cast a long shadow over the whole of life." (Secret of Radiant Living; Sangster; pg. 94)
"Father, help me to rejoice with those who rejoice as well as to weep with those who weep. Enable me to take genuine pleasure in the success of others, regardless of the degree of success I am allowed to enjoy. Uproot the ugly weed of jealousy from my heart and plant in its place the beautiful flower of good will and love. In Jesus' magnanimous name. Amen"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Learning to appreciate others without envy makes my inward world peaceful and my outward world grateful!
1 Samuel 18:1-16
Destructiveness Of Jealousy
What is the context from which jealousy arises? "The people we do not know am who completely outshine us do not provoke us to this sin. It is the people whom we do know, who move in the same circle, and who just surpass us, who unconsciously set the trap into which we fall. Let any man, therefore, eager to be on guard against this subtle vice, watch himself in his estimation of those who are doing the same work that he is doing, am doing it in the same circle. Let him mount a DOUBLE guard over himself when he hears them praised – even though the praise may honestly sound extravagant to him. Saul's jealousy of David may already have been a spark in his heart before the women shouted, but it flared into flame at the feminine cry: 'Saul has slain his thousands, but David his tens of thousands.'" (Secret of Radiant Living; Sangster; pg. 95,96)
Jealousy destroys physical health. Proverbs 14:30 says, "A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones."
Envy and jealousy are destructive because they cause one to strive for places of eminence and superiority, thus causing mental stress. In his popular book 'None of These Diseases', Dr. S. McMillan notes: "Psychic turmoil, arising out of our desires to go to the moon or to attain superiority over our fellows, is very common. An outstanding psychiatrist, Dr. Alfred Adler, taught that most modern nervous and emotional disorders grow out a definite striving for power. Because the average man in his mad drive to power is in a daily race with others for earthly goals, his day is full of failures, frustrations, banged-up feelings and, often, fenders… Is it not a pity that we are cursed with an innate urge to be ever madly racing with one another like the participants in a stock car race? In our excitement to be first we become oblivious to the damage we inflict on others and ourselves. The stock cars that are battered, banged, dented, and noisy are no worse off than bruised humanity broken down with many a disease from life's competitions." (pg. 133,134)
Jealousy destroys human relationships. Envy can spoil friendships and destroy old fellowships. "Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?" (Proverbs 27:4) ''We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another." (Titus 3:3) Envy breeds hatred, resentment.
Jealousy robs one of his own just joy, because he is obsessed with the greater triumphs of others. A little boy is overcome with joy when he receives his new bike for Christmas, but returns after riding it for one hour, all disgruntled. When his parents inquire where his joy has gone, he replies, "George has been given a bicycle too. It is a better one than mine. It has a three-speed gear."
"God, don't let me go through life begrudging others of their happiness and success, am at the same time losing my own joy and contentment. Deliver me from my mad pursuit for success and recognition based on a competition with others. Help me to be neither the object or the subject of jealousy, but to live at peace with all men. In Jesus' name. Amen."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Outdoing one another in showing love and in demonstrating generosity is the only kind of competition that is acceptable am worthy.
Steps Towards Deliverance From Jealousy
Christ alone can deliver one from jealousy. Step by step, let us note how this deliverance is accomplished. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus. The battle against jealousy is won in the mind.
First, see the possibility of deliverance through Christ alone who never envied another. His denunciation of the Pharisees is not a manifestation of envy. Rather, His denunciations are manifestations of fierce love – love that sought to shatter the complacent and hardened hearts of self-deceived and self-righteous hypocrites.
When Jesus stated that the foxes have holes and the birds have nests but that the Son of Man hath not a pillow to lay his head on, Jesus was not revealing self-pity or envy. Rather, the Son of Man was stating the fact of divine love – love so great that sacrifice became the norm for the Master, and such sacrifice would become the norm for His followers.
He in whom no trace of envy and jealousy can be found, is the same who is able to deliver man from the crippling disease of jealousy. The first step towards deliverance is to understand that Christ is the one who alone is able to deliver.
Secondly, honestly face your personal need for deliverance. No physician can help a man who denies his disease and thus refuses treatment. As Sangster notes, "It is humiliating to admit it, and pride rebels at the idea that I should be jealous of him. 'Jealous? Me? Of him?!"' Denial of the problem cannot solve the problem.
Third, re-channel your tendency towards comparison with others. To constantly compare yourself with others is to do yourself great harm. God accepts you just as you are and therefore you don't need to build up your ego by comparing yourself with others in a less favorable condition than you, and you don't need to plunge yourself into despair or into jealousy by comparing yourself with others who appear to be in a much more favorable condition than you.
Unfortunate1y, competition and comparison is a common way of life in America. We compare mind with mind. We compare bank account with bank account. We compare beauty with beauty. We compare achievement with achievement. We pit wit against wit to outdo our fellows. We try to prove that our city, our church, our doctrines, our political concepts, and our ball teams, etc., etc., are the best! This tendency towards power, popularity, dominance, and leadership breeds envy, strife, and jealousy. The musical expresses this spirit of comparison and strife: 'Anything you can do, I can do better!' Competition and comparison breed jealousy!
"O God, I confess that jealousy is a serious problem in my life. Help me to rest secure in your unconditional love for me, and to know that I don't have to 'prove' myself worthy of your acceptance through performance and achievement in a world of competitive striving. Amen."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: To love all and to serve all is Christ's command and my privilege!
1 Peter 2:1-3
Re-Channeling Your Tendency Towards Comparisons
Christ calls us to humble service, not to vain striving for glory and for honor among our peers. Said Jesus, "Don't you ever be called 'Rabbi' – you have only one Teacher, and all of you are brothers… and you must not let people call you 'leaders' – you have only one leader, Christ! The only 'superior' among you is the one who serves the others. For every man who promotes himself will be humbled, and every man who learns to be humble will find promotion." (Matthew 23:8, Matthew 23:10-12) (Phillips)
Dr. McMillan tells of a young woman who wanted to go to college. "Her heart sank when she read one question on the application blank: 'Are you a leader?' Being a conscientious girl she wrote 'NO' and sent in the form with a heavy heart. To her surprise she received a letter from one of the college officials which read something like this: 'A study of the application blanks reveals that this year our college will have 1452 leaders. Therefore, we are accepting you because we feel it is imperative that they have ONE follower.'"
Dr. McMillan goes on to say: "We are living in a day when it is not difficult to find people who want to be head cook, but few are available to wash dishes. There are always several hundreds of girls who yearn to ride in the parade as the beautiful queen, but sometimes only a disgruntled half dozen will agree to decorate the float. Organizations have never lacked those who want to be boss carpenters, but they have had to search for men to drive nails and saw boards." (None of These Diseases; pg. 136,137)
'Competition for the top spot' – this too often describes the mood of our modern age. Competition breeds jealousy!
There is another movement in our day which breed-s jealousy – the striving for equality. Notes Malcolm Muggeridge, "The notion of equality has been one of the very destructive forces in our society. We're not equals, we're brothers and sisters. It's quite a different thing. And it's that Christian notion of being brothers and sisters that has been an enormous stabilizing influence on the western world. But the minute you begin to follow this fantasy of equality, you don't produce a loving relationship among people, you produce hideous rivalries and envies, which God knows our society reflects. Each person is watching out and trying to see if the other person is getting more than he is, and even whether others are getting more out of life." Comparing ourselves with others can lead to either pride or to envy, depending upon the outcome of that comparison. The spirit of pride and the spirit of envy are neither the spirit of Christ!
"Father, help me to compare myself with Christ alone, not with other people. Comparing myself with Christ alone delivers me from stress due to peer comparisons and delivers me from complacency due to easy satisfaction with personal, present attainments. Amen."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God will help me to re-channel my strong impulse towards many outward comparisons with men, to one upward comparison with Christ!
Rejoicing In Your God-Ordained Place
We are continuing to look at the steps towards deliverance from jealousy. So far, we have looked at three: (1) See the possibility of deliverance through Christ alone who never envied another, (2) Honestly face your personal need for deliverance, and (3) Re-channel your tendency towards comparison with others.
Fourth, rejoice in the God-ordained place which Christ has for you personally. "Christ is able to convince us that each one of us has a place in the plan of God and that his plan is best. Being convinced of that, we envy no one. We can only wish them well in the working out of God's plan for them." (The Secret of Radiant Life; Sangster; pg. 98) God has a place for all in His great family. God has a work for each to do, and each work is important to God.
The Church is likened unto a human body. All members of the Body are different, but each member is dependent upon all the others. There is no need for any member to compare itself with any other member, for each member has a different function and each member is needed for the healthy functioning of the entire Body.
"The last recorded conversation between Jesus and Peter in John's Gospel finds Peter trifling with the wrong kind of comparison and unduly concerned about the destiny of John. 'What about him, Lord?", he said. 'What does that matter to you? Follow me yourself!', replied Jesus. (Ibid; pg. 98)
"To every envious soul, wanting to know why others should have things they do rot have, Jesus would say: 'What does it matter to you? Follow me yourself.'" (Ibid; pg. 98)
The strong instinct towards comparison and competition must be transformed into the instinct towards compassion, caring, and complementation. Wrote Paul, "Live together in harmony, live together in love, as though you had only one mind and one spirit between you. Never act from motives of rivalry or personal vanity, but in humility think more of each other than you do of yourselves." (Philippians 2:2-3 Phillips) 'Each for all, and all for each' – this spells harmony! If there is to be comparisons among yourselves as Christians, then "in humility think more of each other than you do of yourselves." A great antidote against envy and jealousy is learning to enjoy others and learning to enjoy giving preference and honor to others. The only competition, worthy of the name of Christ, is the competition of love – seeking to outdo one another in acts of compassion and love!
"Father, your will is my peace. wanting at times to change my place with that of another, I confess that I have doubted your infinite wisdom and personal love for me. Help me not to envy another, but gladly follow you, even to death by martyrdom if necessary!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will rejoice in the God-ordained place which God has given to me and rot envy God's place for someone else!
2 Corinthians 10:12-18
Enjoying The 'Smile Of God's Approval'
The fifth step in overcoming envy and jealousy is this: Realize that Christ can take away the desire for the approval and praise of the Crowd – the source of much envy – and that Christ can replace this desire with the sole desire for the praise and approval of God.
"No man remains envious who really sets his whole heart on the approval of heaven because that secures an independence of the praise and blame of earth. The simplest servant of the kingdom, quietly confident that he is doing his best, may feel the smile of God upon him. There is no richer reward in store for anyone… Being sure of God's approval no man need envy the praise of earth.
'The Master praises; what are men?' (Daily Readings; Sangster; pg. 221)
Never focus on the praise of men or on the criticism of men. Rather, concentrate on living 'peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness." (1 Timothy 2:2) Focusing on God rather than on men will keep one free from envy and jealousy.
Last, remember that any person "enjoying a high measure of success ought to carry it lightly and not stress his capacity to excel." (The Secret of Radiant Life; Sangster; pg. 99) Play down your successes. Emphasize long-time brotherhood. Don't magnify new differences in status or attainments or successes. Seek to live in love and harmony with all. Never deliberately provoke envy in another, either through overt remarks of conceit or through actions of pride. "Let your love be perfectly sincere… allowing one another to enjoy preference of honor." (Romans 12:9 Berkeley) Says Proverbs 27:2, "Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips." In other words, 'Don't toot your own horn!"
In considering the subject of jealousy, it is helpful for us to conduct the following spiritual check-up on ourselves.
"Have I a secret longing always to be first? or can I truly say that I don't care who is second, third or fourth, so long as Jesus is first?
"Do I want God's cause to advance, or is my chief desire that I should advance?
"Can I hear my colleagues praised and sincerely enjoy it?
"Can I hear others praised for what I have done for God and still be more glad that it was done than grieved to be neglected?
"Am I willing to take my wages in Christian service from God alone?
"Am I after anything for myself?" (Daily Readings; Sangster; pg. 31)
"Father, deliver me from boasting of work done by others and from resentment when others boast of work done by me. Help me to die, both to the praise and to the blame of men, and study only to show myself approved of God. Make me jealous only for your smile of approval on my life! In Jesus' conquering name! Amen."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Enjoying the smile of God upon my life and work, I can always bear the scorn of men!
Discussion Questions On 'Freedom From Jealousy'
Why is it that we find it sometimes harder to rejoice with the rejoicing ones than to weep with the weeping ones (Romans 12:15)?
How would you define envy or jealousy?
Why is envy such a common problem among those who engage in 'Church Work'?
What is the context from which jealousy often arises?
In what ways is jealousy destructive of physical health, of mental health, and of loving human relationships?
List six steps in overcoming the enemy of jealousy.
In what ways are competition and comparison the breeding grounds for jealousy?
Why is 'striving for equality' a breeding ground for jealousy?
Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "God has a place for all in His great family. God has a work for each to do, and each work is important to God." Do you believe that the attitude contained in this statement will help one to cope with feelings of jealousy? Why? or Why Not?
In terms of observable behavior, what is the difference between living a life based on comparison and competition and a life based on compassion, caring, and complementation?
Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "The only competition, worth of the name of Christ, is the competition of love – seeking to outdo one another in acts of compassion and love!"
How does seeking the approval of God rather than the applause of men help one in being delivered from the problem of jealousy?
Behaviorally speaking, what must one do and how must one act in the presence of his peers to avoid provoking his peers to envy and jealousy?
Can you share an experience in which you were wonderfully delivered from jealousy?