Throughout Scripture we are told to stay away from jealousy.

  • For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. – James 3:16
  • Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. – Galatians 5:19-21
  • For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? – 1 Corinthians 3:3
  • Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts. – Romans 13:13-14
  • etc.

Yet, we are told that God is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5), not to provoke God to jealousy (1 Corinthians 10:22). Exodus 34:14 tells us that God’s name is Jealous. So how do we reconcile these things? Surely this is not the case of “do as I say and not as I do.”

Well, the other day I was meeting with a group of brothers and sisters and I shared with them a idea I had come to about this “problem.” The conclusion I have drawn is that jealousy is not a bad thing, in and of itself. The problem is the use of jealousy. You see, we as mere human beings deserve nothing – therefore we have nothing to be jealous of. Now God, he deserves everything,
but he does not get what he deserves. In fact, we go so far as to give to other idols/people/items, that which God deserves.

So, I have concluded that there are two misuses of jealousy. First, we are sinning when we are jealous. Second, we are sinning when God is jealous.

As I shared my ideas some other people chimed in with other things this could apply to, such as pride or anger. Are there any other things this might apply to?

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  1. Lew,

    This was an interesting discussion… one that I continue to “chew on”. I think it is very preceptive that God is the only being who deserves to be jealous, angry, proud, etc.

    I don’t have much to add. But, I’m glad that you mentioned this on your blog.


  2. Lew –

    The other day as I was writing on my blog about “Love is not jealous”, I came across something in Vine’s Expository Dictionary of NT Words that I thought was interesting.

    The Greek word phthonos, a noun, although not the word used in 1 Cor. 13:4, is the word used for “envy” in 9 verses in the NT: Matt 27:18, Mark 15:10, Rom 1:29, Gal 5:21, Phil 1:15, 1 Tim 6:4, Titus 3:3, Jam 4:5, & 1 Pet 2:1. The similar verb phthoneo is used in Gal 5:26.

    Vine’s says:
    “envy,” is the feeling of displeasure produced by witnessing or hearing of the advantage or prosperity of others; this evil sense always attaches to this word … Note: Zelos, “zeal or jealousy,” translated “envy” in the AV, in Act 13:45; Rom 13:13; 1Cr 3:3; 2Cr 12:20; Jam 3:14,16, is to be distinguished from phthonos, and, apart from the meanings “zeal” and “indignation,” is always translated “jealousy” in the RV. The distinction lies in this, that “envy” desires to deprive another of what he has, “jealousy” desires to have the same or the same sort of thing for itself.

    That last sentence is what I found interesting and I thought it made a lot of sense. Perhaps we need to make the same distinction between envy and jealousy? Again, is this one of those times where we don’t really understand the meaning of the word and use it flippantly? I dunno … but it gives me something else to think about LOL ….

    On a different note, but related, my daughter and I are reading through the Child’s Story Bible together and I am noticing all the times that people lied and received good in return (i.e. Rahab). In these instances the person lied to protect someone else, not for selfish gain. But I though the 10 commendments said “Thou shalt not lie” … oh, but I am reminded that it actually says, “Do not bear false witness against your neighbor”. I’m not advocating lying, but I am wondering why so many throughout Scripture lied and then had good return to them for it? Something else, again, to think about …..

  3. One more thing … I think what you said:
    The problem is the use of jealousy. You see, we as mere human beings deserve nothing – therefore we have nothing to be jealous of. Now God, he deserves everything,
    but he does not get what he deserves. In fact, we go so far as to give to other idols/people/items, that which God deserves.

    is right on!

  4. Heather

    Thanks for the comment(s). I think I have always understood jealousy as “a desire to have the same or the same sort of thing for itself.” I probably would have said the same about envy, but it could very well be as Vine’s defines it.

    The only verse I would question is Phil 1:15, where it talks about people preaching the gospel out of envy. Here it seems to be more out of personal gain, then depriving someone of what they have. (I guess?)

    By the way, I am not sure Rahab received good for her lie.

    God’s Glory,

  5. Lew,

    As I said earlier, I’ve been chewing on this for a couple of weeks now – has it been that long?

    Anyway, I can’t come up with any “negative” things like jealousy, pride, etc… but…

    God loves… and God is the only being who can and does truly love. Now, this is different, because we are called to love – which we can only do by dying to ourselves and allowing God to love through us.


  6. Lew –

    I know this is not related to your original post, and this is something I am truly trying to understand, so please forgive me here – I am truly not trying to argumentative … but how did Rahab not receive good for her lie about the spies (hiding them)?

    Joshua 6:25 says “However, Rahab the harlot and her father’s household and all she had, Joshua spared; and she has lived in the midst of Israel to this day, for she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.”

    Hebrews 11:31 says “By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace.”

    James 2:25 says “In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?”

    I am not sure how she did not receive good? Again, not trying to be argumentative – perhaps there is something I am missing …


  7. Alan

    Excellent point Alan.


    Don’t worry, I do not think you are being argumentative. In fact, I expected you might question what I said. I am not going to answer it here, but I promise my next blog post will be dedicated to why Rahab was blessed.

    I have a pretty busy schedule right now (this morning)… so I expect I will have it posted later this afternoon, or tomorrow morning – depending on how boring my classes are :).

    God’s Glory,

  8. Lew –

    Perhaps I should not have said that she was blessed because she lied. I didn’t mean to imply that her good was a direct result of a lie … I look forward to your post :)


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