Fashion, fortune, fame… I wish I had. I wish I was… I wish they didn’t have. I wish they weren’t so very…
Jealousy can be a very ugly thing. Like a jilted lover or an employee passed over for the promotion one too many times, jealousy can take on a life of its own. It’s that raging envy that ignores reason and destroys everything in its path, like a wildfire that’s out of control. There’s a proverb that warns:
“Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?” (Proverbs 27:4).
Jealousy can creep in almost anywhere. It was jealousy that drove Ananias and Sapphira to lie to the apostles and receive God’s judgment as a consequence (Acts 5:11). It was jealousy that led the Jewish leaders to persecute the Christians in the early days of the church (Acts 5:17). And often it’s jealousy that keeps Christians competing against one another instead of experiencing the true unity of the Spirit.
In fact, the Bible goes so far as to list jealousy as one of the key indicators that a person is following after sinful desires (Galatians 5:19-21).
So if jealousy is such a bad thing, why does God call Himself a “jealous God?”
Throughout the Old Testament God repeatedly warns that He is jealous for the affections of Israel (Exodus 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24). He is simply unwilling to share their affections. Is this a terrible character flaw in an otherwise perfect God? Perhaps we’ve misunderstood something about jealousy.
Jealousy is based upon a perceived injustice or inequity. But most of the time, our field of vision is fairly small and our perceptions are biased by selfish motives. This leads to a jealousy with little or no regard for the other person’s well-being. We want the good thing for ourselves. (And we want it now!)
But God’s perspective is perfect. When He sees a person’s affections misplaced, He is jealous in a way that points them back to where they belong. He knows that a person’s greatest happiness and satisfaction and blessing will come when they love Him more supremely than any other person or thing. When God is the ultimate object of our affections, we experience a joy and peace like no other. When rightly directed (by God Himself), jealousy can be a beautiful thing.
But make no mistake, jealousy is still an overwhelming force. So lest we find ourselves unable to stand before the jealousy of God, let’s consider once more where we’re placing our greatest affections. He is a jealous lover!