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Who Can Stand Before Jealousy?

“Anger [rage, hostility, vexation] is cruel, and fury [violent anger, uncontrolled temper] [is] overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?” Proverbs 27:4

Forms of Jealousy

Being the victim of someone’s jealousy can take many different forms.

Have you ever been drawn into a jealousy debacle that you did not choose to be a part of, but wished to be freed from? Have you wondered about the constant condemnation from a family member or friend? Have you been mystified about someone’s trying to “one-up” you all the time?

These questions are asked many times because you are experiencing the outrageous hurt of someone’s jealousy. We can see many examples in Scripture of people who were deeply affected by jealousy.

First, 1 Samuel 18 gives us a story of Saul and David. The people responded to David’s success as a general of the armies of Israel, saying: “Saul has slain his thousands; David has slain his ten thousands.”

In this narrative, Saul’s goal was to hurt David. Saul did not trust him or like him. Saul did not allow his son and others to befriend David. Eventually jealousy skewed Saul’s view of David, thinking David would take over the kingdom. Jealousy messes with the mind, making its focus the demise of another person. Jealousy drove Saul to a desire to murder David.

Second, Genesis 37-50 shares the story of Joseph. He was also the object of jealousy. In this narrative, jealousy led to several brothers to want to murder their brother, family members suffered greatly at the perceived loss of a son, and Joseph suffered for many years.

The Evil Nature of Jealousy

What else does the Bible say about jealousy? Let’s be honest about the evil nature of jealousy.

Job 5:2, Jealousy slays the fool.

Proverbs 6:34, A jealous husband will take revenge.

Proverbs 14:30, Jealousy is like cancer in the bones.

Matthew 20:15, When God is generous to some, others become jealous.

Romans 13:13, Don’t participate in wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy.

What Drives Jealousy?

Jealousy is rooted in a desire for what I don’t have. It is sourced in a desire for what others do have. It smells of control. “I must have this kind of car, house, or family.” Jealousy is linked to fear, selfishness, self-love, and self-pity. Jealousy lacks joy in the success of others. Jealousy lacks satisfaction in God. It is often driven by what I think I deserve and what I must have or else. Thinking that something else will bring satisfaction or pleasure or happiness besides what God has given us will take us down the road of jealousy. It is also related to covetousness. But jealousy takes covetousness to a new level, desiring harm or hurt or sadness upon the object of jealousy. Jealousy has an innate suspicion of others and lack of trust in people and God. Jealousy promotes rivalry as well as a worldly, success-orientation. Jealousy has a skewed view of advantages and disadvantages in life (Psalm 37 and 73).

Strategy for the Offender

For those who struggle with jealousy, it is vital to first recognize jealousy as a grievous sin that God hates. You must see the power of jealousy in your life and the way it corrupts you and your relationships. Read the passages that describe jealousy and meditate on these words and on the goodness of God in the gospel.

Then you can see the idolatry for the things that someone else has or does, confess the sin of jealousy, forsake jealousy, and seek reconciliation with the person you’ve sinned against. This reconciliation may involve clearing the person’s name in order to make things right.

It is good to share this process with others in Christ so that they can pray that the evil one, the destroyer, will not get a foothold in your heart.

Strategy for the Offended in Various Situations

When you experience public, hurtful, humiliating comments or actions, you need to address these in the moment. Allowing the offender to say or to do cruel things without addressing the offense humbly is not a biblical strategy. Sin must be addressed. For example, someone humiliated my wife in front of relatives, and I spoke up immediately to tell them that such things are cruel and unnecessary.

When someone is jealous of you, and you have been drawn into their world of competition or comparison, you may feel like the jealousy whirlwind has trapped you. For example, if you have someone competing with you on Facebook, then you may have to block that person. Or if a relative makes it evident that jealousy drives him or her, be kind always, but do not let jealousy ruin your life or cause you to be upset. You may have to distance yourself.

When you have confronted someone about their public humiliation or their jealous competition, yet there is no repentance, what do you do then? These jealousy situations may happen miles away or next door. They may happen with unbelievers, believers, those inside the church, and those outside the church. These categories define how you move forward. Only those within your body of believers can you particularly pursue in love and discipleship to reconcile to see them change within the local body of Christ. Apply all of the Scriptures regarding discipleship and discipline in the local church. These truths are the path to biblical reconciliation. Don’t ignore the situation, hoping it will go away.

Finally, remember these truths:

First Corinthians 13:4-7 tells us that jealousy is the antithesis of love and its characteristics. And we are commanded to love God and others.

Remember, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him” (John Piper). What a great strategy for fighting off jealousy!

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David Coats
Dr. David Coats, pastor, counselor, and professor of counseling for over 40 years currently serves with Grace Chapel, Denver, Colorado, at "The Hope of Denver" Biblical Counseling Center. More articles can be found at coatscounsel.net.
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