Love is not Jealous
Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 3:1-3, 13:4-8a; James 4:1-12; 1 John 3:11-15
Jealousy is the “green eyed monster” that lurks in the hearts of men. That’s the expression coined by Shakespeare in Othello (3:3), where Iago says: “O! beware, my lord, of jealousy; it is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.” The idiom, in which we speak of someone “being green with envy,” has been part of our vernacular ever since.
In a fit of jealous rage Cain murdered his own brother (1 John 3:11-15). The green-eyed monster that lies within the hearts of men has been at work ever since, causing much mayhem and leaving in his wake an overflowing graveyard of ruined relationships. Jealousy is a universal malady and has the power to cause even the nicest people to behave in incredibly loathsome ways.
What is jealousy? Jealousy is a strong emotion! The Greek term applies the notion of burning or boiling metaphorically to the desire to have that which belongs to another. A related term speaks of the desire to deprive another of what he has. The green-eyed monster of jealousy longs for both. And will sometimes go to great and unimaginable lengths to obtain what he wants.
William Barclay phrases it this way, writing that “There are two kinds of envy. The one covets the possessions of other people; and such envy is very difficult to avoid because it is a very human thing. The other is worse—it grudges the very fact that others should have what it has not; it does not so much want things for itself as wish that others had not got them. Meanness of soul can sink no further than that.”
As I mentioned, jealousy is a universal malady. James addressed this issue and spoke to its destructive influence: “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel” (James 4:1-2). Paul similarly chided the church in Corinth–reminding us that we Christians are not immune–saying, “For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way” (1 Corinthians 3:3)?
But there is a “more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31)! Jesus was never jealous! He did not long to have that which was possessed by others, nor was he ever sad that others possessed what He did not have. The One who was rich, but became poor, lived His life according to a radically different dynamic (2 Corinthians 8:9). The desires for fortune, fame, and fun held no bearing over him, and He was thereby immune to that common human trait of seeking to gain at the expense of others (1 John 2:16). According to His selfless manner, He was always giving and never taking, and once said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35)! The Apostle Paul adopted that same radical way of thinking and living (Acts 20:33-35). And we have been called to the same (Philippians 2:3-8).
So, what are we to do about the green-eyed monster who would work to wreak havoc in our hearts and in our relationships? To the weapons we possess in our human arsenal he is as a huge unassailable dragon. If he is to be rendered powerless it will be by the Spirit and through the Word (1 John 2:14b). And it will be as we are Spirit-led empowered to walk in love, just like Jesus. Who lived His life not to get, but to give!
“It is More Blessed to Give than to Receive”
Heavenly Father. Praise You for Your giving ways. In spite of humankind’s rebellion, You’ve given us all life and provided for our needs. Forgive us that we tend to take such things for granted, and even sometimes grumble in discontentment over that which we do not have. As your children we have been blessed beyond measure in the riches of Your grace and mercy! Forgive us too for envying others for what they possess. Or, even being sad for their blessings! May our hearts cling to You and Your truth that we might be delivered from such evil inclinations. We marvel at the example of Jesus, who was never jealous, but only gave and gave until He gave His very life. Holy Spirit, open the eyes of our hearts to see that true blessing is found not in getting, but in giving. And lead us in that way that we might learn to love like Jesus. Amen!