Overcoming jealousy for good
God is a jealous God and He guards the living spirit inside each one of us with a burning passion. This form of jealousy is good because it protects that which is eternal in each person. Our earthly jealousy, however, chases after temporal things. It is the reason why the chief priests had Jesus captured and crucified; they were envious of Jesus’ popularity and felt that their earthly status was being threatened. When we succumb to our earthly insecurities to envy, resent, or attack others, we fall into the same trap as those who were responsible for Jesus’ gruesome death.
In other words:
- God’s jealously guards our eternal welfare. This leads to spiritual life.
- We jealously guard our earthly welfare. This leads to spiritual death.
Deuteronomy 4:23-24 ESV Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the Lord your God, which he made with you, and make a carved image, the form of anything that the Lord your God has forbidden you. For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.
James 4:4-6 ESV You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Mark 15:9-10 ESV And he answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up.
We see a contrast between these two types of jealousy in the apostle Paul’s letter in 2 Corinthians.
In chapter 11, the apostle Paul describes himself as having godly jealousy, one that protects the purity and faith of God’s people – that we do not go astray and follow false gods and false teachings about Jesus.
2 Corinthians 11:2-4 NIV I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.
Then in chapter 12, Paul warns the very same people against earthly jealousy, which comes along with anger, hostility, slander, gossip, pride and disorder. All these are fleshly and carnal – and not from the Holy Spirit.
2 Corinthians 12:20 ESV For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.
1 Corinthians 3:3 ESV for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?
Recognising the work of a spirit of jealousy
When we follow the Holy Spirit, we will experience feelings of love, joy, and peace – not jealousy.
Galatians 5:25-26 NLT Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.
Galatians 5:22 ESV But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace …
The Bible calls our earthly jealousy “demonic” (James 3:13-16) and describes how anyone can be overcome by a spirit of jealousy (Numbers 5:14-15). When we don’t submit ourselves fully to the Holy Spirit for His renewal, another demonic spirit will come to guide our emotions and thoughts instead.
James 3:14-16 NLT For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.
Numbers 5:14 ESV and if the spirit of jealousy comes over him and he is jealous …
Jealousy will blind us to the true nature of our hearts. The spirit of jealousy will tempt us to become arrogant and lie to ourselves that we are superior and good – in sharp contrast to Jesus, who did not even call Himself good.
James 3:14 NLT But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying.
Luke 18:19 ESV And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.
Alternatively, the spirit of jealousy can also tempt us to give up hope on ourselves, because everybody else’s life seems better compared to ours – and forsake the abundant life that Jesus came to bring us.
John 10:10 ESV The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
Either way, jealousy invariably brings about spiritual death, both for ourselves and others.
Take the chief priests who were jealous of Jesus for example. With great pride and spiritual blindness, they falsely accused Jesus of blasphemy – when they were in fact, blaspheming the Son of God to His very face. They wanted to have Jesus removed so badly that they were even willing to lay a curse on themselves and their own children in exchange for taking His life.
Mark 14:61-64 ESV … Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death.
Matthew 27:22-25 ESV Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” And he said, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!” So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!”
The first footholds for jealousy to take root
From the innermost part of a jealous heart comes a cry that says, “Why not me? I want to be significant or chosen.” This may sound a lot like pride, but it is born out of a very legitimate emotional desire that usually begins at a young age.
All children need to feel valued, accepted, welcomed, and loved. After all, children are a gift from God.
Psalm 127:3 ESV Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.
However, when children feel as if they have been repeatedly overlooked or unfairly treated, they can become discouraged and develop insecurities. This impacts their self-esteem and ability to appreciate who God had made them to be. If no loving adult comes to provide much needed reassurance and tender discipline, Satan will come instead and corrupt a child’s heart. If the devil is like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour, then unsupervised children are very easy prey.
Colossians 3:21 NIV Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.
1 Peter 5:8 ESV Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
Children will hear ideas such as, “Why are others (always) more favoured than me? Why do they have things easier than me? What’s so special about them? I’m just as good! Life is so unfair… Maybe there is something wrong with me after all. Maybe I am bad and defective.”
It is when children hear such lies and start to believe them as their truth, that the spirit of jealousy gains a foothold in our hearts.
Ephesians 4:26-27 NIV “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.
We find we can’t be genuinely happy for other people and avoid getting close to them because of the way we feel inside. We believe other people must secretly despise us because of our imperfections. Even when other people compliment or praise us, our hearts are not comforted because we believe they don’t really know us. We fear that they will discover the shortcomings that we are secretly ashamed of – even if no one notices them except ourselves.
Over time, this can develop further into, “God is so unfair. If He loves me, why doesn’t He make my life better? What’ wrong with what I want? I count too… Maybe He doesn’t love me as much as He loves other people.” In our hearts, we keep God at a distance because we have fallen for the devil’s lie that He doesn’t care about our welfare – when it is God who loves us more passionately than any human being can.
Psalm 37:3-5,27-29 NLT Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you. Turn from evil and do good, and you will live in the land forever. For the Lord loves justice, and he will never abandon the godly. He will keep them safe forever…
Once the spirit of jealousy gains a foothold, it will continue to torment us with destructive self-beliefs on top of our past hurts and grievances. We begin to believe that we could indeed be unworthy of love, and develop a deep-rooted fear that our significant others will abandon us one day. Gradually, we find ourselves drowning in endless spirals of discontentment and anxiety.
This is how the devil captures and traps our minds and hearts – by using anxieties buried deep inside us that make us “feel” that these deceptions must be real. Our hearts are so occupied with our self-doubts that we cannot hear God even when He is clearly speaking to us.
2 Timothy 2:25-26 NLT Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants.
Over time, we form beliefs such as:
- “They have what I want. They must despise me for not having the same.”
- “They don’t deserve what they have.”
- “I must have what they have because I am just as good or even better.”
- “I won’t get angry, I will get even.”
- “I can’t lose out to them. I will work hard to be better.”
- “I will use worldly success to show them how great I am.”
- “I will find a way to destroy what they have.”
- “I will make sure people know all the ugly things about them.”
- “I will always lag behind them and never be successful.”
- “I cannot do anything without comparing myself to people.”
- “If only they would accept me, then I will feel much better.”
The truth that sets us free
Thankfully, Jesus came to teach us the truth and set us free from our jealousies. Here is what the Word of God teaches us in response to our typical beliefs.
John 8:31-32 NLT Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
A spirit of jealousy will tempt us to:
The Holy Spirit will urge us to:
See other people as our rivals | Philippians 2:3 ESV Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
Seek to do good to others, rather than compete with them | Galatians 6:9-10 ESV And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
Compare ourselves with others and envy them | Proverbs 23:17-18 ESV Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the Lord all the day. Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.
Mind our own business | 1 Thessalonians 4:11 NLT Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before.
Covet what others have | Exodus 20:17 ESV “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
Please God by giving generously and sharing whatever we have with others | Hebrews 13:16 ESV Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
Chase earthly success and ambitions | James 3:14-16 ESV But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.
Chase the eternal things of God which will never fade away | 1 John 2:16-17 NLT For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.
Seek the praise and approval of other people | John 5:44 ESV How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?
Seek the approval of God alone, the only praise that is truly valuable | Galatians 1:10 ESV For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Strive tirelessly to be as good as or better than others | Ecclesiastes 4:4 ESV Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.
Be content with what we have and praise God | 1 Timothy 6:6-9 ESV But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.
Boast about what great things we have done | James 3:14-16 NIV But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.
Do good without letting others know, so that we will rewarded by our Heavenly Father | Matthew 6:1 NLT “Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven.
Become bitter | James 3:14 ESV But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.
Rejoice and give thanks in all circumstances, so we don’t quench the Holy Spirit in us | 1 Thessalonians 5:15-19 ESV See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit.
Fight for what we want | James 4:2 NLT … You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them…
Be peacemakers so we are called sons and daughters of God | Matthew 5:9 ESV “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Rejoice when we see the people whom we envy stumble | Proverbs 24:17-19 ESV Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest the Lord see it and be displeased, and turn away his anger from him. Fret not yourself because of evildoers, and be not envious of the wicked,
Love even our enemies and pray for them | Matthew 5:43-45 ESV “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
Seek to destroy others when we don’t get what we want | James 4:2 NLT You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it…
Be kind, compassionate, and forgiving | Ephesians 4:31-32 ESV Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
The very real consequences of jealousy
At the heart of our jealousies is a deep craving to be loved and appreciated – yet a jealous person is an unloving one. The Bible says that “love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NLT Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
When we give in to jealousy and rebel against one of God’s commandment to not become covetous, we become what the Bible calls “an idolater”.
Exodus 20:17 ESV “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
Ephesians 5:5 ESV For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is … covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
As a result, we can invite grim consequences upon ourselves:
- We become spiritually defiled | Mark 7:21-23 ESV For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
- God will not answer our prayers when our motives are driven by jealousy | James 4:2-3 NLT … You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it…. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.
- Our physical health also deteriorates* | Proverbs 14:30 ESV A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.
* Feelings of jealousy have been shown to lead to high blood pressure, lowered immunity, and poor sleep.
Uprooting jealousy for good
Biblical counselling may help us with our jealous traits, but to be truly set free from a spirit of jealousy, we need to know biblical truths and to ask for the Holy Spirit’s help.
It is a restorative journey of renewal that starts with asking God’s Spirit to show us the root/s of our jealousies so that we can give them up and be renewed. Here are just a handful of possible examples.
Romans 12:1-2 ESV I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
1. Does jealousy run in our family?
We will instinctively pick up on our parents’ patterns. If they are jealous of and insecure around their siblings, we too may feel the same way when we are around our uncles, aunties, and cousins. Our parents “teach” us what to look out for in people. Instead of admiring the good in others, we are taught to envy them. This familial pattern will permeate to our outer circles as well. We become jealous of anyone whose attributes remind us of those that our family envies.
To break free from this, we need to first repent to God for blindly following our parents. Then, we can ask His forgiveness for judging others and bless those our parents and we have resented. By doing so, we show ourselves to be worthy of becoming God’s children.
Matthew 10:36-38 NLT Your enemies will be right in your own household!’ “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine.
Matthew 7:1-2 ESV “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.
2. Does our family worship idols?
The Bible shows that idol worship in our family leaves us with darkened and confused minds that cannot see the damage our jealousy is causes. All we see is what our fleshly desires crave. Our hearts are filled with greed, hatred, and envy.
Romans 1:21-23,28-31 NLT Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles. Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy …
Jealousy can be blinding, literally. A study in 2010 by cognitive psychologists showed that the anxieties we feel as a result of jealousy can cause “emotion-induced blindness.” We become so distracted by our jealous emotions that we can’t concentrate and miss important information that is before us. Such tendencies can also blind us to God’s goodness and provisions for us, even if they are right in front of our eyes.
2 Corinthians 4:4 NLT Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.
To break free from this, we need to first repent of all the occult practices in our family; ranging from the worship of false gods to witchcraft practices such as fortune-telling, horoscopes, crystal healing, new age practices, and so forth. By doing so, we remove the footholds of the spirit of jealousy so it can no longer oppress and blind us.
3. Did we experience favouritism, neglect, or unfair treatment growing up?
God does not show favouritism but human beings do. Human beings can gravitate towards certain people for a variety of reasons that are outside of their control. Let’s look at an example from the Bible.
Romans 2:11 NIV For God does not show favoritism.
Jacob (also known as Israel) had 12 sons but he openly favoured Joseph over the others and even gave him a robe of many colours. This caused Joseph’s brothers to become bitter and jealous. They hated Joseph so much that they plotted to kill him. In reality, the sons misdirected their grievances towards Joseph, when it was actually their father who sinned against them. They should have respectfully confronted their father but they didn’t. Perhaps, they felt they were not in a position to do so because they lived in a patriarchal society, where fathers hold primary power over their households.
Genesis 37:3-4 ESV Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him.
Incidentally, Jacob also showed favouritism between his two wives, Leah and Rachel, who were both sisters. This led to rivalry between his two wives and later, between their children.
Genesis 29:30-32,30:1 ESV So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah, and served Laban for another seven years. When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. And Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben, for she said, “Because the Lord has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.” When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister. She said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I shall die!”
In reality, Jacob was tricked by Laban, his father-in-law, into marrying Leah first, before he could marry Rachel, his true love. Having two wives was not Jacob’s intention.
Even earlier to all this, Jacob was coerced by his mother into tricking his elder brother out of his birthright. Jacob later reaped the consequence of what he had sowed. He was now tricked into marrying Leah whom he did not love.
In reality, all the troubles between Jacob’s 12 sons began because of Rebecca, Jacob’s mother, who had shown Jacob favouritism.
Genesis 27:6-13 ESV Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “I heard your father speak to your brother Esau, ‘Bring me game and prepare for me delicious food, that I may eat it and bless you before the Lord before I die.’ Now therefore, my son, obey my voice as I command you. Go to the flock and bring me two good young goats, so that I may prepare from them delicious food for your father, such as he loves. And you shall bring it to your father to eat, so that he may bless you before he dies.” But Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, “Behold, my brother Esau is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man. Perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall seem to be mocking him and bring a curse upon myself and not a blessing.” His mother said to him, “Let your curse be on me, my son; only obey my voice, and go, bring them to me.”
Family relationships can be complex. If Jacob’s sons could see the full picture, they would have understood that the imbalance in their family actually began with their paternal grandmother, Rebecca, and probably even before that in prior generations.
As children, our ability to understand complex adult issues is limited. But our legitimate and childlike sense of injustice will lead us to become jealous of those closest to us, even though they may be innocent victims of favouritism too.
To break free from this, we need to first forgive our parents for their favouritism, neglect, or unfair treatment and see that their broken ways are a result of their own imperfect upbringings. When we do so, we are better equipped to have peaceful, mature, and non-confrontational conversations with our parents so that we can build deeper understanding and love amongst our family members, the very things we long for.
4. Have we been seduced by the world’s teachings?
Sometimes, jealousy is learned outside the home or family.
Movies, advertisements, school systems, work, and role-playing games inspire us to follow worldly man-made heroes, instead of Jesus. These man-made heroes are shown to be successful at whatever they do, even if it comes at the cost of their souls. Glory is lavished on worldly things; power, material success, looks, popularity, and so forth. Envy is encouraged as a source of positive motivation.
Yet we follow a Saviour who didn’t have a place to call His own. To many, this is not the type of hero they would naturally want to follow because we have been taught that these are qualities of “losers”.
Luke 9:58 ESV And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
We are also told we can achieve anything as long as we put in the effort, therefore learning to follow our own will, rather than God’s. When we don’t get what we want, we start to envy those who have, because we expect to get what we aim for. We believe it is inherently our right because we worked so hard for it. We fail to see that if we aim for something outside God’s will, our plans and efforts will not prevail at the end of the day.
Proverbs 19:21 ESV Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.
We live in a world that coaches us into thinking that life is short and therefore we should chase after our own pleasures, achievements, and possessions so we attain satisfaction. Yet all these things will be totally meaningless when we finally meet God on Judgment Day.
1 John 2:16-17 NLT For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.
Matthew 16:26 ESV For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
On Judgment Day, we could actually find ourselves in absolute poverty; spiritually wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked, with nothing to offer God because we spent all our lives building worthless earthly “kingdoms” and neglected God’s eternal Kingdom. When we chase after becoming great in this life, we will end up amongst the least in heaven. We forfeit our souls.
Revelation 3:17 ESV For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
Mark 10:31 NLT But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.”
To break free from this, we need to repent of our self-idolatry and be willing to renew our perspectives and our attitudes, to no longer chase the things of the world that cost us our souls.
Being set free and staying free from jealousy
Every person is different and unique. While a few of these examples above may be helpful to some, it will not apply to all. Therefore, it is imperative that we pray and ask the Holy Spirit to show us what it is in our hearts that we need to first get right with God. He will answer us when we humble ourselves and seek Him with all our hearts. He promises to set us free from our captivity to a spirit of jealousy.
Jeremiah 29:13-14 ESV You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.
James 4:7-10 NLT So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.
Being set free from a spirit of jealousy is only the first step towards living with a new heart. It takes perseverance and discipline to overcome our ingrained fleshly tendencies. The Holy Spirit will tenderly guide us if we continually seek His counsel and guidance day by day. All of us can un-learn our carnal jealousy, which chases after what is temporary and fleeting, and learn godly jealousy, which guards the eternal things in our lives.
James 1:25 NLT But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.
James 1:12 ESV Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
Romans 8:5-6 NLT Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.
On a practical level, here are some things we can consider doing as well:
- Make time to get to know people for who they really are, rather than only see them as competitors. This is both unfair to them and to us. Let us not short-circuit our friendships. | Luke 6:31 ESV And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
- Overcome shame by confessing our weaknesses to others and giving all glory to God for His work in our lives to transform us. This destroys the stronghold of the spirit of jealousy. | 2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
- Reach out and encourage someone who may be struggling with envy and jealousy today. Our efforts can show them that they matter, not their achievements or possessions, and that they don’t have to strive to be accepted. | Hebrews 3:13 ESV But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
- Openly share our past struggles with jealousy in a community of God-fearing believers, we will notice that it is a far more common struggle that we imagined. There is power when we confess and pray for one another in our shared frailties. | James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
- When familiar feelings of jealousy rise up again in our hearts, let us pause and don’t react or revert to our old patterns. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit if our anxious feelings point to some unhealed wound/s in our hearts. | Psalm 139:23-24 ESV Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
- Pray and bless others, particularly those we might be tempted to envy, and thank God for them. | 1 Timothy 2:1 NIV I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people– New Living Translation I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.
- Filter what we expose our hearts to, including any person or media that keeps reminding us to look, compare, and be discontent with ourselves. This is an ungodly ideology. It will only blind us to what God is doing right before our eyes. Let’s not get drawn into unhealthy and unnecessary comparisons, but celebrate who God has made for us. | Matthew 6:22-23 ESV “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
- Make it a habit to read God’s Word every day. It is the Sword of the Holy Spirit which we need in order to successfully tear down the deceptive messages from this world | Ephesians 6:17 NLT … take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
- Turn our personal reward systems upside down. Seek God’s praise rather than man’s. Build the eternal things of God and store up treasures in heaven. | Matthew 6:19-20 ESV “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
- Every time the spirit of jealousy returns and whispers temptations to our hearts, rebuke it and command it to leave us in Jesus’ name. | Matthew 16:23 ESV But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
- Be alert that our old patterns of jealousy do not morph into religious envy. Let us not become jealous of others’ spiritual gifts and works but diligently obey God’s will for our lives. | Deuteronomy 28:1 NLT “If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully keep all his commands that I am giving you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the world.
Are we a target of someone’s jealousy?
When we look at the stories in the Bible, we see that jealousy nearly wrecks God’s people over and over again. But God always comes to the rescue of the victims of jealousy, especially when they remain faithful to God and seek His will, rather than take things into their own hands.
- Cain became jealous when his brother, Abel, and murdered him (Genesis 4:2-16). God banishes Cain to become a homeless wanderer.
- Aaron and Miriam were jealous that God spoke directly with Moses and grumbled against their brother (Numbers 12:1-16). God defends Moses, and curses Miriam with leprosy for seven days.
- Peninnah became jealous of Hannah because she was favoured by their husband (1 Samuel 1:1-20). Hannah wept and cried out to God for help. He blessed her with four sons and two daughters. The eldest son was Samuel, a great prophet for God.
- King Saul became jealous of David and spent years hunting him down to kill him (1 Samuel 18:6-11). God sent an evil spirit to torment Saul and eventually gave the kingdom over to David.
- The high priest and the Sadducees were jealous of the apostles and had them arrested (Acts 5:16-21). God miraculously released them from prison so they could continue preaching.
Acts 5:16-21 ESV The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed. But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.
If we are the target of someone’s jealousy, we too can rest in the assurance that God has a record of all the unpleasant ways we have been treated. He will not let our suffering go unnoticed. He will take action. We are called to simply shower others with God’s goodness and let God do the avenging. His justice is perfect, not ours. We need to be careful not to grudge or resent those who are jealous of us, they need our love and acceptance more than we can know from just looking on the surface.
Romans 12:16 ESV Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
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