David Jeremiah - Slaying the Giant of Jealousy
The Greek word for envy is a very interesting word. It is a word which means to boil within. Picture in your mind a seething boiling jealousy growing within the heart of a man. Paul wrote about such jealousy in a church to which he addressed a letter. The church was the church in Corinth, and Paul addressed his letter to that church with his warnings to them concerning their spirit of jealousy. In 1 Corinthians 3:3 and 4 we read, "For you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal behaving like mere men? For when one says, 'I am of Paul,' and another says, 'I am of Apollos,' are you not carnal"?
What was happening in the church at Corinth was they were dividing up into little cliques and they became envious one another. And the envy began to feed and to drive the jealousy within their midst to the point where it was destroying the unity in the church, and Paul scored them for their evil attitudes. Whenever we speak of the word "jealousy," we always seem to use it interchangeably with the word "envy". And the word "jealousy" and the word "envy" are used interchangeably in the Word of God. But there is a subtle difference between the two words.
Envy stands at the bottom of the pile breathing ill will at everyone who is above it. Jealous is afraid that what it owns will be taken away by someone else. Envy begins with empty hands mourning its lack, enjoying when others lose their superiority. Jealousy begins with full hands, fearful of losing what it already has. Jealousy is coarse and cruel. Envy is sneaky and subtle. Jealousy clutches and smothers, envy is forever reaching, and longing, and squinting, and thinking, and making sinister insinuations.
Envy and jealousy are sleepless bedfellows that keep each other awake day and night in fitful agitation. We're going to learn how to face the giant of jealousy. Let's begin by understanding that jealousy travels in circles. It's a very interesting thought, but stay with me and I think you will understand jealousy better when we're finished. The circles of jealousy, jealousy travels in pretty defined rotation. For instance, you will find jealousy often in the circle of proprietary things in proprietary circles.
What I'm talking about here is that when people have possessions, when they have wealth, when they have a lot of stuff, sometimes jealousy is found in those circles. For instance, in the Old Testament, there's a writing concerning Isaac, the son of Abraham, and it says in Genesis 26:13 and 14, "The man began to prosper," now, watch this, "and continued prospering until he became very prosperous. For he had possessions of flocks and possessions of herds and a great number of servants. So the Philistines envied him".
Now, you have to note this verse that Isaac was rich. For the word "possessions" is here three times. He began to prosper and he continued prospering until he became very prosperous, and Isaac had a lot of stuff. But the Philistines saw him and became envious of him. Jealousy often travels in the circles of the affluent, who though they have accomplished much, and gained much, and accrued much, always have their eye on another who has a little bit more. I am not here putting down those to whom God has given a great stewardship of blessing.
For it is possible to have all of these things and still be godly and be thankful for what you have. But it is true that when you travel among the affluent, no matter how much they have, and sometimes we stagger at their possessions, you listen long enough, and they're talking about what somebody else has that's more than what they have. How easy it is for jealousy to travel in proprietary circles, but then jealousy travels, secondly, in power circles. In the Old Testament, we read about Miriam, and, Aaron and Korah, who envied the leadership of Moses.
On one occasion, they said to Moses, "You take too much upon yourself". And in the Book of Psalms, we are told that they envied Moses in the camp. If you read the Old Testament book of Kings and Chronicles, you will see story after story of very powerful kings who gain their power, many of them, by traitorous acts, usurping the power of another, only to have that very same thing happened to them once they reach the pinnacle of power. There is a great jealousy among the powerful.
Sometimes jealousy runs in power circles. You see a person in a position in the business world, he's gained a certain domain over which he is responsible, but he is not happy because there's somebody he knows that has more people working for him and more responsibility than he has. And before you know it, he's lost sight of his stewardship because he's so jealous of stewardship of another. Then jealousy travels in performance circles. May I suggest to you this morning that if there's any one of the circles where we all are vulnerable, this would be the one? And that's true, not only individually, but it's true for us as a church.
The performance circle is illustrated by two men in the Old Testament whom we've learned to know well, Saul and David. And you remember the story of how David came to the battlefront and volunteered to go and fight against the giant, and when he went and in the power of Almighty God, he slew Goliath and removed his head from his body. He came back and as he was coming back from the war, the maidens of Israel began to sing, "Saul has slain his thousands, but David his ten thousands," and the green sickness began to grow in the heart of Saul, so much so that you read in the Old Testament that Saul spent the rest of his life tracking down David in his attempt to kill him out of the anger and jealousy in his own heart.
You will never find performance jealousy more prominent than in a local church. It sticks its ugly head up when you least expect it, in a place where you do not expect it, people who feel like they should have been given the solo instead of someone else. They didn't get as much applause as the other person. Their ministry isn't given the primary focus that some other ministry is given. They're not elected to this board or to that board. And while serving Almighty God, we succumb to the temptation to be envious of one another.
How subtle is the enemy? Envy runs in performance circles, but then let me remind you that envy travels in professional circles as well. There's a passage in the New Testament that has always intrigued me. Paul is writing to the Philippian believers in the first chapter, and he's writing from his cell in the Roman prison. And as he writes to introduce his letter, he says, "I need to tell you Philippians that some have taken advantage of my imprisonment, and they are preaching out of envy. They are preaching to gain promotion for themselves while I am incarcerated here in the Roman cell".
Philippians 1:15 and 16 says it this way, "Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains". Paul could have responded to that badly, but you know what he did? Here's a good clue. He said, "You know what? They're doing it and they're doing it wrong and for the wrong reasons, but I can't get into all that right now. What I'm gonna do is just rejoice that the gospel gets preached and go on with my life". And that's what he did.
Jealousy runs in professional circles. And then jealousy runs, finally, in personal circles. This is probably where we see it the most, and certainly, where we see it the most in the Bible. Jealousy comes into our families and destroys our own family fellowship. There are more illustrations about family jealousy than in any other circle. We see Cain jealous of Abel. There's the story of Ishmael mocking Isaac the day he was weaned. And at birth, we discover that Jacob and Esau are going to live a life of jealousy, one of the other.
In the New Testament, there's the story of the prodigal son. Often we lose the prodigal's son story because we're so wrapped up in the boy who ran away from home, we forget about the boy who didn't run away from home. And you remember when the boy who ran away from home came back, his father was so happy to see him. He greeted him, and hugged him, and threw a party for him, killed the fatted calf for him, put a robe on him and ring on him. A little bit later on, sort of incidentally in the story, we read that the older brother wasn't as happy as he might ought to have been.
He answered and said to his father, "Lo, these many years I have been serving you, and I never transgressed your commandment at any time. And yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends". And you can see the jealousy in his heart over what has happened to his brother. Perhaps the greatest illustration of family jealousy is in the life of Joseph, whose brother so envied him that they sold him into slavery in Egypt because Joseph had the gall to tell them his dream. And his dream was that his brothers were going to bow down before him and that he was to be their ruler, probably not a good thing to tell your brothers a dream like that.
They were so filled with jealousy that the whole story of Joseph is wrapped up in the intrigue between the brothers in the family of Jacob. When jealousy enters the front door, my friends, let me just remind you, love goes out the back door. Jealousy intrudes to destroy. Now, I want to remind you, as we think about this, that jealousy travels in circles. It may surprise you to learn that I have never been personally jealous of a professional wrestler, never have. I have never been tempted to be jealous of painters or plumbers, as much as I may admire what they do. I am not jealous of bank presidents. I do not have jealousy over music directors. My problem with jealousy will always run in the circles where I live. I need to be careful not to look with green eyes at the other guy who does what I do better than I do it.
So, what are the characteristics of this jealousy that travels in circles? First of all, it destroys others. I don't have to demonstrate that. I don't have to really illustrate it. Go through the Bible and you will find it. Cain killed Abel, remember? Saul tried to kill David, and Herod was gonna kill every baby that was born in that generation because he was so jealous of any would-be rival who would come to the throne. Jealousy not only destroys others, but jealousy destroys ourselves. That's the tragedy of it. Far more than the objects of our jealous, hate is the pain that we wreak upon ourselves, how we hurt and destroy our own lives by jealousy. And it always seems to come back on us.
Remember Haman who was hanged on the gallows that he originally built for the object of his own jealousy? And then there were the people who were so jealous of Daniel that they were gonna have him thrown in the lion's den. And when Daniel came out unscathed, they themselves were thrown in the lion's den. And the Bible says that the lions had them totally devoured before they get ever hit the floor of the cave. So, envy and jealousy comes back upon us and that brings us to the final question, what do we do about it? Face the giant of jealousy. How do we face it?
Well, you're not gonna like what I'm gonna tell you because I don't particularly like it myself. But it's the only thing I know to tell you because it's the truth of the Word of God and it's very similar to what we've said in some of the other giants that we faced. To fight against the giant of jealousy, we necessarily must renounce jealousy as sin. Please hear me this morning. Jealousy is not just a personality disorder. It is not something you inherited in your temperament. Jealousy is sin. It is included in the works of evil listed in the Book of Galatians, Peter says we're to lay it aside and leave it. James says that where envy and self-seeking exists, confusion and every evil thing are there.
Paul wrote to the Romans about jealousy and he said, "Let us walk properly as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and in envy". Jealousy and envy is sin, and if you don't understand this, let me help you with it this way. The Bible tells us in the New Testament in the Book of Matthew that Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross because of envy. Pilate said he knew that they handed him over because of their envy. Every time I'm tempted to be jealous of someone who's accomplished far more than I could accomplish, I need to be reminded of this truth, that my very jealous heart, my envious spirit, is the very thing that nailed Jesus Christ to the cross, and I should resist it with all of my heart in the power of the Holy Spirit. When you find that you have jealousy in your heart, you must, first of all, renounce it as sin. And secondly, you must remember your rival in prayer.
You say, "Wait a minute, there is no way I can pray for her, no way I can pray for him". But let me just ask you, what else can you do? The Bible says that we're to pray for those who despitefully use us. When you begin to pray for someone who is the object of your jealousy, all of a sudden, your heart begins to change. And then not only remember your rival in prayer, but reaffirm God's goodness to you.
Let me just tell you something I've been learning about this whole problem of jealousy and envy. Listen carefully, whenever we're jealous of somebody else, young people, here's something to kind of put in your notes. Whenever you start to be a little jealous of somebody else, it's always because you don't think God has been as good to you as you think he should have been because if you have everything God wants you to have, why would you ever be jealous of somebody else? When you start thinking about how God has blessed someone else, you have forgotten how he's blessed you.
So, the way you get over that is, you begin to take inventory and you start saying, "Almighty God, thank you. Thank you for how you have blessed my life. I have more. You've given me more. I've done more. I've been more places. I've experienced more than I ever deserved. And Lord God, how can I be jealous of that person when I look back at the way you have blessed me"? So, you begin to thank God for his goodness to your life. And finally, you rekindle God's love in your heart.
Let me tell you something that the Bible tells you. In 1 Corinthians 13, verse 4, we read that love does not envy. Isn't that interesting? Where there is love, there cannot be envy. When love comes in the front door, it'll push envy out the back. When envy comes in the front door, it'll push love out the back. But when you rekindle God's love in your heart, God's love will be so overwhelming that envy won't be able to exist in the environment.
You say, "How do I rekindle God's love in my heart"? Through the reading of the Word of God and through prayer. There's no other way. And God begins to help you understand. The love of God becomes shed abroad in your heart, says the Scripture. And envy will be defeated. There were once two men, both seriously ill, in the same room have a great hospital, quite a small room, just large enough for the two of them, and two beds, and two bedside lockers, and a door opening on the hall, and a window looking out on the world.
One of the men, as part of his treatment, was allowed to sit up for one hour every afternoon, something that had to do with draining the fluid from his lungs. And his bed was next to the window, but the other man had to spend all of his time flat on his back and both of them had to be kept quiet and still, which was the reason they were in this small room by themselves. And they were grateful for peace and privacy, none of the bustling, and clatter, and prying eyes of the general hospital.
Of course, one of the disadvantages of their condition was that they weren't allowed to do anything. They couldn't read, they couldn't listen to the radio, they couldn't watch television. They had to just keep quiet and keep still just the two of them in that one room. But when no one else was around, they would talk by the hour. They would share with one another about their wives, and their children, and their homes, and their former jobs, and their hobbies, and the war, and vacations, and all sorts of things. Every afternoon, the man in the bed next to the window, when he got his moment to sit up, would look out of the window and would pass the time by describing to his friend what he saw.
As the other man began to live for these hours, every day when the time came, he would look out the window and describe what was going on outside. The window apparently overlooked a park, and there was a lake where there were ducks, and swans, and children throwing them bread, and sailing model boats, and young lovers walking hand in hand. And there were trees, and flowers, and stretches of grass, and games of softball, and people taking their ease in the sunshine. And behind them all was this fringe of the trees and a fine view of the city skyline. And the man on his back would listen to all of this, enjoying it as if he were experiencing it himself.
Then one fine afternoon when there was some sort of parade, the thought struck him, "Why should he have his bed next to the window? Why should he have all the pleasure of seeing what's going on? Why shouldn't I get that chance"? And he felt ashamed, and he tried not to think about it. But the more he tried, the worse he wanted to change. He'd do anything, but he couldn't make it go away. In a few days, he had turned totally sour. He should be by the window. He brooded, he couldn't sleep. He grew even more seriously ill, which the doctors could not understand.
And one night as he stared at the ceiling, the man by the window suddenly woke up coughing and choking. The fluid congesting in his lungs, his hands groping for the button that would bring the night nurse running. But the man laying flat on his back watched without moving. The coughing racked the darkness on and on, choked off, then stopped, and the man who laid on his back continued to stare at the ceiling doing nothing.
In the morning, the day nurse came in with water for their baths and found the other man dead. They took away his body quietly with no fuss, and as soon as it seemed decent, the man asked if he could be moved to the bed next to the window. They moved him, tucked him in, made him quite comfortable, and left him alone to be quiet and still. The minute they'd gone, he propped himself up on one elbow painfully, laboriously, and looked out the window and discovered that it faced a blank wall.
-he friend over whom he had been so jealous had literally been ministering to his bed partner by telling him from his imagination, the stories of all the things he knew would make him better. In his jealousy, he destroyed the very thing that had come to give him life and ended up himself with nothing.
My friend, I have never heard a story that describes better the power of a jealous heart to ruin those around us and ultimately to destroy our own peace. So, I tell you today, don't just face the giant of jealousy, fight it and be victorious over it through the power of the Holy Spirit, and begin to live your life with joy as God intended.