Dealing With Envy and Jealousy
Can envy or jealousy ever be right? Why do we react to each other in these ways?
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like [adults], be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.
There are patterns of actions we often follow when someone we care about hurts us. Many of these patterns are things we learned from parents or other close family members when we were young.
God says “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful, it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
When we react to situations rather than responding to them, we often do so with envy or jealousy.
What is envy?
Envy is wanting what someone else has. Envy is never right. In God’s list of “works of the flesh” that we are to avoid, envy is included (Galatians 5:19-21). In the Ten Commandments it is called coveting (Exodus 20:17). Envy is the feeling that if you cannot have something, you do not want anyone else to have it either. A wise king once asked a woman who envied another mother her child, what she would like him to do about this situation. The woman answered that she would rather have the child cut in two than let the other woman have a living baby and she have nothing (1 Kings 3).
When we feel envy, it is usually about something we think we deserve. When we ask God for something, and He does not give it to us, we become angry with Him and turn that anger onto someone else who has what we want. Our verse above says “love is patient and kind; love does not envy…” We cannot love and envy at the same time.
What is jealousy?
Jealousy can be constructive or destructive. Selfishness and possessiveness are kinds of destructive jealousy. But the Ten Commandments say God is jealous (Exodus 20:5), and since God cannot sin, His jealousy is something different. God’s jealousy is a loyal protectiveness based on a covenant relationship. Marriage and family are also covenant relationships, and therefore when they are threatened by another person, feelings of jealousy are natural, normal, and appropriate. These feelings are like an alarm moving you into action.
Jealousy can be wrong. In friendships, it is usually about selfishness, possessiveness, or control. Such relationships are different from a marriage, because marriage or family relationships are not about control. These are special relationships God gives us (Genesis 2:24, 1 Corinthians 6:16, Ephesians 6:1-4).
When a covenant relationship is threatened, confrontation is Biblical – see Matthew 18:15.
The difference between envy and jealousy
Envy is empty hands hungry to be filled. Envy is a burning desire to get. Envy is a craving what another has.
Jealousy is full hands fearing to be emptied. Jealousy is a burning desire to keep. Jealousy is a craving to keep what it has.
Respond rather than react
Our response to envy in our hearts must be to confess it to Jesus as sin and ask Him to love the other person through us. Identify the anger or impatience that causes your envy and ask Jesus to help you trust Him in what He gives you (James 1:17).
Responding rather than reacting when our protective jealousy appears requires Jesus’ help too. He helps us step away from the situation until we can see it without anger clouding our vision. Ask the other person for the time you need, and ask Jesus to help you control your angry or hurtful words and to give you His wisdom. Then return to face the situation with honesty about how you feel and your willingness to see their point of view. The Bible says we are to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Jesus wants us to seek reconciliation when our differences are resolved.
Pray this week:
Father, I ask You to help me with Your wisdom in those times when I am protective of those I love, that I will not seek to control them, but to love them.
Who or what are you envious of? How can you respond to this sin? Contact one of our volunteers today.