What You Should Know About Jealousy
WHAT is jealousy? It is an intense emotion that can make a person feel anxious, sad, or angry. We may experience jealousy when someone appears to be more successful at a task than we are. Or we may feel jealous when a friend receives more praise than we do. But is it always wrong to be jealous?
People overcome by jealousy tend to be suspicious of potential rivals. King Saul of ancient Israel was an example of this. At first he loved his armor-bearer, David, even promoting him to be a leader of the army. (1 Samuel 16:21; 18:5) Then one day King Saul heard women praising David with the words: “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” (1 Samuel 18:7) Saul should not have allowed this to affect his good relationship with David. However, he took offense. “Saul was continually looking suspiciously at David from that day forward.”—1 Samuel 18:9.
A jealous person may not wish another harm. He or she may just resent the success of a companion and crave to have the same qualities or circumstances. On the other hand, envy is a particularly negative form of jealousy. An envious person may secretly withhold good from the one who arouses his jealousy or may wish that harm will befall that one. Sometimes, an envious person cannot keep his feelings secret. He may be driven to harm another openly, just as King Saul tried to murder David. On more than one occasion, Saul threw a spear in an attempt “to pin David to the wall.”—1 Samuel 18:11; 19:10.
‘But I am not a jealous person,’ you may respond. True, jealousy may not control your life. To some extent, however, all of us are affected by jealousy—our own jealous feelings and those of others. Although quick to notice jealousy in others, we may be slow to see it in ourselves.
“A Tendency to Envy”
The record of sinful human nature as revealed in God’s Word, the Bible, often highlights sins of envy. Do you recall the account of Cain and Abel? Both of these sons of Adam and Eve offered sacrifices to God. Abel did so because he was a man of faith. (Hebrews 11:4) He had faith in God’s ability to fulfill His grand purpose respecting the earth. (Genesis 1:28; 3:15; Hebrews 11:1) Abel also believed that God would reward faithful humans with life in the coming earthly Paradise. (Hebrews 11:6) Thus, God showed his pleasure with Abel’s sacrifice. If Cain had truly loved his brother, he would have been happy that God blessed Abel. Instead, Cain “grew hot with great anger.”—Genesis 4:5.
God urged Cain to do good so that he too could receive a blessing. Then God warned: “If you do not turn to doing good, there is sin crouching at the entrance, and for you is its craving; and will you, for your part, get the mastery over it?” (Genesis 4:7) Sadly, Cain did not master his jealous anger. It drove him to murder his righteous brother. (1 John 3:12) Since then, fights and wars have claimed hundreds of millions of lives. “Some of the basic causes of war may be a desire for more land, a desire for more wealth, a desire for more power, or a desire for security,” explains The World Book Encyclopedia.
True Christians do not take part in this world’s wars. (John 17:16) Sadly, though, individual Christians sometimes get embroiled in verbal fights. If other members of the congregation take sides, these fights can turn into harmful verbal wars. “From what source are there wars and from what source are there fights among you?” the Bible writer James asked fellow believers. (James 4:1) He answered that question by exposing their materialistic greed and added, “You go on . . . coveting,” or being “jealous.” (James 4:2, footnote) Yes, materialism can lead to coveting and being jealous of those who seem to enjoy better circumstances. For this reason, James warned against the human “tendency to envy.”—James 4:5.
What benefit is there in analyzing the causes of jealousy? Well, this can help us to be honest and to promote better relations with others. It can also help us to be more understanding, tolerant, and forgiving. Best of all, it highlights man’s desperate need for God’s loving provision of salvation and rescue from sinful human tendencies.—Romans 7:24, 25.
A World Without Sinful Jealousy
From a human viewpoint, a world without sinful jealousy may sound impossible. Author Rom Landau admitted: “The accumulated wisdom of many ages, with all that philosophers . . . and psychologists have said on the subject, offers no guidance to the man tormented by jealousy. . . . Has any doctor ever cured a man of jealousy?”
But God’s Word holds out the hope of attaining perfect human life in a new world where no one will ever again be plagued by ungodly jealousy or envy. Furthermore, the peace of that new world will not be disrupted by people who display such wicked characteristics.—Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 3:13.
Yet, not all jealousy is improper. In fact, the Bible states that Jehovah “is a jealous God.” (Exodus 34:14) What does that mean? And what does the Bible say about proper jealousy? At the same time, how can a person gain the mastery over improper jealousy? See the articles that follow.