Love Conquers Improper Jealousy
“Love is not jealous.”—1 CORINTHIANS 13:4.
1, 2. (a) What did Jesus tell his disciples about love? (b) Is it possible to be both loving and jealous, and why do you so answer?
LOVE is an identifying mark of true Christianity. “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves,” said Jesus Christ. (John 13:35) The apostle Paul was inspired to explain how love should affect Christian relationships. Among other things, he wrote: “Love is not jealous.”—1 Corinthians 13:4.
2 When Paul wrote those words, he was referring to improper jealousy. Otherwise he could not have told the same congregation: “I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy.” (2 Corinthians 11:2) His “godly jealousy” was aroused because of men who were a corrupting influence in the congregation. This moved Paul to write Corinthian Christians a second inspired letter containing much loving counsel.—2 Corinthians 11:3-5.
Jealousy Among Christians
3. How did a problem involving jealousy develop among the Corinthian Christians?
3 In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul had to handle a problem that was preventing these new Christians from getting along with one another. They were elevating certain men, being “puffed up individually in favor of the one against the other.” This led to divisions within the congregation, with different ones saying: “I belong to Paul,” “But I to Apollos,” “But I to Cephas.” (1 Corinthians 1:12; 4:6) Under guidance by the holy spirit, the apostle Paul was able to get to the root of the problem. The Corinthians were acting like fleshly-minded people, not like “spiritual men.” Thus, Paul wrote: “You are yet fleshly. For whereas there are jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly and are you not walking as men do?”—1 Corinthians 3:1-3.
4. What illustration did Paul use to help his brothers arrive at the right view of one another, and what lesson can we learn from this?
4 Paul helped the Corinthians to appreciate the correct view of the talents and abilities of various ones in the congregation. He asked: “Who makes you to differ from another? Indeed, what do you have that you did not receive? If, now, you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as though you did not receive it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7) In 1 Corinthians chapter 12, Paul explained that those who were part of the congregation were like the different members of a human body, such as the hand, the eye, and the ear. He pointed out that God made the members of the body in such a way that they care for one another. Paul also wrote: “If a member is glorified, all the other members rejoice with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:26) All of God’s servants today should apply this principle in their relationship with one another. Instead of being jealous of another person because of his assignment or accomplishments in God’s service, we should rejoice with that one.
5. What is revealed at James 4:5, and how do the Scriptures highlight the truth of these words?
5 Admittedly, this is easier said than done. The Bible writer James reminds us that “a tendency to envy” resides in every sinful human. (James 4:5) The first human death came about because Cain yielded to his improper jealousy. The Philistines persecuted Isaac because they envied his growing prosperity. Rachel was jealous of her sister’s fruitfulness in childbearing. Jacob’s sons were jealous of the favor shown toward their younger brother Joseph. Miriam evidently was jealous of her non-Israelite sister-in-law. Korah, Dathan, and Abiram enviously formed a conspiracy against Moses and Aaron. King Saul became jealous of the military successes of David. No doubt jealousy was also a factor causing Jesus’ disciples to get into repeated arguments about who was the greatest among them. The fact is that no imperfect human is totally free of the sinful “tendency to envy.”—Genesis 4:4-8; 26:14; 30:1; 37:11; Numbers 12:1, 2; 16:1-3; Psalm 106:16; 1 Samuel 18:7-9; Matthew 20:21, 24; Mark 9:33, 34; Luke 22:24.
In the Congregation
6. How can elders control the tendency to envy?
6 All Christians need to guard against envy and improper jealousy. This includes bodies of elders appointed to care for the congregations of God’s people. If an elder has lowliness of mind, he will not ambitiously try to outshine others. On the other hand, if a certain elder has outstanding abilities as an organizer or a public speaker, the others will rejoice over this, viewing it as a blessing to the congregation. (Romans 12:15, 16) A brother may be making fine progress, giving evidence of producing the fruitage of God’s spirit in his life. In considering his qualifications, the elders should be careful not to magnify some minor failing to justify not recommending him as a ministerial servant or an elder. That would betray a lack of love and reasonableness.
7. What problem may develop when a Christian gets some theocratic assignment?
7 If someone receives a theocratic assignment or a spiritual blessing, others in the congregation need to guard against envy. For example, one capable sister may be used more often than another to give demonstrations at Christian meetings. This may give rise to jealousy on the part of some sisters. A similar problem may have existed between Euodia and Syntyche of the Philippi congregation. Such present-day women may need kindly encouragement from the elders to be humble and to be “of the same mind in the Lord.”—Philippians 2:2, 3; 4:2, 3.
8. Jealousy can lead to what sinful acts?
8 A Christian may know of a past failing on the part of one who is now blessed with privileges in the congregation. (James 3:2) Out of jealousy, there may be a temptation to speak to others about this and to challenge that one’s assignment in the congregation. This would be contrary to love, which “covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8) Jealous talk can disrupt the peace of a congregation. “If you have bitter jealousy and contentiousness in your hearts,” warned the disciple James, “do not be bragging and lying against the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is the earthly, animal, demonic.”—James 3:14, 15.
In Your Family
9. How can marriage mates control feelings of jealousy?
9 Many marriages fail because of improper jealousy. Showing a lack of trust in a marriage partner is not loving. (1 Corinthians 13:7) On the other hand, one mate may be insensitive to feelings of jealousy on the part of the other. For example, a wife may be jealous because of the attention that her husband gives to someone else of the opposite sex. Or a husband may become jealous because of the amount of time his wife spends caring for a needy relative. Embarrassed over such feelings, marriage mates may keep quiet and show their frustration in ways that complicate the problem. Instead, a jealous marriage mate needs to communicate and be honest about his or her feelings. In turn, the other mate needs to show understanding and give reassurance of his or her love. (Ephesians 5:28, 29) Both of them may need to allay feelings of jealousy by avoiding situations that give rise to it. Sometimes a Christian overseer may need to help his wife understand that he is giving limited, proper attention to members of the opposite sex in order to fulfill his responsibility as a shepherd of God’s flock. (Isaiah 32:2) Of course, an elder should be careful never to give any valid cause for jealousy. This requires balance, making sure that he spends time in strengthening his own marriage relationship.—1 Timothy 3:5; 5:1, 2.
10. How can parents help their children to cope with feelings of jealousy?
10 Parents must also help their children to grasp the concept of improper jealousy. Children often get involved in squabbles that turn into fights. Frequently the root cause is jealousy. Because each child’s needs are unique, children cannot be treated identically. Moreover, children need to understand that each one of them has different strengths and weaknesses. If one child is always encouraged to do as well as the other, this may cultivate envy in one and pride in the other. Hence, parents should train their children to measure their progress by considering the examples in God’s Word, not by competing with one another. The Bible says: “Let us not become egotistical, stirring up competition with one another, envying one another.” Instead, “let each one prove what his own work is, and then he will have cause for exultation in regard to himself alone, and not in comparison with the other person.” (Galatians 5:26; 6:4) Most important, Christian parents need to help their children by means of a regular Bible study, highlighting the good and the bad examples contained in God’s Word.—2 Timothy 3:15.
Examples of Mastering Jealousy
11. How was Moses a fine example in handling jealousy?
11 Unlike power-hungry leaders of this world, “Moses was by far the meekest of all the men who were upon the surface of the ground.” (Numbers 12:3) When leadership over the Israelites became burdensome for Moses to carry alone, Jehovah caused His spirit to operate upon 70 other Israelites, empowering them to help Moses. When two of these men began to act like prophets, Joshua felt that this improperly detracted from Moses’ leadership. Joshua wanted to restrain the men, but Moses humbly reasoned: “Are you feeling jealous for me? No, I wish that all of Jehovah’s people were prophets, because Jehovah would put his spirit upon them!” (Numbers 11:29) Yes, Moses was happy when others received privileges of service. He did not jealously want glory for himself.
12. What enabled Jonathan to avoid feelings of jealousy?
12 A fine example of how love prevails over possible improper feelings of jealousy was provided by Jonathan, the son of Israelite King Saul. Jonathan was next in line to inherit the throne of his father, but Jehovah had chosen David, the son of Jesse, to be the next king. Many in Jonathan’s position would have been jealous of David, viewing him as a rival. However, Jonathan’s love for David prevented such a feeling from ever dominating him. Upon learning of Jonathan’s death, David could say: “I am distressed over you, my brother Jonathan, very pleasant you were to me. More wonderful was your love to me than the love from women.”—2 Samuel 1:26.
The Most Outstanding Examples
13. Who is the best example in the matter of jealousy, and why?
13 Jehovah God is the most outstanding example of one who has mastery over even proper jealousy. He keeps such feelings under perfect control. Any powerful manifestation of divine jealousy is always in harmony with God’s love, justice, and wisdom.—Isaiah 42:13, 14.
14. What example did Jesus set in contrast with Satan?
14 The second outstanding example of one showing mastery over jealousy is God’s beloved Son, Jesus Christ. “Although he was existing in God’s form,” Jesus “gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God.” (Philippians 2:6) What a sharp contrast to the course taken by the ambitious angel who became Satan the Devil! Like “the king of Babylon,” Satan jealously desired to “resemble the Most High” by setting himself up as a rival god in opposition to Jehovah. (Isaiah 14:4, 14; 2 Corinthians 4:4) Satan even tried to get Jesus to “fall down and do an act of worship” to him. (Matthew 4:9) But nothing could sway Jesus from his humble course of submission to Jehovah’s sovereignty. In contrast with Satan, Jesus “emptied himself and took a slave’s form and came to be in the likeness of men. More than that, when he found himself in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient as far as death, yes, death on a torture stake.” Jesus upheld the rightfulness of his Father’s rule, totally rejecting the Devil’s course of pride and jealousy. For Jesus’ faithfulness, “God exalted him to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every other name, so that in the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the ground, and every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”—Philippians 2:7-11.
Mastering Your Jealousy
15. Why must we be careful to curb feelings of jealousy?
15 Unlike God and Christ, Christians are imperfect. Being sinful, at times they may act out of sinful jealousy. Instead of allowing jealousy to move us to criticize a fellow believer about some minor failing or imagined wrong, therefore, it is important that we meditate on these inspired words: “Do not become righteous overmuch, nor show yourself excessively wise. Why should you cause desolation to yourself?”—Ecclesiastes 7:16.
16. What fine advice on jealousy was given in a past issue of this magazine?
16 On the subject of jealousy, The Watch Tower of March 15, 1911, cautioned: “While we should be very zealous, very jealous in the Lord’s cause, yet we must be very sure that it is not a private matter; and should consider whether or not we are ‘busybodies.’ Then, too, we should consider whether it may be a proper thing for the elders to deal with and whether or not it would be our duty to go to the elders. We should all have a great deal of jealousy for the Lord’s cause and the Lord’s work, but be very careful that it is not the bitter kind . . . in other words, we should be very sure that it is not jealousy of another, but jealousy for another, for his interests and best welfare.”—1 Peter 4:15.
17. How can we avoid sinful acts of jealousy?
17 How can we as Christians avoid pride, jealousy, and envy? The solution lies in allowing a free flow of God’s holy spirit in our lives. For example, we need to pray for God’s spirit and for help in displaying its good fruitage. (Luke 11:13) We need to attend Christian meetings, which are opened with prayer and have God’s spirit and blessing upon them. Moreover, we need to study the Bible, which was inspired by God. (2 Timothy 3:16) And we need to share in the Kingdom-preaching work being done with the power of Jehovah’s holy spirit. (Acts 1:8) Helping fellow Christians who have been crushed by some bad experience is another way of yielding to the good influence of God’s spirit. (Isaiah 57:15; 1 John 3:15-17) Zealously fulfilling all these Christian obligations will help to protect us from sinful practices of jealousy, for God’s Word states: “Keep walking by spirit and you will carry out no fleshly desire at all.”—Galatians 5:16.
18. Why will we not always have to struggle against improper feelings of jealousy?
18 Love is listed first among the fruits of God’s holy spirit. (Galatians 5:22, 23) Exercising love will help us to control sinful tendencies now. But what about the future? Millions of Jehovah’s servants have the hope of life in the coming earthly Paradise, where they can look forward to being uplifted to human perfection. In that new world, love will prevail and no one will succumb to improper feelings of jealousy, for “the creation itself also will be set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God.”—Romans 8:21.
Points for Meditation
□ What illustration did Paul use to help counteract jealousy?
□ How might jealousy disrupt the peace of the congregation?
□ How can parents train their children to cope with jealousy?
□ How can we avoid sinful acts of jealousy?
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Do not let jealousy disrupt the peace of the congregation
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Parents can train their children to cope with feelings of jealousy