Like all questions regarding our conduct as believers, we must realize the answers can only be found as we biblically and humbly examine God Himself by wholeheartedly searching His Word. And the answers that are brought to light should always diminish self and grow our understanding of our precious Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Although the question of jealousy doesn’t directly deal with evangelism or apologetics per se, the heart of it does. Our current culture, along with most of today’s Christianity, is completely self-focused and sadly, jealousy is often a result, flourishing and destroying many in its path. Earthly jealousy derived from our selfish, prideful flesh, can cripple even the most seasoned of believers, often rendering their feet futile is proclaiming the glorious Gospel of Peace. And frankly said, Satan knows it.
This is by no means meant to be exhaustive, however, we do hope the brief overview below leads readers closer to the only One who can bring true freedom and sanctification to every born again believer!
Is it ever okay for a Christian to be jealous?
Selfishly speaking, the answer is simple. No. But is there such a thing as good, Godly jealousy?
The word “jealous” is used 19 times in 16 verses in the King James Version of the Bible. It most often refers to God’s own jealousy toward His own name, people (in general), Israel, Christians, and the land of Israel and its heavenly appointed capital city, Jerusalem. (Exodus 20:5, 34:14, Deuteronomy 4:24, Joel 2:18, Zechariah 1:14, etc.) There is also a spirit of jealousy mentioned in Numbers 5 regarding a husband’s jealously for his wife. Finally, there is a godly jealousy referenced in 1 Kings 19 and specifically mentioned in 2 Corinthians 11:2. “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.”
Motives and the Heart: Godly jealousy is a lot like godly anger. We often assume we have it when, in fact, we’re often simply using our Savior’s name to defend our own selfish motives. We are reminded in Jeremiah 17:9 that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” But if we cannot even know the true desires of our own hearts, then what hope do any of us really have? Thankfully, the answer is found in the very next verse. “I, the LORD, search the heart. I try the reins…” Even as believers, we can be deceived by our hearts, therefore, we must move beyond ourselves and, instead, ask the Lord to shine the light of His Word into every area, sanctifying our very hearts and minds, not simply our thoughts, attitudes, and actions. That is why David prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” Psalm 139:23-24.
Holding onto the Flesh: Earthly speaking, we desire control. We want the attention and the glory, often believing we actually deserve such fame, so we seek to hold onto our old man by holding onto others. One such avenue of doing this is through exercising earthly jealousy.
God’s Very Character: I once had a fifth grader inquire, “If God isn’t selfish, then why is it okay for Him to be jealous?” What a great question! The Lord can rightfully be jealous because there is no one greater than Himself. For God to express jealousy in His desire to not have us stray, seeking other gods (avenues of joy, peace, contentment, meaning, forgiveness, etc.) is good and selfless because it is for our best, not His. He is the best and offers Himself to us. Therefore, His offering is for our best. His jealousy is perfectly selfless just as He is. The root of God’s jealousy stems from His selfless love, nothing less.
Godly Jealousy: If I am to express true, Godly jealousy, it must come from this same heart and mind. It must come from the Lord Himself, from His Word and His Holy Spirit. Godly jealousy desires others first to find their true contentment in Jesus, not in us. In 1 Kings 19, Elijah declared to the Lord, “I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword.” He is not jealous for something being withheld from him. He is not jealous because he’s not getting enough attention. Elijah was jealous for the LORD, His name, His glory, and His goodness being robbed from the people.
This is true, Godly jealousy! This heart will long for others, even our spouses, to find their sanctification, ultimate joy and satisfaction in the Lord, not us. If we are born again and abiding in Christ, then our minds and hearts will be desirous of the things of the Spirit of God, not our flesh.
The Proper Perspective: We must be diligent to daily hand over those we love to the Lord. They are not ours to control; nor are we made to receive the entirety of their attention and affection. Their hearts and minds ultimately belong to the One who died for them, purchasing them with His own blood. Only Jesus deserves such glory and adoration. (1 Corinthians 6:20, 7:22-24)
If we start from this perspective, I believe the rest will become clear.
“He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30