Spiritual Jealousy: How Envy Rots the Bones

“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” Proverbs 14:30 (NIV)

Right now I am in a season that requires me to wait for the Lord to act. There are needs I am fervently praying for that I am entirely dependent on God to fulfill. I have (unfortunately) discovered that as I wait for God to step in and do what only He can do, I am not only impatient but also jealous at times. I see people who have the things I am praying for, and my heart burns with envy. I see prayers that God has answered for others and I think, “why not me, God?” How perilous is this way of thinking! Proverbs 27:4 reveals that “anger is cruel, and wrath is like a flood, but jealousy is even more dangerous” (NLT). Wow.

As the Lord convicted my heart about my struggles with jealousy, I continued to search the Scriptures covering this topic. What does the Word of God have to say about jealousy? What causes it, and how can I fight against it?

In Matthew 20, Jesus presents the Parable of the Vineyard Workers. Here is the synopsis of this parable: a landowner hires some laborers early one morning to work in his vineyard. The landowner and his new employees agreed on a wage, and they went to work. Three more times that day (at 9:00 AM, at noon and at 3:00 PM) the landowner hired a few more people, agreeing to pay them whatever was right at the end of the day. He went to town one final time, around 5:00 PM, and employed a few more people who were otherwise unable to find work that day. When the end of the day came and earnings were doled out, the landowner chose to pay the workers hired early in the morning the same wages as the workers hired at 5:00 PM. Those who began working in the early morning were not happy with this decision. The landowner reminded the workers that when they chose to take the job that morning, the wages were discussed and agreed upon. So what changed? Why where they now angry to be paid what they agreed was a fair wage just a few hours earlier?

They began to compare what they received to what their neighbors received, and jealousy took its bitter root. Isn’t it funny how we can be perfectly happy with our current situation until we compare it to someone else’s situation? What is jealousy without comparison? The landowner asks the laborers, “Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?” (Matthew 20:15, NLT).

Ouch! When I read this, I heard the Lord saying those piercing words directly to me – should you be jealous because I am kind to others? Should you be jealous because I answered someone else’s prayers when your time has not yet come? His kindness, compassion and faithfulness to others does not take away from his kindness, compassion and faithfulness to me! He is infinitely kind, infinitely merciful and always faithful.

The bottom line is this: do we really trust the promises and character of God? We struggle with jealousy when we lack wisdom and understanding. Scripture says “they who measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12, MEV). Jealousy occurs when we lose perspective of God’s sovereignty and goodness; it happens when we look at our neighbors rather than looking to the God who supplies all of our needs from His glorious riches, given to us in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). God promises to work all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). He withholds no good thing from those who walk uprightly (Psalm 84:11). Do we believe Him, or do we think He is trying to short-change us? He created everything in existence, including me and the loved ones I am praying for, and He always knows what is best. How foolish is it for me to look at my neighbor’s lot and suggest to the God of the universe that perhaps He could do a better job running the world and writing my story, starting by taking pointers from me?

Here is my challenge to those who, like me, struggle with jealousy: Get your perspective in check. Do this by spending time worshiping God. Turn on some worship music and focus on His goodness until your attitude changes. Recall to memory all the times he has been faithful to you. Remember all those times he saved you from all those destructive things you thought you wanted. Meditate on his flawless character that is revealed in the Word. Make a list of the things you are thankful for. Spend time making gratitude a priority.

I will leave you with these wise words from our sister in Christ, the late Elisabeth Elliot. “God never withholds from His child that which His love and wisdom call good. God’s refusals are always merciful–“severe mercies” at times but mercies all the same. God never denies us our heart’s desire except to give us something better.”

In Christ,

Heavenly Father, thank you for giving me the gift of your Holy Word that directly addresses issues I struggle with in my life on this earth. As I read your Word, please continue to teach me how to surrender my jealous tendencies until my heart is overflowing with gratitude. I believe your promises are unbreakable, and I trust you completely. In Jesus name, amen.


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