Why Are We Jealous?

Holding hands at any ageJealously is no good. However, we experience it all too often. As a matter of fact, I remember quite clearly a conversation my wife and I had a few months ago. This one stands out because it was when my jealousy was burning brightly. We were driving by a very nice house that I pass by on my commute to and from work. It’s a very expensive house. It was bought some time ago and the owner has had it fixed up. However, the owner hasn’t moved in. The house is beautiful, is more than liveable, and yet stands empty. Feeling a bit jealous, I pointed out the house to my wife and lamented how that house still had no occupants.

The reality was that I wished we could afford that house and live in that house. It is unique with respect to architecture and it would mean a far shorter commute to work. However, I don’t think it’s the house so much as the kind of easier life we could have if we could afford that house. When I was honest with myself, that was what I was jealous of: that we didn’t have that type of life. This is foolishness.

Truly God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
my steps had nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

– Psalm 73:1-3, ESV

Jealousy often causes us to stumble. Our jealousy can cause our steps to slip. We become envious at those we see who are more prosperous than ourselves. We can become bitter. We can compromise our values and do things we know is wrong in order to become more like them. We could be guilty of both. That’s what Asaph, the psalm writer was describing. Even though he knew God was good to those who were pure in heart, he wanted something God wasn’t giving him. It almost caused him to stumble.

Truly you set them in slippery places;
you make them fall to ruin.
How they are destroyed in a moment,
swept away utterly by terrors!
Like a dream when one awakes,
O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms.
When my soul was embittered,
when I was pricked in heart,
I was brutish and ignorant;
I was like a beast toward you.

– Psalm 73:18-22, ESV

Asaph realized that those who were wickedly prosperous were in slippery places. They could be destroyed, utterly destroyed, in the blink of an eye. Asaph also realized that when he was so jealous of them, he was “brutish and ignorant.” He was “like a beast.” That’s an apt description. We don’t want to hear that about ourselves. However, when we are honest with ourselves, this is exactly how we are when we are jealous.

Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
– Psalm 73:23-26, ESV

Then Asaph took a step back. He thought about what he had in the Lord. These words are so rich. They come from a man who had realized that he was staring at the darkness of his own heart. They come from a man who then took a look at exactly what he had in his relationship with God. What he found was a priceless treasure, one that was above every earthly desire. He also found that he would not fail, for God was the strength of his heart and his portion forever. His portion, you may ask? Indeed, his portion. What Asaph had to look forward to was his heavenly inheritance. God would preserve him. God would bring him into eternity. While the wicked may prosper for a time, Asaph had eternity to look forward to.

The beautiful thing about these words is that they apply to us, too. We have nothing to be jealous of on this earth. It’s a fleshly emotion that will lead us down the road to destruction. It is a temptation so often used by our Adversary for it causes us to slip and stumble. We need to dismiss jealousy and instead do as Asaph did. We must consider the portion that is ours. When we do, we will find, just as Asaph did, that we have nothing to be jealous of. After all, it is we who have the awesome privilege to walk hand-in-hand with the Lord! No house, no car, no bank account, no position, no amount of fame can compare to that.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Why Are We Jealous?

  1. Well written, and I like this. Jealousy also takes us away from the moment, from the peace of appreciating and enjoying what we do have. Aspirations are fine, but make them your own, not someone else’s.

  2. Literally, the Hebrew is much stronger here as Asaph was saying that he was jealous of the prosperity and the boasting of the wicked. Asaph was, no doubt, looking at how they prospered in the world and comparing his life to theirs. He probably thought to himself that he was obeying God and serving Him, and it seemed that the blessing of God was going to the unbeliever, who has no regard for the things of God. Asaph made the mistake that many — including myself — have made, and that is, we assess the blessings of God as only being material in nature. Whenever we allow our worldly perspectives to overshadow our eternal perspectives, we will always come up short. In comparison to the number of rich unbelievers in the world, the amount of rich believers is small.