God is a jealous God who demands exclusive worship, who views any form of idolatry as a major sin (Deut 4:24; Ex 20:5, 34:14). God is not jealous of us, but He is jealous for us. He calls us to love Him with our whole minds, bodies, and souls and we can't do that if our affections are divided (Mk 12:30). He wants the best for us which is Himself. He faithfully loves His people and expects the same faithfulness and complete allegiance from us in return. Paul had this same positive, godly jealousy and protective attribute that his followers would be solely devoted to God (2 Cor 11:2). However, the normal (contemporary) use of the word denotes the negative attitude or action of resentment.
Cain’s response to his offering not being accepted, while his brother’s was, led to his feeling of rejection. He did not seek to bring an acceptable offering but continued to be offended and this jealousness resulted in him murdering Abel (Gen 4:2-8).
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were jealous of His popularity and miracle working power. He was a threat to their position and status and they became skeptical and plotted to kill this non-conformist who challenged their man-made positions and superficial relationship with God (Mt 9:33-36, 27:18; Mk 3:1-6; Jn 8:19,54,55, 11:48). Is there any of this destructive attitude lurking in my heart? The Bible says, “Do not covet what belongs to another” (Ex 20:17).
By not receiving what they expected and considered they deserved, this caused discontent and jealousy amongst the workers in the parable of the vineyard (Mt 20:1-16). Like any negative response, jealousy destroys peaceful human relationships and creates division. Parents cause jealousy between their children by showing favouritism, and this leads to ill feeling and conflict (Gen 37:3-11). Rivalries and thinking others have an advantage leads to disagreements, destroying goodwill and trust, making people self-centred rather than co-operating in love to achieve important goals. Jesus prayed that His followers may be of one heart and mind (Jn 17:21).
Am I jealous of another’s ministry or possessions?
being fully committed and using your gifts in service for Him – this brings contentment and fulfillment. Do not envy sinners, instead always be zealous for the fear of the Lord, remembering your spiritual inheritance in Christ (Prov 23:17).
What is our reaction when others succeed where we fail? John the Baptist when he heard of the rising success of Jesus ministry stated, “He must increase, while I decrease” (Jn 3:26-30). If it’s a work of God rejoice in it, no matter who is doing it, or who gets the credit. Paul said, stop being jealous, it shows how attuned to the world’s system you are (Rom 13:12,13; 1 Cor 3:3). He used the analogy of one part of the body being envious of another part’s function, when in reality each is to faithfully fulfill its calling and purpose for which it was created (1 Cor 12:14-17). With God’s help be the best ‘you’, that you can.
See also: bitterness, covet, envy, favouritism, gods/idols, lust, resentment.