“Comparison is the thief of joy” -President Theodore Roosevelt
Each person’s life is completely unique; everyone reaches different stages of life at different times, and prayers get answered at different times and in different ways. When the people around you reach their milestones or have their prayers answered before you, it may seem hopeless or unfair and this oftentimes leads to jealousy and, eventually, resentment. It can tear apart beautiful uplifting friendships and turn them into a constant competition of whose life can be more perfect, or rather who can make their life seem more perfect.
A lot of times we think that jealousy is related to a feeling of low self-esteem, but it can also stem from pride. We can see many people throughout the Bible who were prideful and this led to jealousy and a multitude of other sins. We may think that jealousy isn’t that serious of a sin because oftentimes it is just a thought that we can just shrug off eventually. But this small thought can fester if left undealt with and can eventually manifest itself in dangerous ways. If we look at the example of Saul, we can see that he was at one point in time, a great king. He was anointed by God to lead His people. However, when David came and fought in battle alongside him the women cheered for David saying “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7), then, jealousy consumed Saul. This was just an innocent song, but Saul took this personally, as an assault to his pride.
This little thought, this jealousy, had serious ramifications and eventually caused Saul his eternal life. It says that the next day “the distressing spirit from God came upon Saul” (1 Samuel 18:10). He lost his peace over something that, to us, may seem so small and inconsequential. Yet, we fall into this trap all the time. Someone else scored five points better on that exam or that person has the latest IPhone and I don’t, these small things that in the grand scheme of life have no meaning whatsoever can cause us to lose our peace.
However, it didn’t stop there, this jealousy soon turned into resentment and a type of paranoia as Saul thought that David would try to kill him. In turn, Saul felt that he had to kill David first when, in fact, David had no intention of killing Saul and even had the opportunity to murder him twice, but he didn’t. This may seem like a dramatic example, but when jealousy builds up and we lose our peace, this leads to resentment which can cascade into gossip, being rude, and attempting to taint the other person’s reputation that so we feel superior again. Over time all these negative emotions can lead us to hate those we are jealous of, and in 1 John 3:15 we learn that “whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him”. This cascade into sin all started with a little bit of jealousy over something that was essentially insignificant.
We see this trend again and again in the Old Testament as with Cain and Abel, and Joseph and his brothers. Cain was jealous of his brother’s sacrifice being accepted by God and instead of being encouraged by his brother’s relationship with God, he became jealous and resented him and ultimately killed him. Joseph’s brothers were all jealous of Jacob’s love for him so they wanted to kill Joseph, and ended up selling him.
However, at the end, we see that the Spirit of God departed from Saul, and he eventually committed suicide in battle, Cain had to cope with his shame and guilt, and Joseph’s brothers all had to come face to face with their own guilt and their father’s depression at the loss of his son. In the end, the result is always the destruction of the person who feeds into their own jealousy. Although gossip and hate is meant to hurt the person we envy, we are the ones who are ultimately destroyed. We lose the peace and joy of God and are left feeling hopeless, empty, and even worthless because we derive our worth from earthly things.
There are several precautionary measures we can take to prevent becoming jealous. Social media is often a place where people are always showing off the best parts of their life, and we oftentimes find ourselves following those who live the life that we wish we had. If we are constantly bombarded with all the things that we wish we had, then of course we will become insanely jealous and lose our peace and joy. Limiting our time on social media and being aware of what kinds of accounts we follow can play a big part in preventing jealousy. We can also avoid certain people or certain kinds of conversations. If someone is continually gossiping about other people this can also lead us to share in their jealousy, and if it is too difficult to change the subject then its better if these people are avoided altogether. Additionally, if someone is constantly bragging about their successes this can also lead to jealousy. So until we can learn to be happy for them, we should try to avoid these people so as to not put ourselves into a tempting situation. Lastly, we should focus on all the blessings we have and find at least one new thing to thank God for every day.
When we are so focused on what we don’t have, or what we wish we did have, we effectively ignore everything that we do have and all the gifts God has given us. So whenever the urge to be jealous springs up, just remember all the gifts and blessings God has given you. I once heard a quote that asked “What if you woke up tomorrow with only the things you thanked God for today?” When we focus on counting our blessings and being thankful for the multitude of gifts God has given us, everything we don’t have and all the people we are jealous of become a distant thought and all that is left for us to do is to be eternally grateful.