Is it a sin? Is it evil? First let’s get a definition from our old electronic friend, Mr. Wiki Pedia.
“Jealousy typically refers to the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that occur when a person believes a valued relationship is being threatened by a rival. This rival may or may not know that he or she is perceived as a threat” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jealousy).
We tend to get jealousy mixed up with envy. But they are not really related in the English language. When I envy you, I want what you have. Perhaps I want your stuff. Maybe I want your fame or reputation. Maybe I want your ability or talent. Maybe (not me, I swear!) I want your wife. Oh the shame!
Speaking of wives, when I was dating Brenda I sometimes felt jealous when I sensed a rival might be threatening our relationship. I say that was natural and, had I not felt it, I would have been abnormal. The more secure I felt in our relationship, the less I felt jealous.
So, jealousy concerns a relationship I have and want to keep, but envy concerns something you have that I want. Got it? Good! There’s nothing wrong with the former unless it leads to something sinful (like violence, or self destructive behavior). The latter is always sinful.
I may aspire to be like you and follow your example of hard work and dedication to achieve what you have. Nothing wrong with that. But if you are beautiful and I am ugly, there is not much I can do without surgery. If I hate you or wish to harm you because you have what I don’t, then I need to adjust my attitude.
Now the initial dilemma for Christians is that the words jealousy and envy are used interchangeably in the Old Testament to translate the Hebrew. In the New Testament, a bewildering group of words are translated “envy.” The Greek word “zeloo” (from which we get “zealous”) is translated various ways, including “jealous.” Sometimes it is good, sometimes bad.
So, we have to actually think in order to figure out if the word being translated “jealous” or “jealously” refers to a threatened relationship or to wanting what another has. That requires looking at the context and noticing which is which.
Our God is a jealous God (Exodus 34:14 and many other passages). He certainly does not want what we have. So, the kind of jealousy that God feels must not be sinful. God has loved us to a degree that surpasses understanding. He has been patient with humans for thousands of years…loving, guiding, disciplining, blessing and forgiving. Finally, He has loved us so much that He sacrificed His only earth-born Son, the fleshly expression of Himself, to wipe away sin forever. When Humans turn their back on this love to pursue a rival, God is jealous. Wouldn’t you be?