Jealousy — Is it Wrong?

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?

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5 Comments

Filed under Good & Evil, Infidelity, Jealousy, Jesus Christ, Love and Marriage, Mind, morality, Religion

5 responses to “Jealousy — Is it Wrong?

  1. I certainly WOULD be jealous if I were God…and some times I have gotten a taste of what it would be like for him, even though it’s nothing in comparison to how he actually feels (I will probably never understand that)…but I’ve felt it when I can see Satan encroaching upon someone I love, and I become super defensive for that person’s life!! I think God feels the same way. He doesn’t want anyone to take us from Him, He desires for His love for us to be returned to Him…and only Him!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I love reading them! I appreciate you, Dwight, and your honesty…so much!!! 🙂

  2. Great post, Dwight. I immediately thought of a clip I saw recently in which Oprah Winfrey described the moment she began questioning her Christian upbringing and looking elsewhere for answers. She says it was when she heard it mentioned in a sermon that God was a “jealous” God. This didn’t seem right to her, and the rest is history. I wish she had sought out a little more context and explanation at the time, like what you give here.

  3. dwhitsett

    Hi Rob…that’s exactly what inspired the post. So many people are like Oprah, refusing to let God define Himself. If there is a God and we are His creation…and I deeply believe we are…then we’d better dig a little deeper before we reject Him. There are many puzzling things about Yahweh, but why not do a little research, do a little discussing…before we turn to some kind of weirdness for an alternative? Why would Tolle and others like him have the answers? Why are they credible?

  4. John Cummins

    Great post! The question however still remains unanswered. Is it wrong to be jealous… let us say, of our wives or husbands? The simple answer is maybe.

    The mitigating factor is predicated on whether the jealousy is predicated on normal, rational and rightous judgement. In other words, is there sufficient justification for a rational being to be justified. This is why communication is essential before one prejudges based merely on the appearance of things. If one feels a sense of jealousy then it would behoove that person to talk with the other person to see if that jealousy is warranted, justified, or if they have a legitamate reason to be concerned or jealous.

    It also needs to be noted that while the other person may discount the other persons feeling of jealousy, minimize or trivialize them, nevertheless, that person may have a legitimate concern. It is the responsibility of each person to consider the other person (and their feelings) as more important than their own. It is called courtesy or consideration. In this respect, if one knows that certain actions, attitudes they have are causative of the feelings of jealousy in the other person, then within reason they are to abstain from provocations of jealousy. If they do not… It certainly will not convey a true and genuine love for the other person. The golden rule… Right? We would appreciate the same courtesy afforded to ourselves then we certainly should treat them as we would like to be treated.

    God bless

  5. Jim Kirk

    Feeling annoyed at someone flirting with your wife…there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing sinful about it. It is inappropriate behavior that the man is doing. IF the wife is flirting back even if she doesn’t cheat and has no intention of cheating it is VERY inappropriate behavior on her part as well.

    People always seem to confuse jealousy as something bad. Jealousy is NOT always you fearing loss. I can watch a man flirt with my wife and not fear that she would EVER actually mess around on me but what if she is attracted to the guy and flirts back casually because it strokes her ego. It is sinful ON HER PART. Because it is putting temptation in front of both of them. She is instigating and sinning through her action or lack of action.

    The appropriate thing would be for her to say to the man who is flirting with her….hey, I’m happily married and what you are attempting to do is wrong. Please leave me alone. I love my husband and don’t want anything to do with you.

    Anything short of that is eg0-indulgence and unnecessary.

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