Do you know someone whose walk with God makes you jealous? Does it seem that He likes that person better than He likes you? Does He speak to them often and easily, yet when you seek Him you usually hear nothing? If so, those are symptoms of spiritual jealousy. It begins with a bit of envy, but if left unchecked grows into a deep resentment, even hatred, toward that particular person whom we believe is being blessed by God more than we are.
And I think spiritual jealousy is the root cause behind this shockingly ugly encounter between Jesus and His own brothers. They came to Him when it was time to make preparations to travel to Jerusalem for the Feast of Booths, and they pressed Him hard to attend that feast. John tells us that the situation in Judea by this time had grown so dangerous that Jesus had stopped traveling there and was ministering only in Galilee. It was no secret that the religious leaders wanted to kill Him, yet rather than try to protect Him, His brothers urged Him to put Himself in harms way. Why? Why did these four young men hate their older brother (half-brother) so deeply? Since it appears that their father Joseph had died sometime earlier, Jesus must have been the principle bread-winner in the family for a period of time, and He had always lived an exemplary life as their oldest brother. But none of that seems to have mattered. The brothers couldnt deny the works of power Jesus was doing, but instead of being delighted that God was using their brother in such amazing ways, they attacked His character, accusing Him of being ambitious and self-promoting. The good news is that at least two of those four brothers would later on become disciples of Jesus, after His resurrection, but at the moment they were seething with spiritual jealousy.
Lets try to find out why, because few of us are immune to this attitude. And if we dont guard our own hearts carefully it can damage us in the same way. We can end up hating not only a person, but the God who seems so unfair.
Jealous brothers (Jn 7:1-10)
Jesus and Joseph (Ge 37:1-28)
The relationship between Jesus and His brothers is very similar to the relationship between Joseph and the rest of Jacobs sons. Josephs ten older brothers became very jealous of him. He was the favorite son of their father. Jacob had given Joseph a special coat designating him as the eldest son, which he wasnt, and indicating that he would inherit the large portion of the family estate. That alone produced tremendous jealousy: His brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers; and so they hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms (Ge 37:4). Then, to make matters worse, God seemed to favor him as well. Joseph received two vivid dreams which predicted that the entire family, including their parents, would someday bow down to him in submission. That was more than they could bear, and when the opportunity presented itself they plotted to kill him (Ge 37:11-18). As we know, they didnt kill him but instead ended up selling him as a slave to a passing caravan of traders. The events that happened to Joseph after that are a remarkable testimony to Gods overruling power, but were left to marvel at how his brothers jealousy turned murderous. It appears that the jealousy of Jesus brothers had turned murderous as well.
Spiritual jealously is based on a lie: that God has favorites. While it is true that God does have different assignments for each of usand some of these are more glamorous than othersand it is also true that some people choose to walk much closer to God than others, it is not true that God is unfair or has favorites. It is not true that He desires to communicate with one person but not another, or give the power of the Holy Spirit to one person but not another. Simply put: He is no respecter of persons (Ac 10:34). The fact is He created every one of us in His own image because He wanted to know and love each one. We are the ones who limit Him. As John the Baptist said, He gives the Spirit without measure (Jn 3:34).
So the lie which forms the base of all spiritual jealousy is that God doesnt want to bless me. This is why my jealousy toward an individual gradually turns into hatred toward God. The hatred Josephs brothers felt toward him must have developed into a hatred toward their father who, for some reason, had decided he didnt love them, at least not as much as he loved Joseph. When we watch God bless someone else its easy to assume, as did Josephs brothers, that our Father has decided, for some reason, to love that person more than He does us. Such jealousy becomes a wedge that drives our heart away from God.
Then why is there a difference? Theres no denying the fact that some people appear to have more of God than others. If thats not caused by favoritism, then what is the cause? The easiest way to answer that question is to understand what God has promised to each one of us.
On the last day of the Feast of Booths, probably as the priest poured out a silver pitcher of water onto the altar of burnt offering, Jesus stood up among the worshippers gathered at the temple and cried out, If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. The one who believes in Me, as the scripture said, out of his belly will flow rivers of living water (literal) (Jn 7:37-38). Then, so we wouldnt miss the point Jesus was making, John explained, And this He said concerning the Spirit whom the ones believing in Him were going to receive, for the Spirit was not yet [given] because Jesus was not yet glorified (literal) (Jn 7:39). On that day Jesus announced that every person who believed in Him would be given a specific promise which is found in the scriptures, and then John explains that this promise was given after Jesus was glorified, meaning after He was resurrected from the dead. So now we have to ask to which promise in the Old Testament was He referring? The answer is: it was the promise that when Messiah came He would pour out the Holy Spirit on all of Gods people. There are many such passages in the scriptures, but here are two very important ones:
1) Ezekiel 36:
v24 - God will gather His people
v25 - wash away their sins
v26 - remove the rebellion in their hearts, and give each one a new, obedient human spirit
v27 - God will place His Holy Spirit within each believer and their bodies will become living temples (1Co 6:19)
2) Jeremiah 31
vs31-32 - A new covenant will replace the old covenant
v33 - God will transform each believers heart until he or she wants to obey Him, and is led by the Spirit to do what is right
v34 - There will be no favoritism. God will enter into a personal relationship with all His people. There will be no hierarchical structure in this. And He will continually forgive their sins so His relationship with them will not end.
No room for jealousy
When promises like these are believed and received there can be no room for jealousy. We find ourselves at the feet of an incredibly generous God. As Paul said: He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things (Ro 8:32). And by the phrase all things Paul means not only all the resources we need in this life but also the glorious authority we have been given to rule with Christ in this age and the next. Listen:
For all things belong to you, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God (1Co 3:21-23).
Viewed from this perspective, there is no basis whatsoever for spiritual jealousy among believers. If Im jealous, my problem isnt you, and it isnt God, its me. Ive lost sight of my promise and believed a lie. If my relationship with God is lacking, the answer will only come when I change. I must learn to receive whats been given to me in Christ.
Responding to jealousy
In order to respond to this lesson on spiritual jealousy lets ask ourselves two questions. First, what should I do if Im jealous of someone else? Here are four steps I can take: 1) recognize it (my jealousy); 2) realize its based on a lie that I cant have the same intimacy with God; 3) expect the promise to be given to me as well; and 4) invest the time and energy necessary to receive that promise and develop a close walk with God.
And heres the second question, and responding to this one can be more difficult than the first: What should I do if someone is jealous of me? Here are four steps I can take: 1) recognize it as an attack on that person. We should feel concern, not pride, and do nothing to encourage it. Let people see your weakness as well as your strength, this will give them hope; 2) realize that its based on a lie: you are not superior to that person. Youve simply learned some important lessons they havent yet; 3) pray for them to find Jesus as their Savior if they have not, or to receive the baptism with the Holy Spirit if they have not, or to learn how to develop a close walk with God; and 4) watch for the opportunity to help that person receive the care they need. Why? Because:
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous, love does not brag and is not arrogant (1Co 13:4)
That means, if I have Jesus selfless love in me, Ill rejoice when God blesses you not be jealous; and when God blesses me Ill be careful to acknowledge that I dont deserve any of it, but Ive received grace from our Father who has enormous blessings planned for you as well.
1) Is there someone you tend to spiritually compete with: you feel jealous when theyre blessed and proud when youre blessed? What truth did you learn today that will help you the next time those feeling arise?
2) What steps have you taken lately to develop a deeper spiritual walk with God? What changes have you seen?