It is written:
1 Corinthians 13:4-Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;
The love that God wants us to learn is the kind that does not envy.
In the Bible, there is both a good kind of jealously and a bad kind of jealously. The good kind involves being zealous for that which we love, while the bad kind involves being envious for that which does not belong to us.
For example, God is an example of good jealousy:
James 4:5-Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”?
God loves His people and yearns for them. This is a good jealously.
The kind of jealousy that Paul talks about here in 1 Corinthians 13 is of another nature altogether. The basic meaning of the word is to have strong negative feelings towards another person’s successes and then to allow these feelings to be demonstrated in overt actions. The Christians at Corinth were jealous of each other over things that that they should not be striving about. Some were jealous of others because they possessed different spiritual gifts, others were jealous regarding financial matters, etc. In all of these cases, there should not be jealously. The Ten Commandments had begun addressing this centuries before Paul wrote 1 Corinthians:
Exodus 20:17-You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”
Jealously has always been a problem of mankind. Jealously unchecked is what led to Cain’s killing his brother Abel (Genesis 4), to Joseph being sold into slavery (Genesis 37), and to Saul’s attempts to kill David (1 Samuel 23-24). The Prophet James tells us of the origin of this kind of jealously:
James 3:14-16-But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.
How can we overcome jealously?
First, jealously focuses on other people. Therefore, the first step is to change your focus from people to God. Paul reminds us that we need to learn to put our minds on things in Heaven and not on Earth.
Colossians 3:1-3-If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
Second, jealously focuses on the successes or well-being of another. Instead of focusing on that, look at the things in your own life that you have to be thankful for. Look at how God has blessed you in your life. It has been said that the antidote to jealously is thanksgiving.
Third, don’t become so focused on another person that you lose sight that God is working in your life as well. Perhaps this is greatly illustrated by a passage from the Book of Jeremiah:
Jeremiah 29:11-For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
God is working in your life, even in your struggles and imperfections (Romans 8:28), just as He is working in the lives of others in this world.
Finally, learn to be thankful for others successes and happiness. This may take time to develop, but God will help you.
Years ago, I counseled a married man who had fallen in love with another woman. He was devoted to his wife and loved her, but he also had feelings for this woman that he couldn’t shake. He never told her, and when she fell in love with someone else, he hurt terribly. Then over time, as he grew in Christ, he began to be thankful that this woman he loved had found such happiness.
One of my favorite series of books, the Wheel Of Time, illustrates this well. A man named Lan falls in love with Nynaeve but is unable to be with her. He tells us:
“I will hate the man you choose because he is not me, and love him if he makes you smile.” (Robert Jordan, The Eye Of The World, 614 (Kindle Edition); New York, NY; Tom Doherty Associates Book)
God will help His people when they seek Him.
Psalm 29:11-The LORD will give strength to His people; The LORD will bless His people with peace.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.