Jealousy or Something Else?


Not long ago I got to thinking about the idea of jealousy. This is something that has puzzled me for years and has even caused problems in my own life. People have gotten upset with me because they felt I was not jealous enough and that created tension in some of my relationships – rather the opposite problem from what jealousy usually is expected to cause.

But as I pondered on this thing called jealousy, I began to realize that, like so many other words that have been hijacked and transposed from their true meaning, jealousy has been used as a cover-up for a much more sinister attitude that has fallen largely out of use in our common vocabulary.

Why is it that sometimes we consider jealousy to be a positive virtue and at other times we view is as something evil or negative? Why do we think that people who are jealous are doing something wrong while at the same time viewing people with suspicion if they do not become jealous at times?

I believe that a large part of that reason is because our culture uses this word far too inclusively. God has no part in evil and has no evil characteristics within Him. But God also makes it clear at times that He is jealous. That tells me that true jealousy is something to be emulated, something positive and even godly. If God gets jealous, then I need to understand what true, healthy jealousy really means and to allow myself to have the same reasons within me that causes God to become jealous at times.

But as I was saying, I think our culture has extended the meaning of this word to include many circumstances that actually involve something very different than true jealousy. But because using the correct term for that counterfeit emotion is too exposing for us, we have adopted the idea of being jealous to make us look better and obscure our true selfish desires.

I want to understand much better what the true motives are that produce healthy, godly jealousy. I do realize that I have a weakness in this area because of my inability to become jealous like God would do in similar circumstances. My lack of jealousy may betray a lack of deep affection or concern which is what is usually told me in those situations. But just being aware that I don't have the symptom of jealousy does not mean that I can simply ante-up the needed inner characteristics that would produce it.

Like everyone else on this planet, I am in desperate need of much more real love in my heart. But love cannot be produced by my own efforts. All I can do is to allow my heart to be exposed to the only real Source of love and then reflect that love and allow it to produce all the other attributes in my life, like a rainbow producing its many colors by refracting a single source of light.

Good jealousy is likely similar to one of those color bands in a rainbow. It is something that will naturally be exhibited at the right times in my life as I am filled more and more with the real kind of love seeping through my own heart. The more light is allowed to enter into the rain of my life, the more all of the fruits of the Spirit and the motives of God will be seen in their proper perspective in my relationships with others.

But what is this other motive that is so pervasively covered up by the misuse of the term jealousy? What masquerades as jealousy while trying to hide its true nature?

Covetousness! That's right. It is that old-fashioned word that makes us squirm too much. So we have found a very convenient way of avoiding the stigma of having that label put on us and have elevated our coveting desires by calling them jealousy.

Of course this has had the effect of creating confusion in our minds. But that is exactly what Satan desires all along. As long as he can keep us in confusion he can keep us distracted and swirling around in the lies about life and about God and prevent us from experiencing the joyful, healthy life that God wants to restore into us.

Covetousness is really the counterfeit of jealousy because it springs from the opposite core motives. True jealousy is produce from a heart that is passionately loving in a very unselfish fashion.
Covetousness springs from a heart that is selfish and wants something or someone else to satisfy its own desires and cravings.

The commandment against coveting given by God is the only one of the Ten that strikes directly at the heart and exposes the motives. All the other commandments can tend to be externalized and separated from our heart motives, though they really should not be. But when God said that we should not covet, He shone the spotlight on an area of our lives that is impossible to squirm away from, an area that exposes the core of our problem – our fallen, selfish, sinful nature.

Likely it is because of this highlighting of our core problem in this commandment that we try to get out of the light by calling much of our covetousness jealousy. It sounds so much more noble to say that I am jealous of someone than to admit that I covet them or what they have. And even though it becomes obvious that many instances of jealousy are unhealthy, the term still tends to dampen the starkness of how wicked our motives really are if we were to call sin by its right name.

As I thought about some of the uses of the word jealousy and replaced them with the motive of covetousness, I saw immediately that it fits like a glove. In fact, I am starting to see that likely every case of negative jealousy is really a place where the true motive should be labeled for what it really is – covetousness. But to call it coveting makes us look too bad so it is much less threatening to say that we are jealous instead of saying that we are coveting. Pride is quick to try to dampen any instances that expose our selfishness too graphically.

Father, thank-you for showing me this weakness in my life and in our use of words. Bring to my attention the times when I mislabel what is going on in my heart, whether it is substituting jealousy for covetousness or any other perversion of terminology. Fill my heart with Your passionate love, especially for those who are difficult to love. But for those who are attractive to me 'naturally', there may be a much more sinister danger. Open my eyes to see that covetousness is all too real in my own heart and how often it perverts my affections and desires toward people that my sinful nature wants to exploit in some way for my own pleasure. Show me the real truth, both about my own selfish desires but even more about Your pure and holy nature that is jealous over me with a passion I cannot yet imagine.

Your jealousy is one of the highest compliments You can ever give to me. Your jealousy betrays a love that I need in my own heart. Fill my mind and heart and soul with this love that produces godly jealousy and exposes and dispels the counterfeit motives that are so familiar to me. Reproduce Your image in me and cause others to see more clearly Your attractions through my relationships with them.

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