Summary: It’s been said that there are two kinds of people in the world -- those who are millionaires and those who would like to be. And that’s one example of jealousy, but it’s only a piece of it.
Those of you who are Muppet fans will know that one of Kermit the Frog’s most famous lines is, “It’s not easy being green.” But I beg to differ. Shakespeare called jealousy “the green sickness”, and we often speak of people being “green with envy”. And, in that regard, it’s all too easy being green!
The Greeks tell a story that has been passed down through the years. It’s about how the citizens in an ancient Greek city built a beautiful statue to one of the men in the city who was an athlete, a man who was a champion at their public games. But there was another man who was a rival of the honored athlete. He was envious, so much so that he vowed he would destroy the statue. Every night he went out in the darkness and chiseled at its base in an effort to undermine its foundation and make it fall. At last he succeed¬ed and it did fall -- but it fell on him before he could get away. He died a victim of his own envy.
That ancient Greek was not the first nor the last to become so furious in his envy that he did something foolish that hurt himself. Solomon said long ago, "Wrath is cruel and anger a torrent, but who is able to stand before jealousy?" (Proverbs 27:4). Paul lists jealousy as one of the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:20.
It’s been said that there are two kinds of people in the world -- those who are millionaires and those who would like to be. And that’s one example of jealousy, but it’s only a piece of it. When someone else does an outstanding thing or receives an honor and I say, "That’s great!", but inside I wish that I were in that position, that’s jealousy. When someone else receives all the attention because of their reputation or wit or ability to speak, and I think I ought to be the center of attention, that’s jealousy too.
Jealousy is that green-eyed monster we all have a problem with at times. The Corinthians were certainly having a problem with it. In I Corinthians 12, Paul talks about how each member of the body is given an ability and that each of our gifts is important. But there were some Christians who felt that their gifts were inferior. And there seems to have been a problem with some of the Christians being jealous of those with more important gifts.
I. The Problem With Jealousy
The problem with jealousy is that it’s very selfish. Most of our jealousy express¬es itself in one of two ways.
First of all, it can say, "I want what you have." We call this "keeping up with the Joneses." For example, let’s say my neighbor gets a new car and I respond in the following way, "Oh, I wish I had that. How come he gets a new car? How can he afford it? He doesn’t make any more money than I do." This kind of envy is hard to avoid. We find ourselves wanting what everyone else has -- their clothes, their looks, their self-confidence, their popularity, their ability to speak and persuade men.
And advertisers know how to manipulate our jealousy. They not only fuel our desire for things, but for more and better things than others have -- a better car, a better TV, a better computer. I read recently where someone made the statement, “If we did away with the sins of jealousy and envy, the entire American economy would immediately collapse.” I don’t think that statement is far off the mark at all.
A second -- and deeper -- way that jealousy manifests itself is by saying, "I wish you didn’t have it." The first level of jealousy is wanting what someone else has, but the second level is resenting that he has it. Jealousy doesn’t like to see others achieve recognition or prominence and will, whenever possible, seek to put others down. It’s been said that the only ones who will try to cut you down to size are those who are lower than you are. And that’s what jealousy does. It shows people how small we really are inside.
Envy has been called the great leveler; if it can’t level things up, then it tries to bring the other person down. Someone has said that an envious person is a lot like a crab. If crabs are caught by a fisherman in his basket and one starts to climb out, the other crabs will reach up and pull it back down.