Summary: One way to couteract jealous feelings is to see your life in God’s hands and not yours.
It starts in a child at an early age and can last a lifetime; it can wreck the love between two people who thought they were inseparable; it can bring nations to war and the most powerful people to ruin. I’m talking about jealousy defined as feeling resentful, bitter, grudging, envious, covetous. The jealousy you feel when someone else likes your man or woman more than you think they should; the jealousy you feel over a rival who got the job or position or the custody rights you wanted; the jealousy you feel because they live in a better house, drive a nicer car, have more money than you do. The jealousy you feel because she got preferential treatment over you due to the color of her skin or her age or his gender. You know what I’m talking about because too many times we have been stung, hurt, betrayed, devastated by the jealousy we felt in our hearts that was so strong its grip made us say and do things that we knew were wrong.
Many of you know the story of Joseph and the coat of many colors; I read it again to you this morning. Here was a favored son, the baby of the family, who received from his father a special present, a beautiful robe that did not go unnoticed by his older brothers. In Gen. 37:4 it says: “…when (Joseph’s) brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.”
To aggravate these jealous feelings, Joseph shared two dreams he had with the family and in the dreams it was as if the other members of the family were all paying homage to Joseph. It says in verse 11 and his brothers were jealous of him.
They were so jealous they wanted to kill him and almost did had it not been for a caravan of Ishmaelites passing through the region on their way to Egypt. The oldest brother, Reuben, convinced the others that rather than kill Joseph why not sell him into slavery- they could be rid of him and at the same time make some money as well. The wrong of jealousy wreaked its havoc again as the plot was carried out and an extra lie was added to tell father that a wild beast had killed Joseph and all that was left was his blood stained robe handed to a shocked and devastated dad.
This time murder was avoided but it wasn’t when Cain killed his brother Abel because God preferred Abel’s sacrifice over Cain’s (Gen.4); and all of us know what happened when the prodigal son came home and the Father had a feast for his return. The older brother was so jealous that anger and resentment raged within him as he told his father in no uncertain terms:
…all these years I serve you and behave myself and you never throw a big party for me but then this son of yours (not my brother mind you) this son of yours goes out and lives like a tramp and you kill the fatted calf for him. (paraphrase Luke 15:29ff)
And those are only three examples of a sin that is as countless as the sands of the sea from one generation to the next over the centuries of time to this very day. Why should he be paid a million dollars a year with another 5 million in stock options; I’m as good as he is and who does she think she is with her fancy clothes and sexy looks, someday she’ll get hers. It is any wonder that the tenth commandment says: thou shall not covet.
One of the worse features of jealousy is that it strikes most often in the family—people that are closest to us, people we know well and work with on a day to day basis end up being the source of our jealousy- my brother (Cain or my younger brother), my closest friend, people I’ve known for years. The stranger or the outsider who may make us feel jealous comes and goes but the family member, the friend, the coworker is there month after month, year after year. And did you notice in the biblical examples as is so
often true in life today the damage to families is not readily repaired but the hurt and consequences from the sin of jealousy can last for a long time.
What can we do about our jealous feelings? It would be nice just to brush them aside from our mind, like we brush aside an annoying fly but that is easier said then done especially when over and over again the favored child keeps coming out on top. And of course there are those who would quote scripture after scripture and there are plenty: