Summary: Instead of having jealousy, let us have gratitude and contentment for what God has given us.
Those of us who have e-mail usually get little stories or sayings from our friends. Sometimes I really read them, other times I don’t. The other day one of my high school friends sent me one I want to share with you.
We convince ourselves that life will be better after we get married, have a baby, then another. Then we are frustrated that the kids aren’t old enough and we’ll be content when they are. After that, we’re frustrated that we have teenagers to deal with. We will certainly be happy when they are out of that stage. We tell ourselves that our life will be complete when our spouse gets his or her act together, when we get a nicer car, when we are able to go on a nice vacation, or when we retire. The truth is, there’s no better time to be happy than right now. So,treasure every moment that you have.
So, stop waiting
--until you car or home is paid off
--until you get a new car or home
--until your kids leave the house
--until you go back to school
--until you finish school
--until you lose 10 lbs.
--until you gain 10 lbs.
--until you get married
--until you have kids
--until you retire
--until you die
There is no better time than right now to be happy. Happiness is a journey, not a destination.
Well, you might think this sermon is on happiness, but it’s not. It’s on jealousy. I think the two are tied together, because we may be jealous of a certain situation in life that we don’t have. Or wish our lives were like somebody else’s, rather than being content and happy with where we are right now and our situation.
Jealousy can also mean resenting someone else’s success, distinction, popularity, the things they have. The word jealousy is used in the Galatians’ text for today. It is perceived in a negative way, but it can also have a positive connotation. It obviously falls under the negative category in this context, because it is one of the works of the flesh. It can mean zeal for God, putting God ahead of everything else in our lives. In the Old Testament, we read about God being a jealous God. God wants us to put him ahead of everything. No other gods before him. Here it is used in a negative way.
In I Cor. 3:3, Paul addresses the Corinthian church and their problems. "For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh?" If you’ve read the letters to the Corinthians, you see that again and again Paul is having to deal with some kind of problem or conflict in the Corinthian Church. This time he is dealing with the jealousy over who they see as their leader. Some say I belong to Paul. Others say I belong to Apollos. No Paul. No Apollos. They are jealous over who they see as their leader, their spiritual mentor. Paul says what does it matter who your leader is. Your ultimate leader is Christ Jesus!
There are certainly Biblical examples of people who have problems with jealousy. Remember Sarah and Hagar. Abraham and Sarah are promised a child. They get tired of waiting, so Sarah says to Abraham, "Why don’t you take my slave-girl Hagar as your wife and maybe you can have a child together." So, Abraham does and Hagar conceives. After she does, she begins to look at Sarah with disdain. "I’m going to have a baby and you’re not!" This creates jealousy toward Hagar from Sarah. So she treats her terribly until Hagar runs away. God tells Hagar to return. She does and stays until she has her son Ishmael. After he grows older, Sarah is still jealous of them. So she sends Hagar and Ishmael away. It is seeming death to them, because they are sent out to the wilderness. Miraculously, they survive, but jealousy has been very destructive in their lives.
Then, in the gospel of Mark, chapter 9, the disciples are arguing among themselves as to who is the greatest in the kingdom of God. Jesus asks what they are arguing about. They’re embarrassed and Jesus says, "Whoever will be first will be last, whoever is last will be first. Be a servant to one another."
I just spent a week at camp as a counselor for 4th and 5th graders. I certainly got to see times of jealousy between the girls. They wanted to be first in everything. Some of things I could understand, like swimming and crafts. But they also wanted to be first in the line for meals, for food they didn’t even like. When it came time for cabin clean-up, they wanted to be the first to mop! Mopping was the coveted chore! I don’t know! I was constantly quoting to them something from Philippians, "Count others as better than yourself. What difference does it make who goes first? We’ll all get there. We’ll work together as a team. Let someone go ahead of you. Be a servant to each other."