Jealousy isn’t pretty. It usually starts with the comparison game. I look with longing at another person’s personality, success, or abilities. Discouragement takes hold, and soon I’m battling bitterness. If I’m not careful, negative thoughts convince me to stop trying. It’s a downward spiral. Have you been there?
Earlier this week I was comparing myself to another author. Her work seemed easy to market and success was following her around every corner. I had to stop for a reality check. From my perspective, it looked like everything had just fallen into place for her; truth was, she had worked very hard to get where she was.
Numbers 12 illustrates that jealousy isn’t a new emotion:
Moses had led the Israelites out of Egypt and had been their guide for over two years. He had a big responsibility directing such a large group of people. Somewhere along the way, Moses’ brother and sister, Aaron and Miriam, began focusing on themselves instead of the Lord.
Maybe they were envious of Moses’ close relationship with God or it could have been the influence he had on the people.
Whatever the reason for their jealousy, Aaron and Miriam had a negative discussion about their brother. It started with derogatory comments about Moses’ wife and quickly moved to the real reason for their discontentment:
“And they said, Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us? And the Lord heard it.” Numbers 12:2; KJV
Aaron and Miriam both led specific areas under Moses. But they wanted more.
How did God respond? He asked Aaron and Miriam why they were unafraid to “speak against” His servant Moses (Numbers 12:8). God had put Moses in charge and He
Miriam was struck with leprosy — a highly contagious skin disease that caused loss of feeling and disfigurement. Jealousy had a high price tag. Aaron begged Moses to forgive their sin. Moses cried out to God to heal his sister. The Lord took away Miriam’s leprosy, but she had to remain outside the camp for seven days. God was gracious in spite of their sin.
How to overcome
Our jealousy probably won’t result in leprosy, but it still has ugly consequences: critical spirit, anger, insecurity, illness, lack of peace, broken friendships. So what can we do when we struggle in this area? Here are some suggestions:
1. Recognize jealousy and bitterness for what they are — sin. Talk to God about them and confess them.
“Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;” Hebrews 12:15; KJV
2. Realize God has given each of us strengths and abilities. Thank Him for them.
“Now there are diversities (different kinds) of gifts, but the same Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 12:4; KJV (words in parentheses mine)
3. Recognize we need each other in order to serve Christ as He intended.
“For the body is not one member, but many.” 1 Corinthians 12:14; KJV
“If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? but now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.” 1 Corinthians 12:17–18; KJV
4. Develop our abilities and use them to honor God.
“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;” Colossians 3:23; KJV
“Neglect not the gift that is in thee…” 1 Timothy 4:14; KJV
Instead of letting jealousy get a foothold, we can focus on God and how He has equipped each one of us. Let’s develop our talents and work with others to bring glory to the One who created us. We can be victorious.
Do you wrestle with jealousy? How does the Lord want you to respond today?
Can I pray for you?
Heavenly Father, Thank You for showing us the seriousness of jealousy. We agree with You — it is sin. Forgive us. Thank You for the gifts and abilities You’ve given us. Help us use them to serve You and others. Give us the right attitude as we work alongside other brothers and sisters in Christ. Help us honor You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.