What’s the first thing that pops into your head when I say “jolly green giant”? For me, it’s “ho, ho ho…green giant”.
Well, today, I don’t want to talk about vegetables (although they are yummy and good for you). I want to talk about something that’s not so good for you…envy and jealousy, the green giant no one wants to have around.
Jealousy will destroy us if we don’t destroy it. Jealousy will consume you with thoughts such as, “Why not me?” or “Why them?”. Jealousy kills you in increments, not just one big blow. It’s a slow, steady, and sure process.
Of course, all jealousy is NOT bad. God is a jealous God. He’s not bad and He can’t sin, therefore, some jealousy is fine. But for today, let’s talk about the “not fine” type of jealousy.
What is sinful jealousy or envy? Jealousy actually means “to boil within”. Unfortunately, the church is NOT immune in jealousy, either now or back in the early Christian church. In 1 Corinthians 3:3, we see this. The Corinthian church was being destroyed by jealousy. People were jealous of who was baptized by whom…Paul, Apollos, or Cephas (Peter). (See 1 Corinthians 3:4). Paul wanted everyone to be on God’s side and not choose a human to follow. (See 1 Corinthians 3:5-9). That should be our desire today as well.
Jealousy and envy tend to travel in circles, have you noticed that?
First, there’s the circle of materialism. Money and possession are an easy target for jealousy, even in the Bible. If you look in Genesis 26:12-14, you can see how the Philistines were jealous of Isaac because of his wealth and possessions to the point that they made war against him. We need to realize that you will never be satisfied with your possessions. You will always want more. When a millionaire tycoon was asked, “How many millions will make you happy?”, he replied, “Just one more”. That’s the way it is with us too! We always want just one more! We need to be satisfied with God and what He has given us, not what He has given someone else.
Second, there’s the circle of power. In the Old Testament (Numbers 16:30 and Psalm 106:16), we see that Korah and his followers were jealous of Moses’ power. Just like there were power struggles in the lives of the Israelites, there are power struggles in the church today. In fact, most problems in the church are power struggles were the congregation is asked to choose sides. But this is only perceived power. Most of the “leaders” don’t really want to the responsibility that comes with the power, as with Korah. The Apostles were not immune to this either. They debated who would be the greatest in the Kingdom in Matthew 18:1-2. Jesus told them “whoever wants to be greatest must be the servant of all”. In families, in churches, and in the workplace, the struggle for power have deadly consequences.
Another circle is the circle of performance. This is perhaps the most deadly circle. Saul was so jealous of David’s performance when the crowds praise him after he defeated Goliath (1 Samuel 18:7-9), that he tried to kill David multiple times. This happens in the church today over silly things! Who got the choir solo, who was nominated to the committee, who is teaching Sunday school, etc! Satan knows which buttons to push in the church to produce jealousy, so BE CAREFUL!
Jealousy also travels in the professional circle. The apostle Paul was not immune to it, and neither are we. In the work place, people get jealous over who is the boss’s favorite, or how much money someone else makes. It happens ALL THE TIME!
Lastly, jealousy travels in personal circles. There are lots of examples of this in the Bible. Cain was jealous of Abel so he killed him. Jacob was jealous of Esau’s birthright and then Esau was jealous of Jacob’s blessing. Jacob’s twelve sons were not exempt. The eleven were so jealous of Joseph that they plotted to kill him but sold him into slavery instead. In the story of the prodigal son, the older brother was jealous when the father threw a party for the younger brother even though the rest of the inheritance was his!
David Jeremiah has said, “Jealousy comes in the front door and sends love out the back. It leaves no room for other emotions.”
Some key characteristics of sinful jealousy that we need to be mindful of are that it destroys others and it destroys us too. It can destroy the reputation of others when we spread the envy and it destroys our reputations as Christians. People won’t want to hang around you if you’re constantly jealous of others for no apparent reason. Sinful jealousy destroys our relationships with people and hinders our relationship with God. (Romans 1:28-32)
So, how do you face the not-so-jolly green giant?
First, you have to renounce sinful jealousy as a sin. We have to admit to ourselves and to God that we have this problem. (Ephesians 4:31-32) We need to seek His forgiveness and ask for contentment, the opposite of envy.
Second, you need to pray for the one you are envious of. Have you ever noticed that it’s almost impossible to be upset with someone that you’re praying for? That’s why Jesus said to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. (Matthew 5:44) The same is true with envy…if we pray for those we are envious of, God will open our eyes to see that person as He does.
Next, you need to reaffirm God’s goodness to you. This goes along with being content. God has given you good things. “Every good and perfect gift comes from above.” (James 1:17) Look at what you do have and learn to be content with what He’s given you. (Philippians 4:12)
Finally, you need to rekindle God’s love in your heart. When we are envious of others, our envy tends to crowd out God’s love and dims His fire in our hearts. After we admit and confess our envy, we need to let God’s love overflow in our hearts. We need to draw near to Him so He can draw near to us. (James 4:8) When His love is filling our hearts, there’s little room left for envy.
We all deal with envy throughout our lives. So, be careful of the not-so jolly green giant…and go eat some vegetables! Ho, ho ho!!