When William Shakespeare coined the above phrase in his description of jealousy, he hit the nail right on the head. Jealousy is a monster that will eat you alive if you only give it the chance. The more I think on it, the more I am sure of that truth, which is why we Christians must wage war on this beast. If we do not, it will consume us.
Few things have poisoned my friendships and robbed me of joy in life more than jealousy. If a friend started dating a guy that I liked, I let jealousy rule the day–things became awkward between us, I wasn’t happy for her when the romance flourished, and eventually the relationship withered.
Similarly, jealousy has led me to become incredibly dissatisfied with the life God has given me. If someone married the kind of man I wanted, or if a friend’s career was really taking off and he was making lots of money, or if another friend’s ministry was thriving more than mine, I was unable to share in their joy. Instead, I felt frustrated that things hadn’t come so easily to me.
And don’t even get me started about when I drive over to UNC’s campus to meet with students. For some reason that school is populated with an inordinate number of tall, skinny blonde girls who always look adorable, even when it’s early in the morning. As soon as I look at them, I immediately wish I had their legs, hair, nose, teeth, etc. Then I look at myself and think, “Why them? Why can’t I look like that? Why is my life so boring and mundane compared to those other glamorous and successful people?”
(I don’t know how I make the jump to thinking that they’re glamorous and successful based on their appearance alone, but that’s just the kind of distorted perceptions that come from jealousy)
That said, the time at which my jealousy becomes most abhorrent is when someone receives a gift or blessing that they don’t deserve. (Or I should say, in my opinion they don’t deserve) Then, the entire world seems entirely unjust–how could God reward someone for work they have not done, while I am busting my butt to get ahead and I receive nothing?
This form of jealousy can be particularly nasty because we feel more free to gossip about the person. It’s one thing if our jealousy is focused on a nice person (it’s hard to complain about someone who experiences a success that they earned), but if the person of whom we are jealous is unfriendly or has blatant moral short-comings, then we feel a liberty to complain more vocally: “I just don’t understand why all the guys like her when she’s so high maintenance” or “I don’t know why they would make her a lead singer in the choir if her personal life is so sketchy” or “I don’t understand why he got a raise when he’s so lazy.”
All of these thoughts stem directly from jealousy. They also take root in our hearts, growing fruits of discontentment as we become increasingly dissatisfied with the lives God has given us. The grass always seems greener on the other side.
But the big question remains: Where does this jealousy come from? Why is it so difficult to be happy for another? Shouldn’t our friends’ joys be our joys? Shouldn’t we desire good things for those whom we love.
Thr truth is that there are many reasons we feel jealous–we are selfish, we love ourselves more than others, we have deluded ourselves into thinking that other people are happier than we are, simply because of material comforts, and we are not trusting in God’s perfect plan for our lives.
But perhaps the greatest reason for jealousy is a profound misunderstanding of the grace that has been extended to us in Christ. Not only has God given us infinitely more than we could ever deserve (think of the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant), but He has also given us more than we could ever need.
Our salvation is not one good among many. It is not some sort of starting point from which we can begin to live the good life. Salvation in Christ is the good life. It is all we will ever need for complete joy and satisfaction in whatever we do. To think that someone else has a better life than you, simply because they received some temporary success on earth that will quickly pass away, is to cheapen the depths of the riches of God’s grace. If we are jealous, then we don’t know what we have. We don’t understand just how rich we are.
If jealousy is something you find yourself struggling with, then fight it, and fight hard, because it can easily overtake you. Consider what this jealousy says about your relationship with God, and then ask Him to overwhelm you with the knowledge of His love and grace. Otherwise, jealousy will only draw you into the rat race that every other American runs. It is never-ending, and there is nothing to be gained by it. It only promises heartached and disappointment, as you continually find other people who have what you desire.
Instead, resolve to be joyful for your sister when she meets the man of her dreams. Congratulate your friend when he gets a raise at work. Those are wonderful gifts, but they are not the ultimate gift. When they become ultimate, they have become idols. Do not allow them to have such power, because it is then that they become monsters.
*Bonus points to anyone who knows what play the phrase “green-eyed monster” comes from. I’m such a Shakespeare nerd…