“A tranquil heart is life to the body, but jealousy is rottenness to the bones” (Prov. 14:30).
It’s an appropriate description, one that I can personally resonate with. I think of the times in my life when I’ve looked at another and been jealous of what they had, or what they were doing, or how they were known, and I start to feel the rottenness in my bones. This is what jealousy does – day after day, you look at someone else. Sometimes in person, sometimes just clicking on their Instagram feed, and the anger and bitterness rises up inside you. Jealousy is a hungry beast, and our eyes provide the food it needs to grow. And as it grows inside us, it also rots us from the inside out, corrupting our priorities and relationships until we are consumed with attaining what is elusively out of our grasp.
Jealousy makes us bad friends, unfaithful employees, and angry family members. The problem of jealousy is not only what it does to us relationally; it’s that it reveals what is lacking in our faith. When we are jealous of another, our true anger is not with the person who has the thing or the relationship or the prestige that we want. Our true beef is with God who has seen fit to give that person – instead of us – that thing. When we are jealous, we are calling the wisdom or the generosity or the goodness of God into question, for we are questioning whether the decisions we are making are truly just and right.
Jealousy, then, must be attacked as sin. The beast must be slain. But how do we do that?
I would suggest that the best way to fight jealousy is very simple: through prayer.
Specifically, it’s through praying for the person we are jealous of. And to be even more specific, don’t pray, for example, for the person to be audited by the IRS so they won’t be able to post pics of them with their jet skis any more. Don’t pray that they would start to be honest about life instead of representing that their children are always well groomed and perfectly behaved. No – pray for them.
Thank God for His blessings on their behalf. Pray that He would cultivate intimacy in their marriages. Pray that there would be peace in their home. Pray that they would have wisdom in raising their children. Pray for their success and favor through their vocation. Pray for them, and seek their good. In doing so, you will actually be fighting the monster of jealousy in your own heart.
Prayer has a wonderful way of doing this – of not only changing circumstances, but changing the person who is consistently praying. We would, if we practice this, find it very difficult to continue to hate and be jealous of those we are interceding for. This is indeed a simple way to fight jealousy, but it’s not easy. I have found it very difficult to genuinely and earnestly pray for someone I am jealous of, and have found the strength to do so only coming from reminding my own soul of the truth of the gospel.
The gospel alone is what frees us to truly rejoice with another; to be truly happy for someone else without feeling slighted ourselves. That’s because when we drink deeply of the truth of the gospel, we are reminded of what we truly deserve, and we are filled with wonder and gratitude again and again that God has given us every spiritual blessing in Christ. When we are reminded of God’s great generosity in this, we are unshackled from the bitterness that can often come with blessings others receive.
If you find yourself being jealous today, then repent, Christian. Repent and affirm your trust in God, who rightly decides who gets what and when. And as a matter of repentance, turn the jealous eye with which you are regarding another into a moment of prayer for that person.