There are many threats to a church and community of believers. The enemy would like nothing more than for the reputation of a community of believers, and therefore, the reputation of Christ, to be marred due to dissension and contempt. These threats to our churches usually do not come from the outside; rather, they are birthed from individual hearts–our innate, sinful hearts. Scripture tells us that "our heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick" (Jeremiah 17:9). The expressions of sin that we see in our lives spring forth from the sin in our hearts. Although as believers we acknowledge our sin and seek to walk in the Spirit and fight sin, we are still prone to sin and cannot even truly know the depth of our own sin. So, as we think about the sin in our hearts and how that impacts our churches and community of believers, there is one sin that is most subtle and possibly most detrimental to a community of believers. This sin is the pervasion of jealousy in our hearts. When we allow jealousy to rule in us, we are no longer about the kingdom of God, but instead, we are now about our own kingdom that we want and have created in our hearts.
Jealousy is subtle and sneaky. It starts invisibly. It grips your heart in ways that no one, including yourself, is aware. It starts so small, with one little thought. We may sense it, but we don't identify it for what it is. We are na√Øve to realize its potential. Instead of being on guard, we trust ourselves and in our excuses tuck that away in the "It's not that big of a deal" pile. We decide to let it stay instead of killing it. We echo the serpent in the garden as he says in Genesis 3, "You will not surely die." But before we know it, the jealousy grows. Last Saturday we watched Wreck-It Ralph with the kids, and as I'm writing this, I think back to the scene at the end. Ralph let a tiny little virus in. He saw it. It disappeared. It disguised itself so that he didn't notice. But what happened under the ground? What happened in the core of the land? It bred. Just like the virus bred and took over, so our jealousy breeds in our hearts, and before we know it, it has taken over the very redeemed person our God has called us to be.
When that first word of jealousy seeps into our hearts and minds, we should be on guard, repent, and kill it. We should heed God's warning to Cain in Genesis 4. Cain's problem is just like ours. He was jealous of his brother. God warns him, and His warning is for us too. Sin is crouching at your door. Its desire is for you. When we do not rule over jealousy, it will give birth to sin, and when full grown, it will destroy you and everything around you. It will leave you miserable, bitter, and likely cost you relationships.
Jealousy destroys a person, but it also destroys community. In Wreck-It Ralph, once the virus gave birth to lots of other little ones, it blew up and attacked the land. Likewise, when jealousy pervades our hearts, it eventually comes out, and when it does, it destroys. James 3:14-15 tells us that if we have "bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in our hearts, it is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic." We know that this is not from the Lord. Rather, it is earthly, unspiritual, and demonic.
So why do we struggle with jealousy? Let's examine three underlying sins that produce the fruit of jealousy.
We have jealousy in our hearts because we are prideful. We will start here because from pride, we see the following two sins emerge.
We read in Scripture that there are particular things God hates. We find this list in Proverbs 6:16-19. The first thing listed that the Lord hates and is an abomination to Him is haughty eyes. What does that mean? This person is arrogant and puffed up with his own sense of value. Because he values himself so highly, he devalues others and has no regard for people other than himself. Believer, this has detrimental effects on the mission of the church. Jesus came in humility. He humbled Himself for people who are definitely less than worthy, and He died on the cross for us. If anyone can place value on himself, it would be Christ. But He did not. Rather, He modeled for us a true display of self-sacrifice and pure love. If we devalue each other, we are certainly not reflecting Christ.
Pride matters because this is the sin that will keep you from crying out to God in repentance. This is the thing in our heart that tells us that our jealousy is justified. This is the sin that will hide the reality of the filth your heart contains and instead cause you to happily emit the false scent of righteousness. This is the sin that will cause your heart to harden and point your finger outward rather than being broken at the extent you've let the sin of jealousy reign in your heart. And this is the sin that will destroy a community of believers. Because what happens is, we, like Cain, look at another's offering and get angry rather than rejoicing in what the Lord is doing in his or her life. And what happens? We begin to hate the very people God has reconciled to Himself–those we will spend eternity with before the throne.
- Ungratefulness Leading to Discontentment
Jealousy also stems from ungratefulness. When jealousy saturates our hearts, there is a deep-rooted belief that God has not given you what you think you deserve. The Word pierces the heart of the jealous soul with the words, "You desire and do not have, so you murder" (James 4:2). Rather than leading our hearts to the Father who is the giver of good gifts, our sin leads us to discontentment. We develop a resentful awareness of what someone else has, and we believe that it should rightfully be ours.
This posture of our heart says to God that what He has allowed in our lives is not good enough for us or that we are too deserving to be dealt the hand that He has given us. Many of us would cringe to read those words, yet all of us have, are, or will struggle with that very thought and will go through seasons of discontentment. When that thinking permeates our minds and hearts, we have forgotten that we are deserving of nothing but condemnation and death and have forgotten what has been given to us on behalf of Christ. Instead, through the mercy and grace of God, He sent Jesus to take on that condemnation and full wrath of God by a brutal death on the cross. Jesus as our sacrifice should cause us to rejoice with excessive thanksgiving at the gift He has given to us.
A community of believers wrought with concern for what they should have instead of thankfulness with what God has given looks nothing like the church God has created us to be. This prevents us from being the church as we see it in Acts 2 where the people were "together and had all things in common‚Ä¶breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people." Jealousy prevents us from being in each other's lives for fear of confirming our heart's envious desires, and it withholds the generosity of our hearts and the praise to God because we are too consumed with our own needs, praise, and glory.
- Distrusting God's Sovereign Hand
Jealousy distrusts the sovereign hand of God. God is sovereign. Whatever the Lord does not give you, He does not give you because He wills not to give it to you. This is hard for us to accept. Our faith and mind battle within ourselves–what we think is best. In one breath we proclaim our trust in the Lord, but in the next, we demand what we think is best for us. Friend, we cannot and will not ever know all the Lord does in His perfect knowledge. Our best attempt at making plans and doing and receiving what we think is best is flawed to the very core. It is laced with selfish desire to make our situation better and make us more comfortable in this life. As Christians, we justify this as God's blessing.
However, what if God's blessing doesn't look like what the world tells us it should look like? In God's sovereignty, He is equally good in the things He gives and the things He does not give. What He allows and what He withholds are equally good gifts from above. Yes, just as God withholding things from you and from me is a gift, so too is the good given to us from a Father who knows best. When we trust God's sovereignty, we rest in knowing the blessings He gives are to bring glory to Himself and to ultimately give us the blessing of being in His presence. Being in His presence doesn't allow for us to be jealous. Rather, we rest in His sovereignty, knowing that He is faithful and good.