Love is not jealous. (1 Corinthians 13:4)
If you love with God’s love, you will love without jealousy. God’s inclusion of jealousy not being part of love might seem confusing at first glance. After all, God declares Himself as jealous: for you shall not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. (Exodus 34:14) However, there is no contradiction. God cannot be both love and jealous but demand that love is not jealous, referring to the same type of jealousy.
There is a difference between being jealous of something or someone and for someone. God, whose name is Jealous, is jealous for someone: us. He desires the best for us. God’s jealousy is zeal; it’s a fervent passion. God loves us so much that He is fervently passionate for us. On the other hand, being jealous of something is envy, and it’s what God warns is not a part of love. Envy is rooted in selfishness and comparison. It’s saying, “If I had _________, I could be happy, too.” or “If I didn’t have _________, I could be happy, too.”
Women are frequently jealous of each other. It can be little things like hair style or color, new shoes, or weight. It can be families, houses, or jobs. It can be ministry positions, respect, or spiritual gifts. Whether it’s big or small, we need to call it what it is: envy. We want what someone else has. And we’re not sure we want what we have.
God gives us a gift, and we’re thrilled with it…at first. Then we see what He gave someone else. Humph. We want that because, in our opinion, it’s better, bigger, more important. We complain about it even though we know God loves us and gave us our own gift to exactly fit who we are and what we need as we live out the life He intends for us, but envy seeps in, and we start to question, “So does my gift mean that I’m not as important as her? Am I not as worthy? Does God not love me as much? Did I do something wrong?” Even if God switched out your gift to give you someone else’s, a third person would come along, and you’d start the whole process over again!
Envy is a vicious cycle. When we’re not satisfied, we’re usually determined not to be satisfied no matter what’s going on around us. Envy and discontentedness are tightly woven together.
Before you get too discouraged with what love is not and how you’re not sure how to get it out of your life, I want to remind you of how God works even our sin and lack of love in our lives for His good. This is in no way intended to encourage you to overlook anything going on in your life and heart that is inconsistent with God’s will, but I think we all need encouragement, pointing us toward God’s mercy and redemption.
Consider the account of Joseph in Genesis. After Joseph shared his dreams with his brothers—the dreams about how they would bow down to him—his brothers were angry and jealous. Joseph was their father’s favorite son. They plotted to killed him but sold him into slavery instead. God’s plan prevailed and through the gift of dreams and interpreting dreams—the same gift that was the “last straw” for the brothers’ jealousy—Joseph ended up in a well-respected appointed position and many years later extended generous grace and provision to the same brothers who mistreated him:
Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried, “Have everyone go out from me.” So there was no man with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. He wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard of it. Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence. Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come closer to me.” And they came closer. And he said, “I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt. (Genesis 45:1-8)
Aren’t you thankful God works through all of our circumstances? Even when it seems we’re in the darkest pit, we can trust God’s plan. We might not like where we are. We might not understand. But we can trust—trust that God is pursuing us. And He sees your life from a perspective that only He can see. He’s passionate about you; He’s zealous for you…and He’s not going to let you down!
Dear God, I am thankful that You have a plan and that I can trust You. Thank You for Your zeal for me. Thank You for pursuing me. Help me to readily accept Your zeal yet ward off any envy that is not Your will. I want to love You with a zeal that’s reflective of Yours. I want to pursue You with passion.