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Even Christians Get Jealous, Too

Even Christians Get Jealous, Too

There are few people who have not been either the subject or the object of jealousy at some time in their lives. Someone has said that jealousy is the sin nobody talks about; I think it is the sin nobody admits to—at least, readily. We do not like admitting to being jealous because this exposes our insecurity and weakness; the last thing we want another person to know is that we are insecure. Yet the chances are, our jealousy is one malady everybody else can see but us, and although we cannot deny that there are also psychological implications, fundamentally, jealousy is sin. Envy came into the world because sin came into the world, and it was not long after the fall of Adam and Eve that we see the first instance of this sin. Cain and Abel were their sons, but one brother became jealous of the other with tragic results:

Cain’s jealousy of Abel grew out of control, breaking the ties of brotherhood, and expressing itself in murder.

But if jealousy is not checked, it inevitably leads to greater sin, to a psychological disorder called paranoia, which is probably the most serious psychosis there is. When this happens, a person becomes increasingly suspicious of another, and his imagination begins to run riot and eventually he suffers delusions of persecution. This psychosis can lead to murder. You may say, “I know what it is to be jealous, but I would never commit murder.” But you do not know what you will do. So jealousy must be brought under control or it will result in your damnation—not just your damnation in this life but your eternal damnation. It is a most serious sin.

In Galatians 5 Paul described it among other “acts of the flesh”: The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

—GALATIANS 5:19–21

We may define jealousy as an attitude of envy or resentment toward a more successful rival. Sometimes it results from frustrated attempts to achieve an ambition, and sometimes it results from seeing that somebody has more talent, greater social advantages, more money, better looks, or a better personality than we have. It may also arise when we see another succeeding where we have failed, and we allow our resentment to grow into jealousy.

However, being the object of jealousy is also problematic. Most of us know what it is to have somebody jealous of us. But I stress that we must be careful here because it can lead to paranoia, which, as I said earlier, is a serious psychosis expressed in suspicion and delusions.

Yet what if another’s jealousy of you is real? There could be many causes of this. Perhaps he or she envies your race, your social class, your wealth, or your good looks. Moreover, if you are a Christian, you should be aware that others may envy the spiritual gifts with which God has endowed you.

How do you handle a situation like this? The first thing to remember is not to take it personally. Come to see it as the other person’s problem and pity him for he cannot help feeling this way. But remember, if you allow it to affect, then the problem becomes yours.

You need to identify the real enemy. It is a sign of spiritual maturity when, like Paul, you can say, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12). Paul identified the real enemy: the devil. So if you are the target of unjust criticism aimed to hurt you by attacking your character or by diminishing your influence, know that Satan is behind it all. However, you should also realize that you are no different, and in similar circumstances the chances are that you would react in the same way.

The problem is, most of us want to impute to ourselves certain talents that we do not, in fact, possess. For example, we may be envious of another person’s job. Yet the truth may be that we could not manage to do it if we had it. So if you envy another person because of their job, ask yourself honestly whether you could do it and recognize your limitations.

Only God can deal with jealousy and only God can forgive it. But the Bible says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins” (1 John 1:9). So confess your sin, receive God’s pardon, and take your place as a loyal subject in Jesus’ kingdom.

To read more from R.T. Kendall’s 'A Vision of Jesus', visit

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