This is the final post in a Saturday Series digging into the destructive emotion of jealousy. If you need to catch up, here’s what you missed:
- Part 1: Here I outlined how jealousy starts with fear, leads to anger, and eventually to some pretty destructive sin.
- Part 2: We looked at how Saul let fear cause him to be suspicious of his friend David, which led to anger and rage… all symptoms of a greater sin problem of jealousy.
- Part 3: We compared Saul’s jealousy of David with Jonathan’s true friendship with him. We also looked at how Saul chased David all over the land, trying to kill him. Eventually, Saul and David ended up in the same cave at the same time. David had the upper hand and could have killed his pursuer, but he decided to leave vengeance up to God.
So when we left our characters, Saul was still bitter, Jonathan was still trying to keep his dad away from his best friend, and David was still following God. Let’s pick up the story some time later, after Saul and David had played cat and mouse for years, in chapter 31, verse 3. As usual, the King and his army were in the middle of another battle. This time, they faced the Philistines.
The fighting grew fierce around Saul, and when the archers overtook him, they wounded him critically. Saul said to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword and run me through, or these uncircumcised fellows will come and run me through and abuse me.” But his armor-bearer was terrified and would not do it; so Saul took his own sword and fell on it. When the armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he too fell on his sword and died with him. So Saul and his three sons and his armor-bearer and all his men died together that same day. (v. 3-6)
Indeed — as Proverbs 18:24 suggests— Saul came to ruin, even at his own hand. Not only that, his jealousy also led to the death of his sons and closest allies. Make no mistake: jealousy is a powerful thing, but it never ever leads to anything but evil and destruction for those who feed it.
So how can we avoid this sort of ruin?
How can we keep from being tempted into jealousy?
There is a recipe we can follow whenever we find ourselves slipping toward jealousy, and it goes something like this: avoid jealousy = choose joy > give praise > trust God and His perfect plan for your life.
I think we can learn three key lessons from David’s relationships with Saul and Jonathan. First: in order to avoid jealousy, we must choose joy. Let’s be honest, for lots of us, it does not come easily to stare disappointment in its face and smile. Another singer gets the solo or a colleague gets the promotion and you’re left as backup. In that moment you essentially have two options: let a seed of bitterness take root, which will ultimately turn into some heavy-duty jealousy if left to fester, or be happy for the other person. And I’m not talking about giving that fake smile that doesn’t really fool anyone, all the while thinking, “That should be me.”
I once heard it said, “The more we put ourselves first, the more insecure and jealous we become.” When choosing joy, we must step aside and let the other person move ahead… even if it’s something we really wanted. No, ESPECIALLY if that is something we really wanted for ourselves.
The second step is to give praise. Yup, if you thought choosing joy was tough, wait until you try this. When was the last time you praised someone for receiving something you wanted? Sounds a bit counter-productive, doesn’t it? And yet this is repeatedly the action God asks us to perform.
You know that girl who beat you in [use whatever “competition” has happened recently in your own life]? Yeah her. What if you praised her talents and abilities instead of gossiped about her failures? What if you praised God for the work He’s doing through her, instead of complained to Him about your own losses? What if you took the focus off yourself and placed it onto others?
Why is it so difficult for us to yield to others? If God wants to work out His plan through someone else, who are we to get in the way? Not only that, but shouldn’t we be there cheering them on? Wouldn’t you want someone cheering for you?
Perhaps one of the reasons we find this difficult is that like Saul, we have corrupt thoughts even if we say the right thing. For example, when I watch two friends talk and hang out in such a way that shows them clearly bonding and growing in relationship, it might be easy to say “I love what they have.” And I do. I love that their friendship is growing. In fact, I might love it so much that I wish I had it for myself.
[Let’s repeat that gulp.]
And if I’m not careful – if I don’t protect my thoughts from being tempted – I might easily spin from that desire to have what they share, into the fear that I am missing something, which then turns into the paranoid idea that they might dislike me (as if their relationship had anything to do with ME!!) and then into anger that they hate me (because obviously it’s all about me)… and in that anger I might gossip or even lie about those two people I previously called friends. Through it all, I would be allowing the seed of jealousy to kill my tree of life.
The enemy of our souls will use every means and opportunity he can to tear us down.
We are each given what we need to fulfill a special purpose. If we always want what someone else has, we will miss out on what God has created specifically for us. Instead, we must trust that His plans for us are infinitely more beautiful, amazingly more glorious, and exceedingly more perfect for us then we could ever imagine. And since that is true, then why should we ever be jealous of God’s plans for anyone else?
These three steps (choose joy > give praise > trust God) sound simple enough (maybe too simple to work, even?) but they are absolutely necessary if we want to cut the barbed wire of jealousy out of our lives. Earlier in this study I mentioned a section from James that helped me identify jealousy in my own life. The verses immediately after that section reiterate this recipe for avoiding jealousy, and highlight the change it can create.
Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoys its results, only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor. (James 3:17-18)
Heavenly Father, thank you for providing such clear direction regarding the danger of jealousy. Thank you for showing how we can avoid jealousy, by following the example of Jonathan and David’s relationship. Remind us of these lessons in the coming days and weeks, so we might choose joy, give praise, and trust You so often it becomes second nature. Give us the strength to not be conformed to this world, but rather transformed by our relationship with You. Amen