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Lessons From Animals--"Jealousy"

"I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God…"
Exodus 20:5

 

With my current menagerie of animals, I'm pretty fortunate when it comes to jealousy levels. For the most part, none of the cats and dogs are jealous of each other. Kasey gets a little jealous when I pet other dogs, but usually--usually--she's understanding when it's Annie. Annie, on the other hand, is probably the most jealous of the group--when someone else is petting Kasey, Annie steps in to make her presence known…but not in the context you might think: Annie isn't jealous that someone else is paying attention to Kasey; she's jealous that Kasey isn't paying attention to her! Like I said in a previous article: Annie isn't my dog, she's Kasey's dog. But, again, it's not that bad.

Lucky cat...I wasn't always this lucky. As a boy, our family had one cat, Frank, and one dog, Buffy. Frank had been the king of the house for several years before Buffy came along, and they initially had some frightening battles to establish territory. Furthermore, Frank and Buffy were VERY jealous of each other. Specifically, I remember one summer lying on a patio sofa, in the back yard. Frank jumped onto my lap to visit. Buffy walked about ten feet away, lay down, and wouldn't look at us--except, from time-to-time, out of the corner of her eye. When Frank leisurely hopped off my lap, Buffy was there in a flash--and that entire time, she never took her eyes off Frank. It was as if she were saying, "Ha ha! Now I'm the one getting the attention!"

Jealousy is a tricky thing in our relationship with God. On the one hand, the Bible warns us against jealousy. For example, jealousy is listed as one of the acts of the sinful nature (Galatians 5:19 - 20); and in 1 Corinthians 3:2 - 3, Paul chides the Corinthians for not having risen to Christ's higher standards--"I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?" On the other hand, though, God repeatedly describes Himself as a jealous God. Most notably, Exodus 34:14--"Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God." So what gives?

Generally, we tend to think of "jealousy" as synonymous with "envy"--and many times it is. But a quick perusal of the dictionary reveals that the word "jealousy" is a little more complex. This from a Webster's dictionary:

 

1. Fearful or wary of being replaced by a rival, esp. in regard to another's affection. 2. a. Resentful or bitter in rivalry: ENVIOUS <jealous of their friend's new car> b. Inclined to suspect rivalry. 3. Vigilant in guarding something <jealous of one's civil rights> 4. Arising from feelings of envy, apprehension, or bitterness <a jealous rage> 5. Intolerant of disloyalty or infidelity <a jealous God>.

 

Lots of dimensions to this word! Definitions 2 and 4 pertain to envy; and in this context, jealousy is certainly not good. However, the other definitions offer some different perspectives. Definition 1 tells us that jealousy can relate to a fear, or wariness, of being replaced. This is certainly seen in Exodus 34:14, quoted above. It applies to the Ten Commandments as well, in Exodus 20:4 - 5a--"You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God." This also relates to definition 5; God is a jealous God--He wants, and insists, on our undivided loyalty. And why would we want to turn away? God is our creator, and He sent His Son to offer us salvation. Nothing else in this world can offer us so rich a gift.

There's a final, interesting dynamic to jealousy, which is found in definition 3: "Vigilant in guarding something"; and then notice the example they use: "Jealous of one's civil rights." Now look at how "jealous" is used in the following Scriptures:

 

Joel 2:18--"Then the Lord will be jealous for His land and take pity on His people."

Zechariah 1:14--Then the angel who was speaking to me said, "Proclaim this word: This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'I am very jealous for Jerusalem and Zion…'"

Zechariah 8:2--This is what the Lord Almighty says: "I am very jealous for Zion…"

2 Corinthians 11:2a--I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy…

 

The context of jealousy in these Scriptures is actual something noble and admirable! It seeks to protect--to guard! This is not selfish envy--this is a genuine desire for something good in another person's life. James Reid, a contributing writer of the 1950's Interpreter's Bibles, says this in his exposition of 2 Corinthians 11:2 (p. 392, vol. 10):

 

"Jealousy is not an attractive quality. It is painful to experience and may lead to strife, even to crime. It is the accompaniment of love, but of a love which is possessive and therefore selfish. We are tempted to it when our friends give to others the affection we covet for ourselves, or when admiration given to others seems to detract from our own reputation. Jealousy can be a devouring passion, destroying happiness and kindling hatred. Real love is not jealous of attentions paid or love given to others, for it is never possessive (1 Cor. 13:4). It seeks to give, not to get. But there is a jealousy which is right and which can be the safeguard of love. It comes into play when those we love are in danger from people who might corrupt their minds or their characters. The fear which is at the root of it is not fear of loss to ourselves, but of damage to them."

 

Jealousy, in this context, is not based on concern for self--it is based on concern for another. Reid goes on to say that God's jealousy does not come about because He is concerned for His own prestige; rather, God's jealousy comes about because He is concerned for us--He is concerned about the corruption of human nature that results in the false worship of other idols.

Or in other words, what God desires for us is--as always--what's best for us.

 

 

 In Christ,

 

--Pastor Dan 

 

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