Two young brothers were fighting over cupcakes. In exasperation, their mom flipped a coin to see who would pick first. Johnny won, and she told him to pick his cupcake. Johnny said that he wanted his brother to go first so he could have the one his brother picked. That's jealousy, and the Bible says it will rot your bones. How is that for a great word picture? Jealousy has existed for a long time. Remember Cain and Abel, and Cain's jealousy? Joseph's brothers sold him because of jealousy (and we think that the families in our churches are dysfunctional!). King Saul was jealous of David. Some say jealousy even led to the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus.
The first step to solving jealousy is to acknowledge it. If you say you have never been jealous, then you have never read my articles on denial. In other words, "liar, liar, pants on fire." At times we all experience jealousy. You may be jealous of me because I don't have deacons, and I am jealous of you because you sleep in your own bed every weekend. Having an earth suit means that we want what we do not have. Remember, "As a rule, man's a fool. When it's cool, he wants it hot, and when it's hot, he wants it cool. As a rule, man's a fool." The problem comes when what we want is connected to what someone else has.
Not all jealousy is bad. The Bible tells us that God is jealous. We don't sing praise songs about that. When did you last sing, "My God is a jealous God?" Why would God be jealous? Because He doesn't want us chasing after false gods. He wants what is best for each of us.
It's possible for jealousy to be seen as a positive. If your husband would get jealous of another man, you know he really cares for you. That is not the jealousy that rots your bones. The jealousy that rots your bones is that which hurts others. When you decide to put another's light out so that yours will look brighter, it rots your bones. King Saul failed as a king, not because of David, but because of his jealousy. He became obsessed with trying to kill David and stopped being a king. Jealousy will distract you, detour you, and eventually lead you down a dead-end road. Jealousy is a natural response to an ego-centered life. If Ed McMahon arrives at your doorstep with a sweepstakes check for one million dollars, but asks for directions to your neighbor's house, your natural response would be "Why them and not me?" An emotion that is so natural can only be conquered by supernatural power. It requires submitting fully to God rather than our own desires.
An elementary school hired a teacher who was an atheist and proud of it. One day he boldly announced that his mother was an atheist, his father was an atheist, and he was an atheist. He then asked how many kids in the room were atheists. The children, being afraid of him, all raised their hands except for one girl. He then asked the little girl what she believed. She said that she was a Christian. "My mother is a Christian, my father is a Christian, and I am a Christian, too," she responded. He then sarcastically smarted off to her that if her mother was a fool and her father was a fool, then what would that make you? She thought for a moment and meekly replied, "I guess that would make me an atheist."
You can't remain an atheist in the School of Overcoming Jealousy. You have to believe in and obey God. To succeed you have to remember the four R's. Refocus on God's plan for you. Resist comparison. Remember Peter asking Jesus what John's future was? Jesus' response was that it was none of his business. The best way to resist comparison is to Relax in God's goodness. When you resent His goodness to others, you are unable to enjoy His goodness to you. Respond in love.
One recent holiday, two of our grandkids were vying for my attention. They even fought over which one would say the blessing. We were outside throwing a ball, and they were fighting over who would hit it first. Drew was the oldest of the kids, and I was quite impressed with how far he could hit the ball. Of course he always wanted to hit first. One day Drew said that he wanted to let McKenzie go first. Right then, I was more excited about that than how far he could hit the ball. How far he hit the ball is what he does, but what he did by stepping aside is who he is. It is an inside thing. God is not impressed by what we do. He doesn't need our doing. He wants what is inside.
This New Year may be the time for you to be rather than do. Rejoice in another's success. This year count the times that you step aside and let someone else go before you. You will find that as it is with my grandkids, it is much easier to teach than do. And when you're asked to preach at the Pastor's Conference instead of me, I'll tell you what I'll do. I'm going to read this article again!
Charles Lowery is a member of First Baptist Church, Bossier City, Louisiana, founder and president of LIFE, Inc., and is in a fulltime speaking ministry. You may contact LIFE, Inc. at 903-881-9422 or www.charleslowery.