Vol.III No.IV Pg.4
May 1966

Zealous, Jealous, Envious

Robert F. Turner

Somewhere between "zeal" and "envy" there dwells an evil spirit that has wrought havoc in the lives of people and in the work of the church. It is difficult to define, but its fruits are unmistakable. It leaves broken hearts, shattered homes, alienated brethren and dead churches in its wake. I refer to a seldom discussed work of the flesh; the soul-damning vice of Jealousy (GAL.5:20 RV).

"Zealous" and "jealous" are translated from the same Greek word, and the transition from zeal to jealousy is exceedingly tricky. Paul commended zeal toward God, (ROM.10:2) for God Himself does His work with zeal (ISA.9:7). Jehovah is a jealous God, (EXO.20:4) although some applications of this term to God are highly relative (see EZE.35:6, 38:19). Paul makes a distinction in righteous zeal (or indignation) and worldly jealousy (Note "godly" jealousy; 2CO.11:2.).

Solomon says jealousy is the rage of a man; "cruel as Sheol"; and "the flashes thereof are flashes of fire" (PRO.6:34; SON.8:6) in such passages zeal has become base and vile. It is colored with envy, and blind unreasoning rage has dominated the heart so that the victim is as one possessed. Since this spirit will keep us out of heaven (GAL.5;21) we must seek to understand it, and avoid it.

The bases for jealousy are feelings of insecurity and self-centeredness. Such self-centered persons must be constantly reassured of their position. Lacking the confidence necessary to enjoy competitive society, they see every praise given others as a deduction from their own share. Paul wrote, "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others" (i.e., be concerned for other's wellbeing.). He then cites Christ as the perfect example of such a spirit (PHI.2:3-f). Unselfish love is the motivating spirit of the Christian system; and jealousy is completely antagonistic to such love. The husband and wife enjoy relationships not meant to be shared, and zeal to protect this sanctity is justifiable. But even here if zeal degenerates to jealousy this may destroy the very love one seeks to protect. There is nothing flattering about being "protected" by one whose interest is envious and self-centered.

"Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil" (1CO.13:4-5). Such love shapes every facet of the Christian's life, making jealousy a stranger.

Preacher jealousies reflect the littleness and self-centeredness of those involved. Members are frequently jealous of the talents of their brethren, fearing their own will be overshadowed. One congregation is jealous, even envious, of the accomplishments of another; ignoring the sacrificial labors necessary to make such strides. It is bitter consolation to know that the price of success is a jealous brother in Christ.