‘Jealousy’ gets bad press today: a ‘green eyed monster’, sin to be slain. Yet God is a ‘Jealous God’, “…Don’t bow down to idols and don’t serve them because I am God, your God, and I’m a most jealous God…” (Exodus 20:5 / MSG) How Come!?
‘Envy’ is the dark side of ‘Jealousy’, desiring and craving something / someone you ‘don’t have’ (cf. Galatians 5:20), whereas positive jealousy values and guards what you ‘do have’. E.G. It was a jealously guarded secret, the surprise party had to be a total surprise.
I’m delighted to have other people preach and share in Fullarton Church ministries. Shortly I’m off down-under for 12 weeks study & annual leave. Stewart Birse will step in to look after church and coordinate things. I don’t envy anyone else’s pulpit or congregation, but (under God) I am ‘jealous’ of being shepherd of the Fullarton Flock. I count it a great joy and privilege and will look forward to taking up that role again on return from sabbatical.
I jealously love my wife and family. If anything threatens my relationships with them I’ll do all I can to ensure they continue as my beloved wife, and grownup son & daughters (along with their families). I jealously guard my marriage and aim to do all I can to ensure my wife knows that she belongs to me, not as possession but as an equal, mutually loving partner.
St Paul was jealous for those he called ‘sons & daughters’ in The Faith he had introduced them to, jealously concerned to ensure they weren’t led astray or conned by seductive ideas that could undermine their devotion to Christ:
“…I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband—Christ. But I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent. You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed.” (2 Corinthians 11:2-4 / NLT)
So, God is jealous with what is His (Planet Earth, His Children / Bride, Glorious Name…), while we humans are easily envious, not content with what we have. “Dear God help me to shed envy and discontent; teach me to be jealously grateful for what I have from You.”
Vicar Sam Wells puts it beautifully! “What – God looking at other gods and thinking they do better miracles or came up with a better idea than creation? How ridiculous. But a God who treasures us with that unselfconscious smile of effervescent joy, and doesn’t mind who sees and who knows- yes, God is like that. A jealous God is part of the wonder of Grace. God doesn’t want a hundred other things- God wants us. Nothing else. We’re the cream. God’s the cat. Our jealous God is smiling from ear to ear.” (Incarnational Ministry)