Jealousy! How many people have lost opportunities, friends, relationships and more because they were jealous? And how many have caused untold destruction, damage and misery because of their jealousy?
Jealousy is often called the green eyed monster, and a monster it is! A destructive, powerful force within people that causes them to do all kinds of hurtful and irrational things because they feel they have been overlooked, overshadowed, outdone, outshone or outperformed by someone else.
And worse. Often it is hidden and the outpouring of the jealousy of such people just simmers and burns in the background until it is unleashed as spite against the one who made them jealous. Not always though, as we see in these few scriptures. Here the jealousy of the Jewish leaders in the synagogue was fully out in the open, bold and vicious against Paul and Barnabas and the message they had to preach. But it is interesting also how those two men of God chose to deal with it.
Jealousy of the Jews
Paul and Barnabas were invited by the Jews in the synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia to speak of what they knew and to bring them any good news. So they did. They preached from the perspective of what the Jews knew, the law, their history and so on and proclaimed how all this fit together to announce the coming of Jesus and the promises of the New Covenant.
And the Jews who were there listened. Many believed what they heard and took to heart the teachings of Paul and Barnabas. They were waiting for the Messiah and they knew that He was coming, and here in the words and demonstrations of Paul and Barnabas some recognised that Jesus was the promised Messiah.
But not all believed. Not all accepted what they had to say, but they were keen to hear more of this new word, so Paul and Barnabas were begged by many to come back to the synagogue on the following sabbath to speak more on this subject.
Word got around. People spoke to their friends, relations and acquaintances about this new way that was being proclaimed in the name of Jesus Christ. So the next week almost the whole city turned up to hear what Paul and Barnabas would say.
And the Jews were jealous. They never got a turn out like this when they spoke! They never had people hanging from the rafters, sitting in the aisles or squeezing around the wall to hear what they had to say. So they were jealous.
Now rather than use this as an opportunity, the Jews turned on Paul and Barnabas. They opposed the words they had to say, contradicted the word of god and reviled and ridiculed Paul for what he was teaching. Their jealousy was so deep they wanted to destroy Paul and Barnabas because what they were teaching was eroding their power base, or so they must have thought.
And yet all they did was to strengthen the word and the remove of those who heard it for the people became polarised because of the harsh criticisms being made.
Paul and Barnabas’ Response
Did they oppose back and fight and argue with the Jews? No. Certainly they would have made their points and answered whatever questions were put to them, but they did not inflict the same invective and vindictive venom upon their opponents.
Instead they took the position that if they did not wish to hear the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then that was their problem.
Instead they were more concerned about the effect of this fighting and arguing upon the rest of the people listening and decided it was more prudent to step away and take those who believed so that they would not be subject to this bitterness and wrangling over words.
Paul made the point that although they had first brought the message to the Jews in the synagogue, the Jewish leaders had thrust it away from them. They rejected the truth of the New Covenant because of the depth of their jealousy against Paul and Barnabas.
So instead Paul said,
46 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'”
They left the Jews, taking the believers amongst them and took the message to the Gentiles as they were called to do and as Jesus Christ Himself had led them to do, for it was Jesus who was the light to the Gentiles that Paul would now preach to and about.
It was essential that the people be removed from the negativity of the synagogue at that time, otherwise these new believers, still yet to learn the fulness of the truth and mere babes in Christ, would be tainted by the arguments and falseness brought about by the jealousy of the Jewish leaders. The new believers needed time to learn and become established in the covenant and that could not happen where they were. They had to leave and move on.
Dealing with It
First and foremost we must remember that jealousy is not a sin. Yes there are some who believe it is, but like some other passions, such as anger, it is not a sin.
The Bible says, “I The Lord your God am a jealous God…” (Exodus 20:5) Thus if jealousy were a sin then God would be a sinner, and we know He is not. Likewise in the New Testament we see these words, “Be angry but do not sin.” (Ephesians 4:26) So again we see this passion being warned against but not being described as a sin.
It is what you do with these strong passions and emotions that determines if you sin or not. If jealousy leads you to commit an act that IS sin, that is when you have done wrong. But to be jealous is not a sin of itself. It is when it leads to something worse that it becomes a problem.
This principle was best shown in the case of Cain and Abel. Cain was jealous of Abel when God accepted his sacrifice but ignored Cain’s offering. God knew Cain was upset for He said these words to him in Genesis 4:7.
If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is couching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must master it.”
This is the key to dealing with jealousy and anger and any other of the strong passions, desires and emotions that beset all of mankind. You must master it. If you don’t, then sin is waiting to jump out and take control of your strong passions and cause you to do the wrong thing, that is, to sin.
Cain could not or did not master it. He allowed the passions of jealousy and anger to master him rather than he mastering them, and he sinned. He took his brother Abel out into the fields and murdered him in cold blood.
So how do we deal with jealousy today? We are fortunate for we have an advantage that Cain did not have. Today we have the New Covenant and in that we can ask God to give us His Holy Spirit who can help us in our time of need.
When our passions are strong, such as when we are being tempted with jealousy, we can come to Christ through walking in the spirit. Walking in the spirit effectively takes our heart and mind away from the thing stirring our emotions to replace those thoughts, feelings and passions with the works of the spirit.
We walk in the spirit whenever we pray, read the word, offer praise and worship, speak in tongues, meditate on the scripture, sing hymns, choruses and spiritual songs and so on. When we set our mind on the Spirit by doing these things we take our mind off the things causing us to be jealous and focus on things that lead to life rather than leading to sin. This is how we, “…take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)
And this is how we must deal with jealousy as Christians. In the world man is enslaved to his passions and emotions. But in Christ we no longer need to be if we will turn them and ourselves over to The Lord. This is how we can learn to master sin which couches at the door, which Cain was unable to master. The offer is there now. Will you take up The Lord at His word and learn how to master your emotions?
(Picture sourced from stock.xchng taken by Kym McLeod)