Why is envy or jealousy sin? (Galatians 5:19-21.)
When jealousy springs up and you let it live and grow in your heart, it has horrible results. We can see many stories about that in the Bible.
When Abel’s sacrifice was accepted by God, and Cain’s was not, Cain killed his brother out of jealousy. (Genesis 4:3-8.) When Korah was jealous of Moses, he was swallowed up by the earth. (Numbers 16.) When Saul became jealous of David the end result was that he was killed. (1 Samuel 18.) Even Jesus was killed by the religious leaders of the day out of envy, or jealousy.
“A peaceful mind gives life to the body, but jealousy rots the bones.” Proverbs 14:30 (CEB).
Why is jealousy sin?
Jealousy is something that most people know very well. When we see that someone has something we would like to have – earthly things, a certain personality or ministry, or talent – then a natural human reaction is to be jealous of them. We really need to work on ourselves to become free from it, so that we can be thankful for what we have been given and “be happy with those who are happy”. (Romans 12:15, NLT.)
It is not a sin to be tempted to jealousy, but if we let it live and grow worse, it causes a lot of damage. Why is jealousy sin? Because it divides people. It destroys relationships, causes conflict, and creates a spirit of bitterness and evil. It causes people to act and speak in harmful ways. To become jealous is definitely a sin, and God’s word also says it is sin.
“Wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there is disorder and everything that is evil.” James 3:16 (CEB).
How do we overcome jealousy?
But if we are tempted to be jealous, it doesn’t have to lead to sin! (1 Corinthians 10:13.) When Jesus lived on earth, He overcame all sin. He was tempted in every way that we are, but he did not sin. As a result, He can understand our weaknesses and help us when we are tempted. We can go to God’s throne, and get mercy and grace (power from the Holy Spirit) to help us overcome jealousy every single time we are tempted. (Hebrews 2:18; Hebrews 4:15-16.) We can overcome like He overcame.
How do we overcome it? We have to begin by admitting that we are jealous. It is natural for us to say that we are not jealous. But if the desire of our heart is to truly become free from all sin, then we need to humble ourselves and admit the truth.
It begins with a thought. “That’s not fair.” “Who do they think they are?” “Why don’t I get some praise? Why is it always they who are blessed?” Simple thoughts like that. We become a bit troubled. We can find it at work, at school, in our marriage and families, and with our service for God.
Paul testified that “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20. By faith, we too can consider ourselves – our feelings, thoughts, opinions, ego, etc. – to be crucified with Christ. This means that we say ‘no’ to what we are tempted to, and don’t give in to sin. Then we are alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:7-11.)
When we live according to this faith, we can overcome the temptations to be jealous, and become more content and thankful instead. When we are tempted, we can pray for strength to keep saying ‘no’ to what I am tempted to and remember that it is Christ who lives in me now, and that I can react as He would have reacted, no matter how I feel. Then my actions don’t result in all “disorder and everything that is evil”. Instead my actions lead to life and peace. (Romans 8:6.)
The result of overcoming jealousy
Then we also get revelation about the Body of Christ. If we want to serve Christ and the members of His Body (the Church), there can be no jealousy or divisions; only unity. The members of His Body cannot work against each other, otherwise the Body wouldn’t function. Paul writes so clearly about this in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27. If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it. If one member is honoured, all the members are glad about it. There is no jealousy there!
(Further reading about the Body of Christ in Romans 12:3-6 and Ephesians 4.)
Why is jealousy sin? Because it steals our time and joy! Imagine if we grow in a godly life instead! When we know our limitations and see instead the works that God wants us to do, we will fit into the Body exactly as we should, and don’t take up more space than we have received grace from God for, but are useful members that can work together in unity and harmony. What a complete rest and peace we can come into, becoming more and more content and thankful!
“You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart.” 1 Peter 1:22-25 (NLT).