Irish novelist and playwright Samuel Beckett received great recognition for his work--but not every one savored his accomplishments. Beckett's marriage, in fact, was soured by his wife's jealousy of his growing fame and success as a writer. One day in 1969 his wife Suzanne answered the telephone, listened for a moment, spoke briefly, and hung up. She then turned to Beckett and with a stricken look whispered, "What a catastrophe!" Was it a devastating personal tragedy? No, she had just learned that Beckett had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature! Why couldn’t she rejoice with her husband’s success? Is this reaction common?
Haven’t we all felt jealousy of some sort with someone or the other? Why can’t we truly rejoice when others succeed? Why does it hurt when you don’t get what you want? Is jealousy only a modern day phenomena? Is there any connection between jealousy and anger? Who can stand before jealousy? Paul addressed the issue of jealousy and anger in the Corinthian Church and offered some practical suggestions on how to overcome them? Are our lives and our Church any different than the Corinthian Church?
BACKGROUND TO CORINTHIANS:
Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians probably in the winter of A.D 55. Located on the Mediterranean, the city of Corinth was a wealthy trading center. It was also a wicked city and was known for that throughout the Roman world. The Church in Corinth was fairly new and it was hard for the Christians there not to act like their neighbors. In response to a complaint received from one of the House holds in Corinthian Church Paul wrote this letter to address several problems.
Why do we have to learn about today what happened around A.D 55? In this letter to Corinthians Paul reminded them of the history of Israelites which happened over 4000 years ago so that they could learn valuable lessons from the past and avoid pitfalls. In the same we too can learn from the Church in Corinth. The typical problems that occurred in Corinth were not only limited to the Church of that time alone we could find them in any church today. What are those problems? 1 Corinthians 3:3 “for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men”? (NASB). In NIV it says “Jealousy and Quarrelling. These two crucial issues are detrimental for right relationships.
I. WHO CAN STAND BEFORE JEALOUSY?
Let’s admit that we all have struggled with jealousy and anger to a certain degree; right? How about the saints do they struggle? According to Paul even Christians are not immune to this struggle. Proverbs 27:4 poses a challenge, “Wrath is fierce and anger is a flood, But who can stand before jealousy?
What is jealousy anyway? Both envy and jealousy are synonyms however according to Dr. Gary Collins there is a distinction between these two. “To envy is to want something which belongs to another person.” In contrast, jealousy is the fear that something which we possess will be taken away by another person.” The Dictionary definition of Envy is, selfish and unfriendly grudging of what another enjoys, in a mild sense longing for a good possessed by another. Jealousy on the other hand is afraid of being displaced by a rival in affection or favor. In other words envy is coveting what others have and jealousy is being afraid of what you might loose to another person who is better than you. It could be your job, spouse, children, opportunity to excel, power, control etc.
John MacArthur, notes, “There are basically two kinds of jealousy. One is superficial and the other is deep down bedrock, rotten, stinking, jealousy. Shakespeare called jealousy "The green sickness." And Solomon called it "rottenness of the bones." Pro 14:30 “A tranquil mind gives life to the body, but jealousy rots the bones. And someone else chose to call it "The sorrow of fools. A superficial jealousy says: "I want what you have." or "Oh, I wish I had that." But that's not the deepest level. The deepest says: "I wish he didn't have it."
Two shopkeepers were bitter rivals. Their stores were directly across the street from each other, and they would spend each day keeping track of each other's business. If one got a customer, he would smile in triumph at his rival. One night an angel appeared to one of the shopkeepers in a dream and said, "I will give you anything you ask, but whatever you receive, your competitor will receive twice as much. Would you be rich? You can be very rich, but he will be twice as wealthy. Do you wish to live a long and healthy life? You can, but his life will be longer and healthier. What is your desire?" The man frowned, thought for a moment, and then said, "Here is my request: Strike me blind in one eye!"
One sign of jealousy is when it's easier to show sympathy and "weep with those who weep" than it is to exhibit joy and "rejoice with those who rejoice." The meaning of Hebrew and Greek words can be translated with “jealous” and “zealous.” Both words imply great emotion one in a good way and other in a bad way. When it is referring to God it is always for our good. God is jealous means that he will not accept a rival. “I am the LORD that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols” (Isaiah 42:8). To be zealous means to be passionate about something, to be eager in pursuing your goals.
God is both jealous and zealous. In a bad sense it is used to explain man’s jealousy, envy, factions, party strife etc. Where did jealousy first appear? How is it linked with anger? Paul was concerned about the spiritual condition of the Corinthian Church. He addressed them as worldly because there was jealousy among them. Why is it so important that we must take note of jealousy? Jealousy is one of the deadly sins. Nothing can more thoroughly embitter the human spirit and poison personal relationships than the spirit of envy or a jealously. As one thing can lead to another, jealousy could open the door for many other sins.
Some commentators say that jealousy was the direct cause of the first crime in the story of the human race. In the Garden of Eden Satan tempted the first lady of the earth Eve saying “you will be like God.” Satan planted a seed of jealousy in the mind of Eve; she wanted to be like God. Eve sinned and the human race fell. The next sin was murder. Cain killed Able for what? He was jealous because his brother’s offering was accepted over his. The young Hebrew dreamer boy was sold as a slave by his brothers for what? Again for what? Jealousy! Not only among brothers but jealousy was also among two sisters Leah and Rachel; Genesis 30:1 “Now when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she became jealous of her sister.” This was all happening in Genesis only; and the list can get pretty lengthy here.
Were Kings spared from jealousy? No! Saul the mighty King who won many mighty battles for Israel was not exempt from jealousy. On one occasion where David was returning after killing the Philistine the women came out into streets singing and dancing; they sang” Saul has slain his thousands. And David his ten thousands” Upon hearing Saul became furious wanted to Kill David. From that day on Saul was jealous of David. (I Samuel 18:9)
II. CONNECTION BETWEEN JEALOUSY AND ANGER:
Is there any connection between jealousy and anger or they both are separate? In my study of the scriptures I found that in a number of passages jealousy is mentioned next to anger. Let’s look at few of them:
Proverbs 6:34 “For jealousy enrages a man, And he will not spare in the day of vengeance.”
2 Corinthians 12:20 “For I am afraid that perhaps when I come I may find you to be not what I wish and may be found by you to be not what you wish; that perhaps there may be strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances;”
Galatians 5:20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions,
Romans 13:13 “Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy.”
Is it a coincidence that the biblical authors clubbed jealousy and anger together or is there a real connection between these two? There has been a lot of study done in this area to establish the link between jealousy and anger.
In a Journal of Family Violence they identified the cause between alcohol use and Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) “Two risk factors, anger control and jealousy, were hypothesized to moderate the relationship between IPV and problem drinking in a sample of 453 community couples.” Another report says; “jealousy presents an intractable problem for relationships, both monogamous and non-monogamous. It is often a point of strife within relationships. It is also a frequent cause for breakups. It provides a convenient excuse for abusive partners. There is a persistent association of jealousy with violence.”
An advice of a counselor to a young wife who was having trouble in her marriage because of her husband’s past. This woman felt unhappy, Jealous and angry and often thought of killing herself; but now seeking help to save her marriage. Listen to the advice; “Jealousy is bad for any relationship. It is unpleasant, anxiety and anger producing and at times, embarrassing. If you continue to let the jealousy and anger fester it has the potential to seriously damage your marriage.”
The more I study both the Biblical text and what secular counselors have to say I am convinced that there is a direct correlation between jealousy and anger. I also believe that un dealt jealousy and uncontrolled tempers can ruin marriages, families and other relationships. No wonder why God has strictly warned us against jealousy saying “you shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or servant, his ox or donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:17)
III. ARE YOU QUICK TO BE ANGRY?
Are you quick to become angry? An eastern proverb says; “Your anger is your own enemy” The Bible doesn’t mince words when it comes to addressing this problem. There are over 266 scriptures related to anger and most of them related to God being angry. Here are a few scriptures related to man’s anger.
2 Corinthians 12:20 For I am afraid that perhaps when I come I may find you to be not what I wish and may be found by you to be not what you wish; that perhaps there may be strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances.” Why was Paul afraid of jealousy and anger? Because he knew what damage it could do to relationships.
Psalm 37:8 “Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret, it leads only to evildoing.”
Proverbs 19:19 “A hot-tempered man must pay the penalty”
Proverbs 30:33 “For the churning of milk produces butter…So the churning of anger produces strife.”
James 1:20 “for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”
James 1:19 “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,
We understand that anger is an emotion. Anger in itself is not bad but how we channel our anger can be detrimental to both us personally and others on whom it is projected. The Bible doesn’t say we should not be angry but we should be slow to become angry and when we do become angry we don’t sin. Ephesians 4:26 “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.”
As we conclude; we could compromise and say we all are human therefore we all struggle with jealousy. The question is: Is jealousy a friend of ours that we are comfortable to live with? How long can we tolerate and entertain jealousy? By the worlds standards jealousy is normal and acceptable. Paul called the Corinthians worldly because there was jealousy and strive among them. He pointed them to a higher way of living and relating.
Let’s not forget that the Lord is not done with us, he dearly loves us and is committed to removing impurities from our lives in order to transform us into the likeness of His Son Jesus Christ. When we come to him with our struggles, by no means will he turn us away. When Christ sets us free we will be free indeed. Amen