Works of the Flesh: Jealousy

Having already established the “works of the flesh” of various sexual activities and corresponding attitudes, improper elevation of a thing above God, and recently the types of negative and harsh attitudes that engender more hate than love, let us now continue with this final thought with the work of the flesh deemed as “jealousy” (some versions, like the ASV, use the plural “jealousies”) by Paul in Galatians 5:19-20:

Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths, factions, divisions, parties…

The word translated in this text as “jealousy” (some other versions “emulations”) is the Greek word zelos, defined by Thayer as:

1) excitement of mind, ardour, fervour of spirit
1a) zeal, ardour in embracing, pursuing, defending anything
1a1) zeal in behalf of, for a person or thing
1a2) the fierceness of indignation, punitive zeal
1b) an envious and contentious rivalry, jealousy

We see from Thayer that the word has two completely opposite meanings: its primary meaning is zeal, of fervor, directed at a good thing, while the secondary meaning is what occurs when a zealous attitude is turned toward evil things, notably rivalry and jealousy. Would we say that Paul is condemning, say, zeal for the things of God in this passage? By no means, for we know from the Scripture commends many for having this zeal (2 Corinthians 7:11; 9:2, Colossians 4:13). Paul is most certainly condemning a zeal for wickedness– notably, a hatred of a person because of a perceived threat– as may be seen in Romans 13:13, and 1 Corinthians 3:3, and as James uses the term in James 3:14 and James 3:16:

Let us walk becomingly, as in the day; not in revelling and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and jealousy.

for ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you jealousy and strife, are ye not carnal, and do ye not walk after the manner of men?

But if ye have bitter jealousy and faction in your heart, glory not and lie not against the truth.

For where jealousy and faction are, there is confusion and every vile deed.

From these verses we may learn that this “negative zeal,” jealousy, is the type of deed done in darkness, one marked by carnality, causing one to lie against the truth and even all wickedness is present. How, then, may we avoid having jealousy?

It may be profitable to turn to Webster to receive a specific account of what jealousy is:

1. That passion of peculiar uneasiness which arises from the fear that a rival may rob us of the affection of one whom we love, or the suspicion that he has already done it; or it is the uneasiness which arises from the fear that another does or will enjoy some advantage which we desire for ourselves. A man’s jealousy is excited by the attentions of a rival to his favorite lady. A woman’s jealousy is roused by her husband’s attentions to another woman. The candidate for office manifests a jealousy of others who seek the same office. The jealousy of a student is awakened by the apprehension that his fellow will bear away the palm of praise. In short, jealousy is awakened by whatever may exalt others, or give them pleasures and advantages which we desire for ourselves. Jealousy is nearly allied to envy, for jealousy, before a good is lost by ourselves, is converted into envy, after it is obtained by others.
Jealousy is the apprehension of superiority.
2. Suspicious fear or apprehension.
3. Suspicious caution or vigilance, an earnest concern or solicitude for the welfare or honor of others.
4. Indignation.

Although Webster’s first definition is rather lengthy, it does help us understand how jealousy is the apprehension of what another might to do us. Jealousy, therefore, is best understood as a strong concern for the potential of what someone may do to us; envy, examined here, is the strong concern for something that another person already has. Regardless, we may see that jealousy is an attribute that stems from some form of insecurity: we are somehow afraid of what another might do to us, and therefore we have feelings of jealousy toward that person. Jealousy also can in a generic sense, as seen in definitions 2 and 4, be a fear of something or indignation about something. All of these definitions demonstrate that jealousy really is often a form of hostility between the jealous party and another party.

Having recognized jealousy as such, we can now easily see why it is not to be a part of the Christian lifestyle. We are told in Romans 15:2-3 and 1 Corinthians 10:24 clearly that we ought to recognize our neighbor over ourselves:

Let each one of us please his neighbor for that which is good, unto edifying. For Christ also pleased not Himself; but, as it is written, “The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell upon me.”

Let no man seek his own, but each his neighbor’s good.

If we had this attitude of humility we would never have a fear or apprehension concerning our neighbor, for we would seek out his good. There can be no jealousy in such a relationship.

This ought especially be true within the household of God. Paul and James above have clearly condemned any form of jealousy amongst brethren, considering this thing to be a work of carnality and darkness, leading to every vile deed and considered to be lying against the truth of God. Let us continually strive to not fear our neighbor, and the potential things he may do to us, but attempt actually to do whatever is in his best interest, and refrain from all forms of jealousy.

ELDV

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