Jealousy Vs. Generosity: A Generation Held Back

 

No one ever looks in the mirror and says, “I’m a jealous person,” because it implies other people are better than us or that we’re weak somehow, and we’re always trying to protect our egos. 

Because it’s so hidden: jealousy is one of the most destructive problems of all.  I’m so good at pretending I’m not jealous that I can disguise my hate as “criticism” and “observation” and “keeping it real.”  Certainly criticism doesn’t always come from jealousy, but you can tell when it does. 

I can attack someone’s weaknesses and presume a whole bunch of other weaknesses by clever extrapolation all while highlighting my strengths, and this makes me nothing more than a jealous petty little hater. 

During testimony-time at church when everyone is confessing all kinds of drug addictions and sexual deviance, I’ve never heard a single person say, “I’ve destroyed others with my envy.”  No one ever says, “I’m straight up drunk from haterade.”

When you see someone better than you — and we all do — there are two ways to respond.

1) Find ways to downgrade their human value, then rationalize your own contempt as justified criticism.

2) Celebrate their achievements and generously promote their growth while learning from them in humility.

 

When you know a younger person who has potential —

Jealousy has a way of cutting in and holding back the next generation.  Instead of seeing a future leader, you see a competitive threat who is messing up your mojo.

I’ve seen even the best of leaders clench their teeth as they raise up young disciples, ever-so-slightly keeping the youth at a lower level and withholding advice and downplaying all their success. What is that?  What makes us do this?  Why can’t we just hand over the baton? 

A leader’s job is to work yourself out of a job.  And you’re a leader somewhere, either passing on your life or hoarding it for yourself.

You have more wisdom and ability than you think you do.  When you talk about your passion, you’ll say things you didn’t even know you knew.  You have so much to give.

So it makes no sense to keep this all to yourself. We so often hold onto our positions of authority with a ridiculous nuclear death-grip.  But without passing it on, it all dies with you.

I know letting go of jealousy feels like we’re losing something.  It feels like we’re handing over years of sweat and hard work to a kid who doesn’t have to pay for the lesson. 

But — someone in your life did the same for you.  Someone learned through a horrible mistake for ten years and passed it on to you in ten minutes.  Every generation before you has accumulated valuable truth for you to be equipped, prepared, and successful.  And even if you never had this sort of mentor: you’ve always wanted one. 

 

When it comes to our friends and peers —

Our default mode is always to be envious. The only way to fight that is to celebrate what others have accomplished instead of reveling in how they’ve failed.

People can tell by your speech when you have devalued another human being.  They can see by your face when you’re bitter at people who are “further along.”  You find it harder to be compassionate, and you go for cynicism and grossly inappropriate speculation. 

Yet if you can truly lift up someone above yourself, you’ll be free of the prison of jealousy.  You will extract the roots of bitterness and anger. And it takes two seconds.

You’ll soon become the kind of person that others want to hang out with, including yourself — and you won’t be the hater who argues with angry counter-points by reblogging blogs and getting as serious as a stick in the butt.  Even you don’t like that guy.

 

Deeper than all this is the root of jealousy.  What are you really saying when you fall into a comparison trap?

“God, you owe me more than this.  A better universe, existence, opportunities, experiences, life, people, family — even a better car would do.”

It’s not enough to just raise up other people then.  It’s a fundamental root issue with God: because you’re really saying, “He’s not enough.  He doesn’t satisfy.  He doesn’t see me.  He doesn’t know what He’s doing.”

Honestly, I’m tired of doing this.  I’m tired of shaking my fist at God when I see someone more attractive than me.  I’m tired of trying to be the guy with the better story all the time.  I’m exhausted of thinking I know better than God, because I don’t, and the more I think I do, the more I run myself into the ground.

The Gospel tells me that I deserved nothing but God gave me everything.  Jesus could’ve stayed in Heaven in paradise: but he became poor so that we might be rich. He was crucified so we could live with him forever.

That revokes all my fist-shaking, foolish temper tantrums.  Then I’m just a bug trying to flag down a helicopter.  In my moronic selfishness, I forget that God is gloriously powerful and that it’s all His story, and not mine.  I forget He’s actually been pretty good to me, too. 

The clay does get to say a few things to the potter, but I’m thankful that I even have a potter at all, and that He cares, and that everything good is from Him, and anything else is not for me to worry about, because God’s on it.

 

It’s that icky word surrender, which doesn’t go over in our culture very well.  But the second you do that, your teeth unclench.  Your fists lower.  Your heart stops pounding and you quit getting all twitchy every time someone does something slightly better.  We no longer hurt ourselves by our comparison games.

Instead, you surrender to the God who made you you, and you accept who you are.  You quit trying to have the best of all worlds.  We quit trying to be perfect.  We quit trying to be God.  It turns out: I can get myself out of the way and celebrate others.  It turns out: God really is God, and He’s gifted me with all grace to let go of my petty weapons and build this next generation for His glorious story.

You and I — let’s lay down our arms and fight this good fight together.


— J.S.

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34 thoughts on “Jealousy Vs. Generosity: A Generation Held Back

  1. I think the key is to see all goodness as coming from God, then its pointless to be jealous or envy anothers accomplishments or gifts, our priorities must be in order, jealousy is so prevalent, its of the worlds thinking. Its been the most destructive force in prevention of loving relationships Ive ever come across.

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    1. Yes! I think we can’t help feeling jealous sometimes, and it’s the constant reminder that “every perfect gift comes from above” which recalibrates our hearts to humility.

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  2. It is all part of that orphan spirit! Coming in honesty before the Lord has helped me be able to come in the opposite spirit of what my flesh is feeling. I just keep bringing those feeling to the light and not try to lie to myself. Great post!

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    1. Agreed. I’ve had to tell God many times that I was just straight-up jealous, that I was deflated from seeing so many others succeed. But it’s that sort of honesty which makes us sober and brings healing.

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  3. This is completely true. Our mindset as individual is to compete with one another rather than working together towards the common good and the common goal. Rather than letting our flesh takeover, we need to surrender completely and to watch as we growth into great/supportive/passion filled individuals.

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    1. It’s definitely not an easy process, and seeing someone in ministry do something well in five minutes that took you five years can be truly soul-crushing. But that’s ultimately selfish, and we need that sort of humility, and we can just as graciously turn that around to encourage the next generation.

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  4. I’ve been thinking about jealousy lately and how it is so closely related to entitlement and idolatry. I feel myself getting mad at God when I hear other people talk about how thankful they are to have that perfect thing I’ve wanted my whole life…especially in regards to relationships. And I’m like, “God why didn’t you give me that?! Don’t you love me?” And I just want it so bad that I realize how idolatrous I’ve become and how sickeningly ungrateful. Nevermind all the things he did give me, right? But that’s my selfish, sinful heart at its finest. And I’m reeeeaally struggling with this right now. Please pray for me against unbelief, temptation, anger, and envy. Thanks JS. You are my hero.

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    1. I’ll definitely pray. I’d also add that we can’t be so hard on ourselves either. We can’t be shamed into change, you know? It’s the default state of our hearts to revert so quickly to jealousy and petty conflicts. Even with all my talk about grace, I was hasty in bashing Jefferson Bethke on his video last year, which I apologized for and he accepted. Really the root of my criticism (even if my theology was valid) was seeing such a young guy succeed so well with just ONE video. I hated to admit that, but there it is. I forgot we’re on the same team here, and I had to learn to have grace for myself too. So be gracious to your dang self!

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  5. So, if jealousy is so bad, why does God say “I the Lord am a jealous God”? I think you mean envy. I look in the mirror and say “help me be more jealous Lord!” I am really poor at being jealous and good at being envious. JEALOUS= fighting FOR an important relationship against all forces or alternative relationships that might damage it. ENVY= wishing I had what the other has. 2 Cor 10 12 Some comparing themselves by themselves and among themselves are not wise.

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    1. Hey there, you’re right. God holds all emotions in perfect balance, such as jealousy, anger, and justice. I’ve preached on that here. As it says in James though, “human anger does not produce the righteousness of God,” and often neither does human jealousy. Hence, this post. And as C.S. Lewis said, most of our “bad emotions” are just good ones gone bad, like rotten fruits. Maybe I should’ve pointed out this difference. I agree with what you’re saying here, and perhaps if I had written on the good type of jealousy, I would’ve covered that angle.

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        1. When God calls Himself “jealous,” He is jealous for our protection, prosperity, and loyalty. He knows what’s best for us.
          Nearly all emotions can point towards something good. Someone can be angry for justice, grieved for change, or jealous for someone’s safety. However, because we live in the condition called sin, our emotions often get out of whack and mislead us in the wrong direction. So I’m not exactly sure I would tell people, “Go get angry for God,” because our current cultural definition of anger has too many negative connotations, and people would take it too far anyway. I would probably never say, “Be jealous for your friends,” even if they knew what I meant, because it could be so easily misinterpreted.

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          1. i think of jealousy as not being able to be glad for someone elses blessings, of comparing someones blessings to their own shortcomings, God being perfect would never be jealous, I think it was a poor word in scripture to convey the message that God wants our full adoration because that is our only way to true love and joy.

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  6. Thank you so much for posting something about this. I realized that this has been my struggle all along. When “contentment” was preached in our congregation, I knew that God has something to say to me about it. And when I checked out this post of yours, pang. I felt a deep pang in my heart. Haha. 🙂 Thank you so much. Stay blessed, Pastor J.S. Park!

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  7. A reason it’s easy to be jealous is how I see other people being so good and well-seasoned. It’s a lot easier to give up and think that my improvement is unnecessary, and I really now struggle with trying to find that one thing I could be the very best at.

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    1. I think for most people, even those crazy-genius level ones, they also have a ceiling/limitation about their own abilities. A musical prodigy might be able to play everything, but they still know what genre suits them best or what styles they cannot handle well. In other words, each of us can be very good at certain things, but we tend to focus on our “invisible ceiling” more than finding a creative way to work around them. This doesn’t mean we can’t improve in those areas, but that we can embrace where we fall short and improve otherwise.

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  8. This is a timely post. I was on the verge of moving to another congregation simply because of the green-eyed monster. After a while I get tired of being turned down, passed over, overlooked, ignored, or abandoned. Everyone else seems to be “in” – and I never seem to fit in. The grass was looking greener elsewhere.

    Then I remembered the grave I made for myself in the back yard and realize that this is what it’s all about – dead to “self”…only Jesus shining through. Guess what? He experienced all these things as well.

    Besides, there’s always forever in which to blossom in the desires of my heart!

    Done whining. Back to dying!

    \o/

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    1. I think there will always be some level of jealousy at church, whether it’s “in” or “out” of the cool circle, but as you said, we can continue loving and living as Jesus did.

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  9. I wonder if God is truly responsible for making people better looking, wealthier and giving them more emotional/intellectual strength. I tend to be more of a freewill theist so I think that people are fully responsible (yes work out, get plastic surgery, study harder, make better networking connections and take courses on emotional health). God almost has nothing to do with it (unless if He miraculously heals someone). Perhaps we need to be freed from thinking that God is responsible.

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  10. I’ve often thought how amazing it really is to be at the forefront of the present moment, resting atop the ivory towers of knowledge at our fingertips, a wealth of knowledge behind us to propel us. Then I realize how pride takes root, and how it’s not only a matter of being willing to teach others, but also a matter of being teachable. I work in a law firm and my father being the head attorney has entrusted vast amounts of knowledge to many an attorney who is fresh out of the gates. What I have seen time and again is an unwillingness to be taught. In spite of a wide open availability to knowledge and practice, I’ve seen green attorneys run to their offices attempting to concoct a practice from scratch, ignoring the tried and true. It results in a reinventing of the wheel approach, that doesn’t enable any forward motion. I think it takes willingness not only to mentor, but to be mentored.

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    1. Absolutely. I still remember part of my pastor’s sermon when I got married: “Be willing to be mentored by your pastor, your boss, your leaders, your spouse.” The humility it requires at times feels painful, but is so necessary to growth and joy.

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  11. Reblogged this on plythoughts and commented:
    This is so true! We all struggle with this everyday and I love the point where it is in regards to the youth. We can’t hold everything in for ourselves because the next generation has a right to know if that means giving them more success!

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  12. Envy is like a Lernaean Hydra . In the sense of you’ll always have one after the other things to be jealous about until you overcome that sin and realize this. Money, looks, clothes, this life, etc., is not eternal… But our realizing with God is eternal.

    Great post!

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