Another good “kid question”?
We hear that our God is a jealous God but isn’t jealousy a sin?
You’re right, jealousy is a sin. In fact, it’s a nasty sin. It eats at our hearts and steals our joy.
Coveting and envy – jealousy’s close cousins – come from wanting something we don’t have – maybe wanting something someone else has. Jealousy is the feeling that comes from wanting. Jealousy usually expresses itself as some sort of helplessness, inadequacy, insecurity, even anger. Yes, jealous is a sin that consumes our hearts and steals our joy.
So, is God a jealous God?! Yes … kind of! In fact, God calls himself a jealous God. In the midst of the Ten Commandments, our Lord says, “You shall not make for yourself an idol … or … bow down to them…; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:4-5). So is God helpless, inadequate, or insecure, when something he wants (you and me) is choosing to love things other than him? No! He’s sad, of course, when we love worldly things more than Him, but it’s a different kind of jealousy.
You see, sometimes words have two meanings, and there’s a good kind of jealousy and a bad kind of jealousy. The bad kind is selfish. It focuses on how this effects me. The good kind of jealousy isn’t worried about oneself; it’s worried the other person. That’s hard to understand, so let me explain it like this …
Imagine I’m a fifteen year old boy. Imagine that I like a fifteen year old girl. Imagine that another boy asks her to the dance before I do. I’d be jealous of him. There’s something I want, there’s something someone else has (instead of me), and in my jealousy, I’m feeling bad for me. This bad form of jealousy is probably going to make me feel angry, inadequate, helpless, and insecure. (I’ve felt that way several times when I was a teenage boy.)
God is jealous in a very different kind of way. God wants us to love him. Why? Because He loves us and wants what’s best for us. God knows that if we love things more than him, we’re hurting our own lives. Loving God is the very best thing for us. It gives us love, joy, and peace. It gives us hope even when things are hard. In Him is forgiveness rather than guilt and shame. God wants to bless our lives, but when we chase other things – like money and possessions and bad relationship and selfish pleasure – he knows that we’re ultimately going to get caught in sadness, despair, darkness, grief, guilt, and fear. God doesn’t want that for you! Therefore, God in his jealousy isn’t worrying Himself or His feelings. He’s worried about you.
Does that make sense?
- Human jealousy – the bad kind of jealousy – is ultimately selfish. It’s me thinking about me. It’s me worrying about how I feel. And whenever I’m obsessing over me, I’m ultimately going to feel helpless, inadequate, and insecure. Human jealousy is self-focused – it’s all about what I want, what I need, what I don’t have.
- God never feels these kinds of feelings! God’s jealousy – the good kind of jealousy – is all about others. It’s all you and me. It’s all about love. God wants what’s best for you and me – which is knowing and loving Him. And He’s jealous – in a good way – over anything that steps between us and Him. Why? Because it hurts you. Yes, it hurts Him too – it makes Him sad – but only because it hurts you.
- Maybe think about it like this: My human jealousy makes me feel smaller. In godly jealousy, whatever you or I do (or don’t) do can never make God feel any smaller. (We can never effect God like that.) Rather, God feels sad (jealous) when we do things that make us smaller, that make our hearts shrivel and shrink, that draw us from the best to the mediocre or worst.
Human jealousy is selfish; it hurts for oneself. Godly jealous is selfless; it hurts for others.
In Christ’s Love,
a guy who’s thankful
to have a jealous God
who loves me so much
that He was willing to
send his only Son
to keep me from
eternally hurting myself
with my own sin