“O, beware, my lord, of jealousy; it is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.” Shakespeare, ‘Othello’
Shakespeare was right, jealousy is a monster, and it will not only consume you, it will create all kinds of conflict in your relationships with other people and with God Himself. As the Bible points out in James 4:1-10, the church is not immune to this problem. James says that this habit we suffer of looking with desire at what others have is a source of “quarrels and fights” in the body of Christ. And this happens because when we allow ourselves to be consumed with our own envies and jealousies we have precious little room in our minds and hearts to talk to God; we forget to pray. Beyond that, we choose not to pray because we know in our hearts that what we’re chasing is not what God wants for us, but what we selfishly want for ourselves. And beyond that, when we do get up the nerve to pray, we pray knowing that what we’re asking for is not according to God’s will, but according to ours. Jealousy creates a distance between us and God, and it is not God who is moving.
James compares this with adultery; its like we’re cheating on Jesus, having an affair with that thing we want so much. And what is that thing? Material wealth? Physical health? Career success? Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. “Whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4) Harsh words, but as James points out earlier in his letter, this is a source of evil and disorder in the church, a blemish on the bride of Christ that ought not to be.
James’ advice? If this is something you’re dealing with, he makes it simple: repent. That is to say, submit to God. Confess your mistake. Make a heartfelt appeal to surrender control of that area of your life to God, and expect that God will honor your humility.