Jealousy is NOT the Green-Eyed Monster

Today, the word “jealous” is defined as “feeling or showing envy of someone or their achievements and advantages.” It is often called “the green-eyed monster” and is used synonymously with the word “envy”. But to the bible believer, jealousy does not carry the same connotations that the green-eyed monster image carries. Jealousy is a good thing, a godly characteristic. Jealously is a pure, holy, and godly anger that is an appropriate and righteous reaction to sin. I ask you, brethren, to consider the following scriptures and refrain from using the word “jealousy” for anything other than the godly reaction that we read about in the bible, and instead, the word “envy” is proper to use for the subject of ill desire.

The word “jealousy” is found 33 times in the KJV of scripture, and the word “jealous” appears 13 times. Never are these words used as a sinful feeling or reaction, but rather a righteous response. The words “envy” and “envious” are collectively used 30 times in the KJV and are always used as a sinful response. In fact, envy is found in Paul’s list of the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21), which stand opposed to the fruit of the Spirit of God (Galatians 5:22-23). Paul continues by saying, “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (v. 24). So, envy is a passion of the flesh, while jealousy is appropriately a passion of the Spirit of God. Concerning jealousy, the Old Testament gave this testimony long ago, even in the ten commandments: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:4-5). Furthermore, God said that even His name is “Jealous”, saying: “for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Exodus 34:14). Jealousy is His name, i.e. it is fused to the very identity of God, an evident aspect of His character. Can we then call jealousy a sin? If jealousy is a sinful characteristic, what shall we say of our righteous God, who calls Himself a jealous God? We see now how our culture has become sloppy with the use of the word jealous, causing it to overlap with envy, thus creating confusion with the teachings of the bible. God is not an envious God, He is a jealous God. Envy is an evil desire for ill will toward someone because they have something that another desires to have, or because they are someone that another desires to be. Envy must be dealt with and repented of, for it is a sin that can cause a wildfire of many grievous sins. Jealousy is very much the opposite of envy; let’s consider the bible’s discussion of jealousy.

My favorite scriptural definition of jealousy is in Proverbs 6:34, “For jealousy is a husband’s fury; Therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance.” The inspired wisdom of Solomon properly defined jealousy as “a husband’s fury”. Jealousy is the righteous response to unfaithfulness within the marriage covenant. It is a particular form of anger specific to situations of unfaithfulness. It is easily understood by us in the anger of a husband or wife whose spouse has committed adultery against them; but jealousy is used also used of spiritual adultery, i.e. unfaithfulness to God. The scriptures reveal an interesting bond between physical adultery in the marriage covenant and spiritual adultery in the covenant of God. Going back to the ten commandments, both adulteries are included: “You shall have no other gods before me” and “You shall not commit adultery.” It wasn’t long after receiving these instructions that Israel turned aside from God to bow before a golden calf that they had made, and we witness the jealousy of the Lord when he said to Moses, “Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them” (Exodus 32:10). Likewise, God allows this kind of anger in the event of sexual immorality in the marriage relationship, and further allows jealousy as righteous indignation to act even so far as putting away the unfaithful spouse in divorce (Matthew 19:9).

Spouses today will hide their jealousy, possibly because it has been pressured in our society that jealousy is an immature and unbecoming trait. Further, when jealousy is exposed, it is blamed on distrust or paranoia of one’s spouse. These things could not be further from the truth, and Christians must refrain from thinking this way, for it is the thinking of an evil society. There should be no shame in jealousy; it is a characteristic of our heavenly Father, a holy response of righteous indignation toward ungodly activity. Likewise, back to the spiritual side of this, Paul was jealous concerning the church in Corinth. He was concerned that they would be “led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” by accepting “a different gospel” (2 Corinthians 11:3-4). He explains his jealousy in this manner: “I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:2). Paul also illustrates jealousy in terms of the marriage contract, illustrating the church (like a bride) being in a covenant with Christ (the husband). Paul said that they are promised to “one husband” (Christ) so they must be like “a chaste virgin”, so as not to spoil the vines of their relationship with Christ.

Faithfulness to our covenants is the principal thing of life, whether it be the marriage covenant or the covenant of Christ. We may not all be bound in marriage, but all are certainly bound to the covenant of Christ. We must live in purity and godliness, for our God is a jealous God, and rightly so. We don’t want to face His anger in judgment over our unfaithfulness to the eternal salvation which the Lord gave His own life for. “For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God” (Deuteronomy 4:24). “God is jealous, and the LORD avenges; The LORD avenges and is furious. The LORD will take vengeance on His adversaries, And He reserves wrath for His enemies” (Nahum 1:2).

Article by Tanner Campbell.