Do you struggle with jealousy or envy? How do you help your children overcome these temptations?
Jealousy rears its ugly head at the most inopportune times.
On Christmas Eve I enjoyed listening to the jazz combo playing walk-in music. Silently I wished I played with them since I’m a jazz saxophonist. After the service, I started critiquing all the things I would fix and claiming I could have done equally well or better. My wife called me on it.
Jealousy, Pride. Envy. Arrogance. Ugliness.
Oh externally I thanked the musicians, but internally a war waged against my heart and I allowed it to be briefly revealed. Oh, how I wish this were the only time. But I found myself comparing my likes and views to a friend who posted a music video this week. Why do I want to be better? Why can’t I be more thankful for the gifts of others?
Oh, and then another friend sent me a sunset picture from Hawaii (in header), telling me she gets to work from there four months out of the year. Gut punch as jealousy emerged again.
Am I the only one? Can you relate?
How gratitude helps us overcome jealousy and envy
The Book of Proverbs teaches, “Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?”
If you feel like you’ve conquered this, watch children at Christmas. Do they delight in watching their siblings open presents or do you see them comparing their gifts and complaining?
I wish growing old cured us of this pervasive sin.
When I worked as a consultant for Koch Industries, we discussed how to help employees learn better critical thinking skills. One of my colleagues used his desire to buy a new car as an example. An unchallenged assumption he made was that his car selection needed to impress his peers and CEO, Charles Koch. He saw what others drove and he wanted to match or out-do them.
I drove a beat-up Honda Accord that had seen better days. I felt strong jealousy as I listened to him justify his purchase of a sporty BMW convertible.
4 ways to overcome jealousy:
James addressed this in his letter and provides four ways to overcome jealousy.
“What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? 2 You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.” (James 4:1-2 NLT)
#1: Thank God for his grace
James reminds us that God gives grace generously. Beyond what we deserve or could ever repay.
When jealousy raises its ugly head, fall to your knees and thank God for showing you grace and mercy.
EXAMPLE: Thinking about my jazz example, here’s how that might look. “Lord, I thank you for the gift of music. I’m grateful you are restoring my ability to play, but I’m sorry for being so proud and arrogant. Teach me to enjoy and appreciate the gifts of others with genuine delight. There’s truly room for all of us and I’m grateful when others get to use their gifts for your glory.”
#2: Humble yourself to undermine jealousy
James quotes Proverbs 3:34 by saying, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Pride is at the root of jealousy and envy, so the best way to cut off the roots is through humility.
I remember the first time I met Phil Keaggy, one of the greatest guitar players ever. He offered me one of his guitars so I could play something for him I was working on. Since he delights in the gifts of others, he genuinely wanted to learn from me. Phil remains humble about his gifts and seeks to use them for God. He’s also deeply appreciative of every compliment and opportunity.
PRAYER: Lord, may I humble myself daily even as I grow in skill and gratefulness. Even while gratefulness becomes more a part of my life, may I not be proud of how grateful I am.
#3: Resist the devil who seeks to stir up jealousy
James starts off chapter 4 by rebuking believers for the fighting and quarreling. He knows the source comes from jealousy and pride which are provoked and fueled by the devil.
The devil does not want you to be thankful and humble. He doesn’t want us to encourage and support one another. He definitely doesn’t want us to love each other.
When jealousy pokes his head out, resist the devil by fleeing. James doesn’t tell us to stop and engage the devil in spiritual warfare. James says, “Flee. Run away.”
Forgive me in advance, but I can’t help remember the hilarious scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail when the soldiers find themselves running away from a rabbit:
Of course, the devil is a real enemy. Peter describes him as a roaring lion who seeks to devour. If he can divide us through jealousy, quarreling, pride, and selfishness he will prevent us from building God’s kingdom.
Stop him short by running away. As fast as you can.
#4: Draw close to God
If you’re in God’s word, singing songs of thanksgiving, and talking to him constantly, you won’t get an elevated view of yourself and you’re far more likely to see that everything you have is a gift, including your greatest abilities, to be used for God’s pleasure. Hold it all loosely for it pales in comparison to the joy of knowing and being with God.
Take your gratitude journal and reflect on a recent time when jealousy reared its head in your life. Talk to God about it. How might you practice gratitude next time?
Lord, I thank you for your eternal and immeasurable grace. I don’t deserve even a drop, but you show love every day. I thank you for the ways you’ve gifted me. Help me to always see those as gifts and not rights or possessions. Teach me to show genuine appreciation for those around me, especially those with similar or greater gifts. Keep me humble. Strengthen me to resist and flee from the devil. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.