January 21, 2022

How To Overcome Jealousy

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Romans 12:15

When your best friend marries the girl you dated, it’s hard to get excited.  When the employee whom you hired gets promoted, leap-frogging over you, you may wish him luck and be polite, but inwardly you’d probably like to put a dagger in his back.  Your neighbor wins the lottery—not you.  How do you handle other people’s good fortune?  Are you glad for them, or do you detest their good fortune, wishing it had happened to you?  There’s a part of human nature which remains the same, year after year, generation after generation.

It’s the problem which confronted a young man years ago when his brother took his half of the inheritance and headed for the big city. He squandered it. The entire bag of gold was spent on wine, women, and song.  Then things went sour, and he realized that the poorest paid worker on dad’s farm was better off than he.  That’s when he went home.  You read about this in the New Testament book of Luke, chapter 15.

We’ve called the young man, who was the loser, “The Prodigal,” meaning the one who strayed and then came back.  In reality, though, he’s wasn’t the biggest loser.  That dubious honor belongs to another figure who doesn’t get much copy in the story—the brother who stayed at home with the old man, the one who minded his business, and kept the fires burning.

When his brother came home and they killed the fattened calf and made merry, he was mad—disgusted, annoyed, and, yes, jealous.  Why all the whoopee over a scoundrel who deserted the family, blew his half of the inheritance and then gets treated like a hero?  “This son of yours spent your money on prostitutes,” he objected to his dad, “and when he came home, you killed the fatted calf for him” (Luke 15:30).

This tendency to be annoyed by the good fortune of others is everyone’s problem—the preacher who is annoyed that someone else got the invitation to speak at the conference, the not-so-pretty older sister who sits at home when her step-sister goes to the ball as Cinderella, the student who works hard and yet doesn’t get any honors or recognition—professional jealousy, some call it.

Acknowledging the problem, even for believers, Paul wrote, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15).  Jesus told His followers to love their enemies–something pretty difficult apart from God’s help.

What do you do when you find yourself steaming over someone else’s good fortune?  First—acknowledge that your feelings of jealousy are wrong.  Call it by the right name—sin.  Then ask God’s forgiveness and help.  Mentally, take inventory.  Being angry alone twists your stomach into knots. Does friendship count for nothing?  Is money more important to you than a relationship?  Are you going to allow yourself to stoop to the level of jealousy and harsh feelings?

“If you love those who love you,” asked Jesus, “what reward will you get?” (Matthew 5:46).  Finally, pray for the one whose success annoys you.  And how does prayer change that person?  Perhaps the one who is changed is not the target of your prayers, but the one praying—yourself.

The father of the prodigal told his jealous son, “My child, you’re always with me.  Everything I have is yours.  But we have something to celebrate, something to be happy about.  This brother of yours was dead but has come back to life.  He was lost but has been found” (Luke 15:31-32).

Learning to rejoice with those who find happiness only spreads the joy!


Resource reading: Luke 15:11-32