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Filled With Jealousy

As we look at Acts 5, we see a story that hinges on the sin of jealousy. Over on Solomon’s Porch, the apostles are performing signs and wonders all the time, healing people and casting out evil spirits. In the main part of the temple, however, nobody is being healed or saved or delivered, and so the temple leaders become jealous.

In order for us to understand what happens, therefore, we need to understand what this sin is. Jealousy is an emotional response to the violation of exclusive rights. On this definition, it is not necessarily a sin. In the OT, jealousy usually shows up in the husband-wife relationship: marriage entails exclusive access to another person, and when that exclusivity is violated, jealousy is the result. God gets jealous when His right to exclusive worship is violated through idolatry.

The sin of jealousy comes into play when exclusivity is demanded wrongly – for instance, Jonah is upset that God wants to give Ninevah the blessings that he thinks belong only to Israel, forgetting that those blessings are a gift, not a right. Here in Acts, the temple leaders are sinfully jealous when a bunch of fishermen start to act like religious leaders, teaching and healing the people in the name of a carpenter’s son who did the same sort of thing.

Looking at the opposite of jealousy, we find something like charity, a generosity of spirit that doesn’t insist on exercising exclusive rights. Think of Moses, when his interns came and complained that other people were prophesying. Moses rejected jealousy, and prayed that all God’s people would become prophets! And look to Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, who didn’t become jealous that human beings would also become sons and daughters of God, sharing in the Father’s love. In fact, He laid aside all of His privileges and died in order to make it happen! Jealousy is selfish and restrictive; charity is generous and expansive.

Because jealousy revolves around exclusivity, it shows up especially in those instances where there are commonalities: we become jealous of people who do what we do, or compete for the same space that we do: moms are jealous of other moms, businessmen are jealous of other businessmen, preachers are jealous of other preachers. Jealousy is a fundamentally comparative exercise infected by pride. It is built along the horizontal glance – it defines your worth or accomplishments not in relationship to the task or the standard, but over against other people. This means that when you examine your heart for jealousy, you need to examine your attitude and actions towards those closest to you. Jealousy isn’t random – it shows up along peer relationships.

Jealousy manifests itself externally, coming against you from the outside, but it shows up internally, as well, and this inner jealousy is infinitely more dangerous to you than any expression of jealousy directed towards you from outside. Don’t fear the jealousy that could harm your body or take your job. Fear the jealousy that could claim your soul.

The good news is that Jesus delivers us from the effects of jealousy, sometimes by opening prison doors or providing wise and honorable men to speak up on your behalf, like He did for the apostles. Ultimately, you are safe from the effects of jealousy because He has hidden your life and your most valuable treasures in heaven, out of reach of jealous people here on earth.

And when jealousy surfaces inside of you, remember that Jesus stood in your place, and took the penalty for your jealous heart on Himself. He suffered and died so that your jealous acts might be forgiven. His love, living inside of you by His Holy Spirit, enables you to let go of your exclusive right to your own life, and to lay it down for others instead.

Posted on Thursday, July 25, 2013 by CJ Bowen