There are many words uglier than jealousy. Words more disgusting? Yes. Words more atrocious? Absolutely. But jealousy, in our vocabulary, is ugly.
Stereotypically, we believe that children who are jealous are considered immature and whiny. Women who are jealous are bitter, insecure, and divisive. Jealous men, meanwhile, are possessive and controlling.
So what does it mean for us that we have a jealous God?
“Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” Exodus 34:14
His name is jealous. Whoa. God takes His jealousy pretty seriously. He seems to think His jealousy is a good thing, even righteous.
Enough so that the Lord’s jealousy, when aroused, leads to long-lasting punishment for those who provoke it (Exodus 20:5).
The Lord’s jealousy doesn’t fit our definitions because it involves no violation or indulgence in sin. Instead, His jealousy is a perfect and appropriate reaction to something we do that violates His character and indulges our own sin.
“They made Him jealous with their foreign gods and angered Him with their detestable idols.” Deuteronomy 32:16
There is a big difference between our jealousy and His, and it boils down to this: what makes us jealous is a false claim over something or another. His claim is righteous.
His jealousy is provoked by ours.
God is righteously jealous over us because we are wrongfully jealous over things, turning them into idols and objects of worship.
We’re jealous of stories, of money, of situations, of relationships, of appearances…none of which belong to us. In being jealous over those things, we act as though we belong to them, too. We give ourselves over to their power, allure, and demands.
Say it again: His righteous jealousy is provoked by our unrighteous jealousy and its consequences. That’s the difference. Our jealousy is a corruption of His.
And knowing that makes all the difference.
When we look at the Lord’s jealousy, ours dissipates. To stop being jealous, we simply need to turn to the definer and definition of jealousy: God.
Recognize jealousy as it was meant to be: a righteous passion for what belongs to us. Or rather, what belongs to Him (also: us.) It’s harder to feel jealous of anything in this world when we realize that the perfect God of the universe is jealous over our very hearts.
His love for us is so strong and so perfect that our desiring anything else is foolish and ridiculous. It doesn’t matter what belongs to you and I- what matters is that we belong to Him.
Isn’t that relieving? The ugliness of our jealousy is replaced by the beauty of His.