That green-eyed monster called “jealousy” can rear its ugly head, without our even being aware of its insidious presence lurking deep in the heart. Untold damage can occur because of jealousy, which divides relationships, communities and even nations. It surfaces when we want to own and protect what we feel belongs to us. We so easily become possessive with love, authority, status and power that we wish to control them and eliminate anything or anyone that is what we perceive to be a threat to our self contained world.
Many of the leaders of the religious establishment were jealous of Jesus and his ability to heal and teach with an authority that became attractive to many people. After the Resurrection and Ascension, the leaders of the burgeoning Christian community experienced the same jealousy by some religious leaders of their time.
The Acts of the Apostles, volume two of Luke’s gospel, describes instances in which the jealousy of certain leaders caused them to be rejected and persecuted. These leaders were jealous over the popularity of these early Christians, who eventually gave their lives as a witness to their love of Christ.
Each and every one of us can fall into jealousy’s trap when we become threatened by another individual. This threat is imagined and not real. A friend that develops a friendship with another person shouldn’t cause us any alarm, unless that person truly wants to destroy our relationship. But when we become possessive of the friend, anyone else is seen as a rival partner who needs to be eliminated by threats, lies, ultimatums or worse.
Let’s be honest. Who wants to admit that they are jealous? It is a horrible emotion that can only bring harm and division. It is actually embarrassing to admit that one is jealous and possessive. Envy is the flip side of jealousy: I want to possess something you have but I don’t have... and I don’t want you to have it!! It is just as embarrassing to admit to envy, an emotion so deadly it’s called one of the seven capital sins.
Admitting these disturbing, but very human emotions, is the beginning of being freed from their grip. This freedom comes from God’s Grace, the gift of the Spirit that heals the wounds of jealousy and envy by empowering us to be grateful for who we are and what has been given to us. Gratitude is the healing balm of so many conflicting emotions. We can be secure within ourselves, free from comparisons and grasping, so that we aren’t threatened by the success of others, nor are we threatened in sharing our friendship with others.
Jesus is our example out of the quagmire of jealousy and envy. He stood before Pontius Pilate and remained silent when threatened with power. He wanted to share his ability to heal with others. He didn’t cling to his friends or followers, but rejoiced when they developed friendships. He trusted his friends, even when they betrayed and denied him, to the point of forgiveness. Jesus is the Way, who shows us the way to live in freedom and gratitude.