Love is Not Jealous

Love is not Jealous. It was Shakespeare who turned jealousy into a “Green-eyed monster,” although he may have borrowed an idea from the ancient Greeks. Whatever its color, jealousy is a common yet complicated emotion. But we have a conflict. Jealousy often proves romantic love, and yet Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:4 that “love…is not jealous.” But that is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg for this conflicting emotion.

There are other internal conflicts to consider. On one hand, God is a jealous God (Exodus 34:13-15). But it was jealousy that motivated Joseph’s brothers to want him dead and to ultimately sell him into slavery (Genesis 37:11). We are also told that God is love in 1 John 4:8. So if God is love and God is jealous how can Paul write that love is not jealous?

Let’s melt the iceberg or slay the monster (I’ll let you pick your own metaphor for this conflict.) Let’s draw a line between envy and jealousy. In some respects, they look like the same — a feeling of desire for what someone else has. The difference is one of pairing. The emotions and actions paired with basic envy make all the difference. Are we envious and resentful?  That’s basic jealously as displayed by Joseph’s brothers.

God’s jealousy is not paired with resentment, but with a fierce desire to protect. God’s command to not worship other gods is not formed out of a need to be worshipped but to protect His people from falling into evil. God’s jealousy is far different than our own.

And yet our jealousy reveals something about us. Were Joseph’s brothers really jealous over a fancy multi-colored coat, or was it the love between Joseph and Jacob/Israel? If the brothers had looked a bit deeper into their own souls, they would have found their true desire and perhaps found a better way to fill it.  The same is true for us. We’re not resentful because a co-worker was promoted and we weren’t, but jealous over their increased status, their bump in pay, or the validation promotion brings. Often our jealousy isn’t really about the object at all, but about the anticipated results of having whatever that object is.

Advertisers know this. They don’t sell a luxury car based on its performance but on how it will make you feel or what others will think and feel about you. What they don’t tell you is that there are far less expensive ways to satisfy that hunger.

If love is not jealous than what is it?  Love cheers when others succeed. Love encourages our uniqueness’s, Love lets someone else be the center instead of ourselves. Jealousy is all about self-love, being the center of our world. The king of our own mountain. The satisfier of our own soul. It is impossible to love others and be resentfully jealous of them at the same time. Oil and water, light and dark. We should be jealous, in a God kind of way, for the affection of those we love. We should strongly desire and seek to protect the bonds of connection, friendship, and if appropriate marriage.

Love is not jealous. It doesn’t resentfully desire what others have. Instead, love seeks the good of the others, embraces their successes, and covers their weaknesses. Love may hunger for what others have, but it will never tear someone down to get it. Love always rejoices.

Dale Heinold
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