Thursday, 24 May 2012
The topic of jealousy has been weighing on my mind lately for no reason in particular, and I feel like the only way to figure this out is to really examine and study it. And anyone who knows me knows that the best way I process things is to write them out. So here goes.
Jealousy is a generally negative emotion and is at the base of things; wrong. I get this, I understand this, and like many people, I have fought it. James 3:14-17 says “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.”
So rather than submitting to the jealous emotions within in us we are called to seek out the wisdom of God from above so that we may be made pure. Simple enough right?
Maybe it’s just me, but after reading those verses in James; the next passage that immediately comes to mind is Exodus 20, specifically verses 4-6; “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
Now; the Bible states also that we are to be holy, just as HE is holy (Lev. 11:44, 1 Pet. 1:16). He is holy, perfect, righteous, and unable to even glance upon sin. So we know God is not sinning in that He is a jealous God. Yet; jealousy is a sin that we ought to strive to overcome by seeking out the wisdom of God. So what have we here; a contradiction? I beg to differ. Rather this is an opportunity for deeper study and examination into the word of God as to the differences in the origin of the word and how God can be a jealous God, yet we are called to avoid jealousy.
Thus far I have found the difference of adjective vs. noun to be an interesting starting point for study. God is described with the Hebrew adjective use of the word jealous which; according to Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew lexicon and Strong’s concordance, is only used when defining an attribute of God. However; the word jealousy as used in James 3:14, 16 is preceded by the word bitter and is defined as a noun usage of the Greek word zelos, which is defined as zeal, eagerness, or rivalry. Thayer’s Greek lexicon defines this type of word usage as that of “an envious and contentious rivalry.”
And I believe therein lies the difference which bears proof the Bible is not contradicting itself, but rather the English language simply is not constructed in the same manner as the Hebrew and Greek languages and thus the translations fail to match up 100%. The jealousy of the God whom we worship stems from a love which gives him a jealous attribute where he desires our love and worship. The jealousy spoken of in passages such as James 3:14-17 is that of a rivalry which stems from a bitterness and zeal that is not pure. God is pure and thus His jealous is rooted in a pure love; whereas the jealousy we fight as humans is rooted in our imperfect human nature.
But don’t take my word for it. Be as the Bereans (Acts 17:10-15) and search it out for yourself. I don’t claim to know everything or to always be right. I’d love to learn what you’ve found yourself; especially if it differs from what I’ve learned so far in my study. If you’re reading this; then you obviously have access to a computer and the internet. And the internet is a wealth of information right at your fingertips. That’s really all you need to study-up and search for answers. And that means no excuses for not doing it.
So what do you think? Is God’s jealous nature different from that of the jealousy we are called to avoid? Why or why not?