Channelview, Texas is a neat, middle-class suburb of Houston. It is a typical bedroom community of nice homes, nice cars, and nice families. Like most family towns, sports events are popular here because they provide fun family time. Competition is fierce, no matter the sport, but in Channelview, the cheerleading competition reigns supreme.
Amber and Shanna lived right around the corner from each other, and they had been friends for years. Amber was president of her school’s student council and Shanna was her VP. Their mothers were also friends and would take turns carpooling the girls back and forth to school. This harmony, however, subsided when the girls reached 6th grade. Amber made the cheer squad, and Shanna did not. This patter wasn’t necessarily new, and Shanna’s mother grew tired of Amber always coming out on top. So much so that her disdain began to go to extremes like the time she attempted to get Amber disqualified from the cheerleading squad by invoking a technicality in the rules. Some of her bizarre behavior eventually resulted in Shanna being disqualified from the squad.
Eventually, she became so inflamed with jealousy that she tried to hire a hitman to kill both Amber and her mother. In her search for a killer, she mentioned the plan to her former brother-in-law, who reported it to the police. They were able to trap her by sending an undercover officer to act as if he was a hitman. The tape recording reveals a conversation agreeing to kill Amber’s mother for $5,000 and Amber for $2,500. Mrs. Holloway was unable to come up with the cash immediately, so she gave a pair of diamond earrings as a down-payment. She was, of course, arrested for solicitation of capital murder and sentenced to 15 years in jail.
As shocked as I was when I read the story, after pondering on it for a bit, I decided I wasn’t that surprised. This terrible story is a perfect portrait of what jealousy can do when it is allowed to build up and fester. It earned its name “the green-eyed monster” because it can turn anyone under its control into just that–a monster. It certainly made a monster out of Mrs. Holloway.
Jealousy is one of the most destructive emotions. Proverbs 27:4 says “Wrath is fierce, and anger is a flood, but who can stand before jealousy?” Jealousy is what motivated Pilate to hand Jesus over to be crucified (Matthew 27:18). The first murder in recorded history is of Cain, killed by his own jealous brother.
I prefer to describe jealousy as a “cancer of the heart”. Like cancer, jealousy kills from the inside out. It kills marriages, friendships, families. It turns blessings into bitterness. It is, indeed, a terrible monster. The good news is you can slay this green-eyes monster with a plan of attack.
What causes jealousy? How does it show its face? Perhaps a classmate makes the baseball team, and you don’t. A coworker gets a promotion, and you don’t. Your friend moves into a bigger home, and you can’t afford to. Perhaps you friend drives a nicer car than you do. You see, people all over social media always seems to have the perfect marriage and the perfect life. People appear prettier or thinner than you are. The list of what can trigger jealousy could literally go on and on and on.
As previously mentioned in Proverbs 27:4, who can stand before jealousy? In other words, who can survive it? All of us will be tempted to struggle with it, and we need to be able to recognize it and defeat it when it rears its ugly head. Jealousy starts when begin to compare ourselves to others. Doing so robs you of the peace that you should have in your heart due to God’s blessing in your life. When you compare what you have to what others have, you forget to be thankful for what you do have. Instead of being happy for another person whom God has blessed, you become resentful and often angry.
Shakespeare compared jealousy to the deadly poison of a mad dog’s tooth. That’s interesting because Proverbs 14:30 says “A sound heart is life to the body; but envy is rottenness to the bones.” Notice the verse says envy rots the bones. Your bones are inside your body. Envy destroys you from the inside out. It begins in the mind and the heart, and when you don’t control your thoughts and allow jealousy to grow and take over, it will destroy you.
I read a story about two shopkeepers who were bitter rivals. Their stores were across the street from each other, so they could easily see how much business the other was receiving in a given day. When one of them would get a customer, he would smile a toothy grin at the other across the street. One night, one of the shopkeepers dreamed an angel visited him and said, “I’ll give you anything you ask, but whatever you receive, your competitor will receive twice as much. You can be wealthy, but he will be twice as rich. If you want to live long, he will live twice as long. So, what is your desire?” The man frowned, thought for a moment and said, “Strike me blind in one eye.”
That’s both funny and sad. Jealousy truly steals the satisfaction you should have with what you already possess. It prevents you from sharing in and celebrating the joy of others.
Consider the Upas tree that grows in Indonesia. It secretes poison and grows so full and thick that it destroys all the vegetation that grows underneath and around it. Jealousy is the Upas tree in real life. It may give you shelter from your inadequacies and shortcomings, but its poison will destroy any joy or fruit in your life. Jealousy has absolutely no regard for financial status, age, or social standing. No one is immune. It is the enemy of peace, joy, contentment, and love.
Moses provides a wonderful example to follow when dealing with jealousy. As the Bible notes, God used Moses mightily, and God multiplied Moses’s ministry in the lives of 70 elders who were given the gift of prophecy. Two of these elders, Eldad and Medad, were particularly gifted and began prophesying in the camp. A young man came to Moses and told him the news. Joshua demanded, “Moses, forbid them!” But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake? Oh, that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!” (Numbers 11:26-29, NASB) Moses knew not to be jealous, but to rejoice in the Lord blessing and using others.
We should all desire to honestly rejoice in someone else’s success. The ability to overcome jealousy can only come from God. Pray to Him. Ask that He would show you where you are discontented. Confess that to Him and ask Him to strengthen you and give you the ability to rejoice in what you have as well as for others.
Charles Swindoll said, “It is a good test to the rise and fall of egotism to notice how you listen to the praises of other men on your standing. Until you can listen to the praises of someone else without any desire to indulge in detraction, or any attempt to belittle his work, you may be sure there is an in-mortified prairie of egotistic impulse in your nature yet to be brought under the grace of God.”
In the New Testament, we have the words written in Philippians 4:11 that convey how to overcome jealousy. Paul, speaking to the church at Philippi says, “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.” Learning to be content in your current circumstances is key, but let’s dig deeper. To get right down to the point, if you are focused on Christ and serving him and less on yourself and your circumstances, it’s a lot easier to be content. If you allow your mind to focus solely on yourself, your sinful nature will take over and steer your thoughts to your wants and desires 100% of the time. However, if you are taking your thoughts captive and making them obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), you are much less self-focused and much more Christ-focused.
Here’s the bottom line…when you are concentrating on being where God wants you to be and doing what God wants you to do, you will be content with what God wants you to have. At its core, jealousy is a rebellion against God’s providential leading in your life. When you are jealous of someone else, you are essentially saying, “God has no right to bless someone else more than He has blessed me.”
Contentment is the key to overcoming jealousy. Learn to be happy where you are right this moment. Enjoy life now with your current blessings. Nothing will slay that green-eyed monster like being satisfied with where you are, what you have, and giving gratitude to the God who has already blessed you with more than you deserve.