Overcoming Jealousy (Rethinking Discernment)

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I remember as a kid, I had a friend that had a GameBoy Color. I wanted one SO bad, and it’s all I thought about for several weeks. One day I saw Anthony on the school bus and he had his GameBoy Color with him. I plopped my 7th Grade self right next to him, eyes wide in awe as he played Pokemon Yellow on it. Now, for some of you, that doesn’t mean much, but for 7th Grade me, that was STATUS. So, I came up with a plan; I was going to gather every single holographic Pokemon card that I owned and suggest a trade. That night I meticulously gathered them and made sure they were each placed in their plastic sleeves as to look the MOST pristine. The next day, there Anthony was, along with the GameBoy Color and all its glory. I sat down next to him with Pokemon Cards and Jealousy in hand and offered it to him. He thought about it for a few minutes… then he went for it! And there I was with a GameBoy Color and Pokemon Yellow! I was on top of the world!

So, for you Pokemon lovers… two of the cards were a First Edition Shadowless Holographic Blastoise and a First Edition Shadowless Machamp... I looked it up, both are worth about $2400 today… No telling what all of those Holos together would be worth. After looking it up, I felt like Esau trading my birthright for a bowl of stew… 

See, jealousy is one of those things that sneaks up on you while you’re not paying attention. Jealousy and tunnel vision don’t go well together. Jealousy is what provoked Cain to kill Abel, Joseph’s brothers to sell him into slavery and King Saul to throw a spear at David, who by the way was his most loyal and trusted servant. 

Jealousy most often occurs when someone gets noticed or gains more attention than we do. Usually it’s when someone else becomes more popular, or has something that we don’t. Before long, we are right there with Saul, allowing our jealousy to go so far that it opens the door to insanity. (see 1 Samuel 18). Jealousy will eventually make you insane!

(And those of us that are very competitive it hurts all the more.)

James 3:16 says “For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.” I’m not going to lie, I have struggled with jealousy for most of my life. I don’t like to admit it, but sometimes I have failed to recognize it, and still do. But, here lately I’ve started to recognize jealousy in other ways. 

Here’s the BIGGEST one:

Sometimes I’ve been jealous, but called it discernment. I thought that it was coming from God, but it was actually coming from my own flesh. See, what what I thought was discernment was actually suspicion. I was looking at the heart of the other person trying to find reasons to discredit them.Suspicion is discernment’s sneaky wicked stepsister. This is a very backwards version of spiritual discernment. 

I operated in suspicion for a very long time and called it “discernment”, even recently. If this is how you usually operate in what you thought was a gift from God, maybe today can be the start of your transformation, just like I needed to go through. See, when discernment is rooted in the Holy Spirit, you are no longer looking at the negative intentions in other people’s lives (suspicion), but you’ll actually start discerning the positive intentions, their future, the favor God has on their lives and what God wants for them.

Allowing jealousy and suspicion in your life will lead you down a very lonely path. Rather than true Holy Spirit empowered discernment, you’ll actually end up with:

  1. Disconnection from others, isolating yourself from people who care about you.

  2. Disappointment in them and yourself, constantly wondering why they “got it” or “made it” and you didn’t.

  3. Depression because of isolation. You get tunnel vision and create a dark bubble around yourself that you can’t see out of or escape from. 

When jealousy is dictating your actions, you may find yourself liking a person one day, but as an enemy or a threat to you the next. What happens is, as long as you are the one that feels more popular, more talented or more powerful than that person, you don’t feel threatened by them, and in fact you may promote them or speak highly of them. However, the second that person begins to get favor, popularity or power that goes above your own, the war begins.

Jealousy and suspicion cause us to reduce others, highlight their weakness, and build strongholds in our minds that “control” them and develop a case against them. 

1 John 4:1a says “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God…”

So, now that we know a side of jealousy that we maybe have never thought of, how can we overcome it? 

  1. Admit it. We never like to admit when we are jealous, mostly because jealousy causes us to highlight other’s weaknesses above our own. We must admit that we have a weakness and stop justifying our sin and calling it “discernment". If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it’s a duck. We can tell people all day long how much we love or admire them, but if we resent them, then we are creating a monster inside of ourselves of perpetual jealousy, lies, and ultimately, sin.

  2. Try to invest in that person. Begin to see the favor of God on their life! If they are being promoted above you, celebrate it! I’ve learned doing this makes their victory become your victory.The best way to wage war against jealousy is genuinely celebrating that other person.

  3. Refuse to embrace the jealousy! Don’t give your mind permission to compare yourself with others. Don’t trap yourself in the depression bubble. Find ways to be thankful for that person in your life. Find ways to be thankful for God’s favor on your life. I’m sure if you look around, your life is a whole lot better than you’ve made it out to be.

  4. Remember who you are and Whose you are. We must never forget that our Heavenly Father has plenty of love, provision, and favor to go around. When someone gets what we long for (like that GameBoy Color, or that house, or that boat, or that promotion), there is still plenty left over for us. Some one needs to see this: One person’s promotion is not another person’s demotion. But if we can’t celebrate the victories of others, then maybe the Lord will not let us have victories of our own. I would even go so far as to say that you might actually be gaining victories every day, but you just aren’t seeing them because you’re focused on someone else’s. On the other hand, if we humble OURSELVES, then He will exalt us in the PROPER time!

Here’s the deal:

Honor Brings Blessing.

When we realize that honor brings blessing, it’s much easier to posture our hearts to celebrate those who have the things we long for, rather than persecute them. Overcoming jealousy is not about competition. It’s not about trying to prove yourself. But it IS about positioning yourself correctly within the season God has you in so that you can receive everything HE wants you to have in order to grow, mature and prosper. Posture your heart in thankfulness and celebration for those who are being promoted around you and I promise you will experience a chain reaction of blessing in your own life.

What about you? Do you struggle with this? What ways have you misused what you thought was discernment? What part of all of this is the most challenging for you? I’d love to hear from you!!

By the way, I still have that GameBoy Color today.

Matthew Long