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May 6, 2023 4:00 am


Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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May 6, 2023 4:00 am

Jealousy is often considered a “secret sin” that can hide behind a smiling face. Left unchecked, though, it can destroy lives and relationships, even within the church. Learn about jealousy’s destructive consequences on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


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Jealousy is often considered a secret sin.

It can hide behind a smiling face. Today on Truth for Life weekend, we'll find out what the book of Proverbs has to say about the destructive consequences of jealousy. Alistair Begg is continuing a series he's titled, Wise Words. Our text this evening is Proverbs chapter 27 and verse 4. Proverbs 27 and verse 4. Anger is cruel, and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy? It can decimate a friendship. It can dissolve the fledgling romance between a young man and his girl. It can destroy a marriage. It can shoot tension all the way through the ranks of a business organization. It can very quickly nullify any sense of unity on a sports team. It can foster bitterness and ugliness around the dining room table in a family.

It can create total havoc in a university dorm. In fact, there's virtually no place in which jealousy is unable to do its dreadful work. And the Bible speaks very clearly concerning this on a number of occasions, not only here in Proverbs, but again as this morning. Throughout the pages of Scripture, the Bible is very clear in warning against allowing jealousy to gain any foothold in our lives. Now obviously, there is a positive kind of jealousy, because the Bible describes God as a jealous God.

And what does that mean? Well, it means that God has a zeal for the preservation or the well-being of that over which he has loving concerns, so that he exercises a jealous love for those who are his people. We understand that, because we would exercise the same kind of jealous care over our children or in the context of our marriages. But when we refer to jealousy as here in verse 4 of chapter 27, we're thinking of it not in positive terms but in a negative way in which it is routinely addressed in Scripture. I can't give you all of the definition of jealousy.

It runs to a significant number of words, but here is sufficient. Jealousy is defined in the OED as zeal or vehemence of feeling against some person or thing, anger, wrath, indignation. Question number four is the state of mind arising from the suspicion, apprehension, or knowledge of rivalry. Fear of being supplanted in the affection or distrust of the fidelity of a beloved person. Even the definitions almost need to find, don't they?

They're so good. Resentment or ill-will towards another on account of advantage or superiority, imagined or real, it is that which expresses itself in envy or in a grudge. Envy, which I thought was really jealousy, but it is distinct. Listen to what envy is. To envy is to feel ill-will and displeasure at the superiority of another person in happiness, success, reputation, or the possession of anything desirable. To regard with discontent another's possession of some superior advantage which one would like to have for oneself.

Now, while most of us would be hard-pressed to come up with those kind of definitions, none of us, I think, would be able to say that we do not understand the emotion, the feeling, and while we may not be able to articulate it verbally, we know what it is to have it rise within us. It's possible for us, actually, to be so consumed with a jealous spirit that we find it very, very difficult just to look straight ahead as we live our lives. We're constantly wondering about the person behind us, in front of us, to the left and to the right.

What I'd like to do in the time that we have is simply to tackle the issue in much the same way as we did this morning. First of all, by noticing the characteristics of jealousy. How does it express itself?

How will I be able to detect it in my own heart? Well, let me say, first of all, that jealousy cannot stand it when others are doing better. Jealousy just is unable to cope with getting a C. Unable to cope with a B- if there are those with Bs and As. A jealous heart just can't content itself. People are jealous of people they do not even know simply because it is possible for them to detect the fact that they have some form of superior advantage. Secondly, jealousy is sad at the happiness of others, when that happiness is a result of the success of another or as a result of the reputation of another being heralded abroad. You see it in families, brothers separated over the years because one has prospered and the other hasn't. One has married well and the other has married poorly. One's children are all doctors and lawyers, and the others are all pumping gas and looking for pop cans on the back of building sites. Thirdly, jealousy makes us hostile towards those who have never harmed us. We don't have time to go to all of these references. I just mention them to you.

You can do them for homework and follow-up study if you choose. But in the story of Joseph, you will remember that when the brothers saw how their father loved their younger brother Joseph, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him. Suddenly, at the breakfast table, there was no direct communication between these brothers and the younger boy.

Of course, there are extenuating circumstances involved in the process. I'm not addressing that this evening, but the point is clear, and it's obvious—namely, that Joseph, by his own design, had done nothing to harm or hinder his brothers. But they hated him, and the reason they hated him was because the seeds of jealousy were deep in their hearts. Fourthly, jealousy is as cruel as the grave and may seek to bring about the ruin of the one whom we envy.

Jealousy is as cruel as the grave and may seek to bring about the ruin of the one whom we envy. If we need to go anywhere, we need only to go to Genesis chapter 4 and the story of Cain and Abel. Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. Cain brought some of the fruits as an offering. Abel brought portions of the firstborn of his flock.

The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering. On Cain and his offering you did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. And the LORD said to Cain, Why are you angry?

Why is your face downcast? If you do what's right, won't you be accepted? But if you don't do what is right, sin is crouching at your door.

It desires to have you, but you must master it. Now Cain said to his brother Abel, Let's go out to the field. And while they were in the field, he attacked his brother Abel, and he killed him. And the LORD said to Cain, Where is your brother Abel? I don't know, he said.

Am I supposed to look after my brother? What was the root of the murder? Jealousy. Jealousy. And within the Christian church, it is possible that we kill one another without actually physically ending their lives, as a result of allowing jealousy a place within our hearts. Fifthly, jealousy fails to recognize that God knows what he's doing in apportioning gifts.

When I'm jealous of the success of another, what I'm saying is, God, you don't understand. I'm supposed to have that. I'm supposed to be there. I'm supposed to be as tall as that. Why am I this size? I'm supposed to look like that.

Why do I look like this? Shall the potter have to endure from the clay such questions? Shall the clay then say to the potter, Why have you made me like this? You read 1 Corinthians 4, and what does it say? Who makes you different from one another? What do you have that you didn't receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as though you did not receive it? The corollary of that, of course, is simply this—that if somebody received it as a gift, why are we jealous and envious of them? Because after all, God knows what he's doing in apportioning gifts.

He made you exactly as he desired for you to be, fashioned you intricately in your mother's womb. Well, we could go on and cite characteristics, but those will do. It can't stand it when others are doing better. It's sad at the happiness of others.

It makes us hostile to those who've never harmed us. It's as cruel as the grave and may seek to bring about the ruin of those whom we are jealous of, and it fails to recognize that God knows what he's doing in apportioning gifts. What about the consequences of jealousy? Can you be jealous, and it's just, Hey, I'm just jealous, nothing to worry about?

No. Jealousy will rot your bones. Nguyen, in one of his books entitled Reaching Out, tells a story of an actor who, engaging him in conversation, shared with him what was going on behind the stage, especially when auditions were taking place, or what was going on behind the stage when the play was being performed and when the actors and actresses knew that the media was there to conduct the review and to write it up in the press. And he wrote as follows, Recently an actor told me stories about his professional world which seemed symbolic of much of our contemporary situation. While rehearsing the most moving scenes of love, tenderness, and intimate relationships, the actors were so jealous of each other and so full of apprehension about their chances to make it that the backstage scene was one of hatred, harshness, and mutual suspicion.

Those who kissed each other on the stage were tempted to hit each other behind it, and those who portrayed the most profound human emotions of love in the footlights displayed the most trivial and hostile rivalries as soon as the footlights had dimmed. Why? Jealousy. Jealousy. Because I'd be jealous of his success. I don't want him to be successful. I want to be successful. That's trivial.

That's a game. But if I allow it to become a pattern in my life, I'll be wishing that every time I see anybody making any progress, hoping for the worst, when I should be hoping for the best. While it will rot our bones and also it will give birth to unwarranted suspicion and to anger, a jealous heart is a suspicious heart and is inevitably and ultimately an angry heart.

And you'll find yourself driving in your car or putting down the phone or seeing the person in the mall and beginning to process information in your mind—unwarranted, suspicious material. And if you trace it to its root, it's often because I cannot simply rejoice in how lovely they look, in how well they're doing, in how happy they are as a family, in the success of his business, or whatever else it is. It's much easier to explain it away. Oh, that was his father, you know. He's a bit of a loser. He could never have done that by himself.

He crawled his way up, and so on. Thirdly, consequentially, it breeds—and this is really a bedfellow of the former—it breeds a destructively critical spirit. It breeds a destructively critical spirit. When I develop in my heart a kind of reflex action that is almost immediately and always critical, then it is usually because of jealousy. Fourthly, consequentially, jealousy will ruin our spiritual appetite. If you've been wondering why it is that you are not benefitting from the Bible, that it's grown stale to you—it's like eating old toast, three-day-old toast—that you find that your hunger for God's Word has diminished, that your interest in studying it on a personal level, joining with others in the searching out of the Bible and so on is just not there, you come to worship, you've been coming here these past months, and somehow or another your heart is heavy and cold, well, listen to Peter's word, get rid of malice and deceit, hypocrisy, envy, slander of every kind, and like newborn babies crave pure spiritual mercs so that you may grow up in your salvation now that you've tasted that the Lord is good.

One of the things that will act as an inherent deterrent to the benefit of growing to maturity as a Christian is a jealous, envious heart. As children in Scotland in my tiniest years—three years old, four years old—and I saw a couple coming down the corridor this morning from somewhere pres—I'm hoping from having been in the context of children, because the gentleman was whistling away some little children's song. I remembered it at the time. I've forgotten it now. But we used to sing, Root them out, get them gone.

Not very good English, but never mind. Root them out, get them gone, all the little rabbits in the fields of corn. Envy, jealousy, malice, and pride, they must never in your heart abide. And we're supposed to do actions with it, you know, with the rabbits and everything else.

But I can remember, we were supposed to shake our heads like this. They must never in your heart abide. It was a good word. Of course, it's not possible by self-effort. It's not possible by just determining, I won't be jealous.

We need an outside help. I'll come to that now, but the last consequence I want to point out is that jealousy is the forerunner to all kinds of chaos. When we tolerate jealousy, not only do we fail to mature as a Christian and fail to benefit by the Word of God, but also we discover that all kinds of chaos erupts when we fail to take this seriously. In James, James is talking about the wisdom that comes from heaven as opposed to the wisdom that is earthly and unspiritual comes from the devil. And he says in 16 of James 3, where you have envy or jealousy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. Where you have, in a home, in an office, in a team, in a dorm, in a church, an unwillingness to be completely, radically committed to dealing with the issue of jealousy. Where there is the toleration of selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and every evil practice.

That is the Word of God. Well, the characteristics are clear, the consequences are dreadful, and the cure is straightforward. The cure is straightforward. How are we to deal, then, with jealousy? Well, as with every sin, we need to recognize it for what it is—namely, sin. It's not some kind of psychological malady. It's not something that can be cured by going to see a psychiatrist.

It is sin, and it needs to be rooted out. When Paul writes about the divisions in the church in Corinth, he says, I gave you milk, not solid food. The reason I was having to do that was because you were still worldly. And then he says, because there is still jealousy and quarreling among you, and are you not worldly?

Are you not acting like mere men? Psychiatrists distinguish between suppression and repression. Suppression involves saying no to the opportunity to do something. I suppress a desire to do something. If it is something that I want to do that is wrong or unhelpful, I suppress it as a Christian by God's enabling and help.

That's normal and healthy. Repression means denying that I even want to do it. That is unhelpful. That is untrue. And that leads to all manner of disorder. So in other words, as with all sin, I think what we have to do is just bring it out in the open, in the privacy of our own homes, certainly in the quietness of our own hearts. Jealousy is so often a secret sin, isn't it? I mean, it's not normal for people to come up and say, you know, I just want you to know that I'm horribly jealous of you.

They may say other things to us, but it is not normal. It's a secret sin. And where a sin is secret, it's a secret between ourselves and God. Therefore, how do you deal with it? You deal with it between yourself and God. You go to God, and you say, God, you put your finger on something today as I read the Bible. I didn't want to face this, but you brought me face to face with it.

I can see in the consequential behavior that some of that has already become a pattern of my life. And so I'm coming to you tonight, and I'm asking you to help me deal with it. I'm bringing it—and this is the second aspect of it—acknowledge that it is sin, and then bring it into the light of God's presence. Bring it into the light of God's presence. I find that it is helpful for me, when I'm really confronted by something like this, to take something, to take a card or a piece of paper and write down the actual stuff that I'm dealing with.

Not, Oh, I've had a few vague general feelings of jealousy sometime in the last twelve months. Lord, help me, good night, and thank you for a great day. Bless all the people around the world. Amen. No, it's gonna be something far more brutal than that. It's gonna be something far more painful than that. We're going in here for tumors.

We're hoping that they're benign, that they're not malignant. We're going in very carefully. We're going in very purposefully. We're going in ruthlessly.

And we're not coming back until they're dealt with. Bring it into the light of God's presence. And then put the rejection of it—that is, the rising tendency within our hearts to foster and tolerate jealousy—put the rejection of it into practice moment by moment.

How? In the awareness that I have been united with Christ. That all of his power has been available to me and is available to me. Since then you have been raised with Christ. Remember Colossians 3. Since then you have been raised with Christ. Seek these things which are above where Christ is seated. And then, on the basis of your union with Christ, put off all these things, one of them being jealousy, and instead of that, put on the garments of humility, put on the garments of praise, put on the garments of encouragement.

And on a daily basis—sixty seconds a minute, sixty minutes an hour—that is the only way to deal with it. United with Christ. And as an expression of the fruit of the Spirit. Determined by God's grace to leave behind all the dismal, gaseous, subterranean pipelines of jealousy, refuse to breathe its fumes, refuse to obey its promptings.

It'll rot our bones, destroy our church, tear friendships apart, marginalize marriages, and make the best of friends, lie in their bedrooms at night, and think rotten thoughts about those for whom they ought to be praying. May God deal with us, gently, purposefully, profitably. You're listening to Alistair Begg on Truth for Life weekend. I hope you are benefiting from Alistair's practical and sometimes uncomfortable teaching in the book of Proverbs. If you'd like, you can stream or download any or all of the messages in this study for free. The series is titled Wise Words.

You can re-listen as often as you'd like, whenever it's convenient, or share these messages with a friend. You'll find all of Alistair's teaching in the Truth for Life app or on our website at You can also listen to Alistair's latest sermons, read his daily devotions, download study guides, sign up for topical reading plans, all for free. And while you're on the website, check out a book we're recommending titled The Air We Breathe. This is a compelling book. As you read it, you'll learn about seven values in our modern world that have all been influenced by Christianity. This book explains how things like freedom, progress, and compassion are all rooted in what the Bible teaches. Once again, you'll learn more about the book The Air We Breathe when you visit our website at I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks again for listening this weekend. Most of us have heard the childhood saying, sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me. Next weekend, we'll find out just how harmful, divisive, and destructive words can actually be. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-06 04:39:30 / 2023-05-06 04:47:58 / 8

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