Most of us have had our bouts with jealousy. Perhaps it started way back when we were just little children. Did your mother ever tell you how jealous you were when she brought home your baby brother or sister from the hospital? Many mothers have a story to tell how they had to fight jealousy right away.
Dr. Charles Swindall, in his book, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart, tells a very interesting incident in his own life. He writes, “I remember an occasion when I was dating my wife. She had promised a fellow she would go with him to the Texas A & M football game. It was a common practice after each Aggie touchdown for the fellow to kiss his date. I listened to the radio fervently praying they wouldn’t score. I recall the first touchdown that took place. Then they made another one a little later on. I don’t think A & M ever made as many touchdowns in any game as they did in that one. The score was 48 to 0, and I just seethed on the inside. Little did I realize how destructive that jealousy could be to our relationship if it had continued. With the patience of my wife for one given to jealousy, that behavior has been overcome.” This is an example of jealousy that can follow us throughout all of life.
Jealousy is a destructive emotion that is displeasing to God and takes the fun out of living. The last part of the parable of the Prodigal Son deals with the older son. I haven’t preached on him nearly as much as I have on the younger son, who went away and wasted all of his money. This parable is one of the best parables that Jesus ever told, and it is known to a lot of people.
You may recall the younger son demanded his share of the inheritance from his father. He went out and spent it on unrighteous living. Finally, when he had no money left, he decided to come back to his father, confess his wrong, and ask for a place in his employ. When the father saw the child coming, he was so elated he decided to throw a great big party for the prodigal. When the older brother heard this, he was very angry.
The elder brother provides us with a good example of jealousy, for now the father’s mind was focused on the younger son, who had only destroyed what his father wanted him to be and do. So the older son decided to stay outside and not go into the party. The father said to him, “You know, son, I am disappointed. Haven’t we had the good life together? Didn’t we enjoy sharing those great meals everyday and revealing our love? During those years, you might have thought your brother was having a great time living the fast life, as you say, with prostitutes, and indulging in a lot of alcohol and the rest. But he wasn’t happy. When he finally came to the end of his ropes, he had to come home and admit he had sinned. Everything I have is yours, and I am so grateful for everything you have done. But just remember this: your brother who I thought was dead, is alive, who I thought was lost, has come home. And for that we return our thanks and we cry out, ÔWelcome home!’ Now come in and join the party.”
Jealousy has been defined by the dictionary as becoming apprehensive at the loss of another’s exclusive devotion. I think that would fit in pretty well with the story of the older son. He had become apprehensive at the loss of his father’s love, because at that particular time his father’s devotion seemed to be exclusively with the younger son.
Jealousy reveals something wrong in our relationship with the Lord. It is spiritual immaturity. That does not mean that we are not Christian; we are never perfect simply because we bear the name of Jesus Christ. It means we have a long way to go in our maturing in order to live as Jesus wants us to live. And that is the purpose of this sermon Ð to point out how serious and destructive jealousy can be. When we are jealous, we are doing something to ourselves that is not good. We are not satisfied with our own talents and what the Lord has given to us. Now let’s apply this to our everyday lives.
You compare yourself with somebody who is in the same work that you are in. “Look at all the publicity he gets,” you say. “See how he is so talented! I could not begin to do some of these things.” You are not thankful for all that God has given you, because there is something more that you want.
One daughter is a little better looking than her sister, while the other daughter is gifted musically. “Oh, if I could only be like her. If I could only dress up so everybody would take a second look at me.” Or, “If I could only have the talents of my sister. How beautifully she plays that piano! The teachers often wonder why she got so much and I got so little.”
Two brothers want to be athletes, but only one is a natural athlete. The game comes, and the stands are filled with people cheering for all of the good things that are happening because of this boy’s athletic ability, while his brother sits on the bench. There is bound to be some jealousy.
One person has a winsome personality, and another is kind of withdrawn. He sits back, looks on and wonders why he can’t have that popularity.
One person has financial success; he makes all kinds of money, lives in a lavish home, and take fabulous trips. You find it is necessary for your spouse to work so that you can make both ends meet. How did that happen? Where does God fit into this picture?
As you enter middle age, the body begins to show some wear and tear. One of your siblings is in very poor health, while another one is very healthy. You wonder why there are these discrepancies.
That is the way it goes in the family. There is something that is never quite right, because there is always a jealous streak that hurts the whole situation. We have all gone through it. We all have had our bouts with jealousy in one way or another.
A few weeks ago, when I was in North Carolina at the Billy Graham retreat center, I saw pictures of some great preachers. Suddenly I thought, “Wow! Wouldn’t it have been great if I could have reached the peak like they did? Wouldn’t it have been wonderful to be known as a great expositor of the Scriptures?” That jealousy caused me to not rejoice as much as I should because of these spiritual giants who had really reached out with the Gospel and won many people to the Lord Jesus by the grace of God. That is jealousy.
When I had that terrible, jealous thought, I had to think about all the opportunities that God has given me. Although I do not have talents that lie with some of these other people, there is a job to be done. And God can take this poor, sinful, limited flesh and use it.
The only medicine for jealousy is to have a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. We have to let Him teach us in his Word how precious and important we are to him. We need to hear Him say to us on the basis of his Word that he has chosen us to be his ambassadors. Although it may not be to thousands and ten thousands, perhaps it is simply to a child in my home, a brother or sister who does not know the Lord, or a neighbor who has turned his back on God. That’s the work He has given me to do. Maybe I do not have the ability that some others have, but I have enough ability to communicate that same saving message of Jesus Christ to those around me.
If we are going to get over this destructive emotion, we need to pray, “God have mercy on me, use me, and give me a thankful heart, not only on Thanksgiving Day weekend, but every day of the year. You have been so good to me, God.”
The sad thing about the older brother in this text is that by sitting outside pouting, he missed the party. What a picture!
Our jealousy can take the joy out of living. We can be so greedy that we are not able to rejoice over what we really have. Grant that we will not miss the party, but instead will know the party is living day by day with Jesus Christ and hearing him tell us our sins are forgiven, if we will but trust Him. He has suffered and died for our sins, and we are his. That’s the party.
If jealousy is one of the emotions you wrestle with, along with anger, fear, and others, there is one solution for it all. That is a living, personal relationship with Jesus, as we live with him in His Word, and bring our cares, our concerns, and our thanksgivings to Him.