A newspaper I used to work for recently learned that it would be receiving nearly 30 state-level awards for its division in annual newspaper contests. When I worked there, we were usually proud of ourselves if we made it to double-digits total.
I admit, a twinge of jealousy sprung up in me and for a moment I wanted to be part of that staff, relishing in the recognition by your state-wide peers of a job well done.
And it got me wondering, is jealousy a sin? Can it be a good thing? And is there a difference between jealousy and envy?
I think we have a tendency to use the two words interchangeably, and I’m wondering if this isn’t a mistake.
Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, http://www.m-w.com, defines the two words this way:
envy – n. – painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage
jealous – adj. – intolerant of rivalry or unfaithfulness; disposed to suspect rivalry or unfaithfulness; hostile toward a rival or one believed to enjoy an advantage; vigilant in guarding a possession
The Bible describes God as a jealous god (Exodus 20:5 and 34:14, to name two places), and since God can’t sin, then jealousy, as first defined, must be a good thing. After all, if my husband were to show favor to another woman — the sort of favor that is supposed to be reserved for me as his wife, then I would have a right to be jealous.
Envy, on the other hand, seems to appear most often in “do not” commands or in a list of other sins. For example, Jesus says in Mark 7:21-23: “For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean’.” (Emphasis added.)
In the oft-quoted “love” passage of 1 Corinthians 13, we’re told that envy is something love does not do. If I love another person, I won’t secretly, or openly, pine for what they have, like well-behaved children, a comfortable home or a new car.
I don’t think I resent my former newspaper for winning all these awards. In fact, I’m thrilled for them. I’m just sad that I’m not a part of it. So does that make me envious? Or can I still say I’m jealous because I still feel some ownership and investment in a place I spent seven years of my working life?
How about you? Is there anything you’re jealous for or envious of? Let’s pray for wisdom in discerning the difference between these two closely related-yet-not-interchangeable words to describe this emotion.
And if you have any insight on this subject, I’d love to hear it, because I sort of feel like I may be more confused now than I was when I started!