Jealousy is a very human emotion and, like most human emotions, it can be difficult to deal with. Jealousy is not directly covered a great deal in the Bible, but it’s close relations – covetousness and envy – are.
Jealousy can incorporate some of the same dangers as those other states but with one key difference. It can only happen within a relationship.
Is Jealousy a Bad Thing?
Covetousness and envy are looked down upon in the Bible for two main reasons. The first is that they mean that we have forgotten those gifts that God has given us. The second is that they set the stage for the more serious sins of theft and adultery.
Everything that is true of covetousness and envy is true of jealousy but jealousy has an added danger. You can be covetous or envious only of things that you do not have. You can be jealous only over things that you do have. In this article, we’re talking specifically about jealousy within relationships.
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If you are jealous of your partner and handle the situation poorly, it can hurt the relationship as well as your partner. If you are jealous of your partner and you don’t handle the situation at all, it can hurt you instead. In fact, many Bible passages referring to jealousy in relationships are warnings and advice meant for all parties.
So the question becomes, how do you manage jealousy in relationships?
Sometimes, when the Bible tells us to avoid something, it’s because that thing hurts God, but most often, it is because that thing hurts us. Jealousy falls into the latter camp.
Jealousy, in particular in cases of adultery, has the capacity to hurt everyone involved. As a result, one of the most elaborate prohibitions on adultery in the Bible focuses less on the pain being caused to the one who is cheated on, it focuses more on the pain being caused to everyone else.
“He who commits adultery has no sense; he who does it destroys himself. Wounds and dishonor will he get and his disgrace will not be wiped away. For jealousy makes a man furious. He will not spare when he takes revenge. He will accept no compensation, nor be appeased though you multiply gifts”Proverbs, 6:32-35
This prohibition is targeted at those who do the cheating – but what about the partner who experiences jealousy, whom the Bible assumes is a man? He too is advised to rise above these emotions, because they weaken him spiritually.
“For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving like ordinary men?”1 Corinthians, 3:3
It’s true that in this passage St. Paul was writing about a different kind of jealousy, but I think that the sentiment applies.
Talk about Your Feelings
Jealousy can be difficult to talk about, but that’s largely because of the way that we talk about it. Women who experience jealousy may be painted by their husbands as being paranoid or controlling. Men who experience jealousy may be cast as being immature, or impotent.
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These fears can lead us to want to hide our jealousy rather than confront it with our partners and face the emotions that talking about it can elicit. However, the Bible tells us that that is exactly what we should do.
“Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy? Better is open rebuke than hidden love.”Proverbs, 27:4-5
This isn’t only a warning that the partner who is feeling jealous should talk about it. It is also a warning that the partner that is doing something that might cause jealousy should clear the air sooner than later.
What to Do about Jealousy
Jealousy can put you in a position in which you are likely to do something you might regret later.
If you do experience jealousy be careful that you approach it in a constructive way. This means approaching the situation from a position of understanding and conciliation, rather than one of judgment and anger. The cornerstone of any Christian relationship should be the desire to grow together in faith.