August 6, 2017


          In the children’s message today I mentioned an illustration commonly used for jealousy – the green-eyed monster.  But do you know where that originated?    It is from Shakespeare in Othello, Act 3, Scene 3, where the evil Iago plants doubts in Othello's mind about his wife's faithfulness, while advising him, "O, beware, my lord, of jealousy! It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on."  Merriam Webster believes Shakespeare may have been evoking cats here - those often green-eyed creatures who toy with their prey before killing it.  Now I am a person who dearly loves cats, but I do have to admit that there has been many a time I have witnessed Goldie, my outdoor cat, toy with a bird or a baby rabbit, often leaving it half-dead on my doorstep.  Some I have been able to rescue, but others have not been so fortunate and did not survive.  And so it is with the spirit of envy or jealousy.  It catches sight of something with which to entrap you, be it something you wish to possess that someone else owns, or the affection that you desire being given to another, or maybe a job or position that someone else beat you out of.  Once it has its hooks in you, the spirit starts to eat away at you – as Shakespeare said, “the meat it feeds on”.  Before you know it you are scheming how to get what you believe you should have had, even if it means resorting to actions that would be displeasing to God, or possibly even criminal.  You may think you are getting justice or giving the proper retribution to someone you might believe has wronged you, or finally getting what you deserve in life.  But all the while YOU are the meat that the green-eyed monster is feeding upon.  For the spirit of envy and jealousy does far more damage to the one it feeds upon than that person ever does to another.  It eats away at you from the inside, from the soul - as Solomon proclaimed, like a cancer (Proverbs 14:30 NLT). 

        Our first two Scripture readings for today provide excellent examples (Genesis 4:3-8 & 1 John 3:11-13, and 1 Samuel 18:5-11).  Cain became jealous of Abel when God accepted Abel’s sacrifice and not Cain’s.  Some don’t understand why he didn’t approve of Cain’s sacrifice.  Only a blood sacrifice could atone for sins.  In the Old Testament that meant an animal, which was only a temporary measure until Jesus could provide the perfect sacrifice.  But Cain was proud of the crops he grew and decided to offer those instead.  Since it was not what God had asked for, his sacrifice was not accepted.  So Cain became angry at his brother, and his rage and jealousy grew to the point where he plotted and killed Abel.  Hopefully none of us have ever reached that point, but given the chance, the spirit of jealousy can lead anyone to do things they never would have thought they could do.   So let us be careful to emulate Abel, and not Cain.  We must always remember that while it is a good thing to desire God’s acceptance, the only way it is obtained is through faith in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross.  We cannot earn God’s acceptance any other way – not through an offering of good works and not through the means outlined in other religions (some of which truly hate God’s acceptance of Christians and seek to annihilate them).

        And what about Saul?  God was with David, and made him successful.  He served Saul faithfully and led his armies.  But Saul grew steadily jealous of David and his success in everything he put his hand to, and how much the people loved him.  Even though David had done much good for Saul, and no evil, both Saul’s hatred for and his fear of David eventually taking his throne, grew to alarming proportions.  In fact, the spirit of jealousy had so consumed him that he tried to kill David, just as Cain did with Abel. 

        And yet, even though Saul tried to kill David, when David had opportunity to kill Saul, he did not.  In fact in 1 Samuel 24, David confronted Saul and said, May the LORD judge between us. Perhaps the LORD will punish you for what you are trying to do to me, but I will never harm you…  May the LORD therefore judge which of us is right and punish the guilty one. He is my advocate, and he will rescue me from your power!”   To which Saul replied, “You are a better man than I am, for you have repaid me good for evil. Yes, you have been amazingly kind to me today, for when the LORD put me in a place where you could have killed me, you didn’t do it. Who else would let his enemy get away when he had him in his power? May the LORD reward you well for the kindness you have shown me today. And now I realize that you are surely going to be king, and that the kingdom of Israel will flourish under your rule.”  Sometimes we are the receiving end of jealousy, and that also can cause us to become victim to its poison.  But in that case, we must remember to act as David did, and not repay evil with evil.

          So take a good look inside of your heart today.  Has the spirit of jealousy infected you in any way?  Are you content with the blessings God has given you, the people God has placed in your life, the work God has called you to do?  There is a big difference between admiration and jealousy, but sometimes the line becomes blurred in our minds before we realize it.  Striving to better one’s self is not the same as wanting to be better than someone else.  Desiring, and working for, a nice home for your family is not the same as wanting to keep up with the Joneses.  It is what is in our heart that matters to God - the motive behind our actions.  Those whose motives are pure, God will bless, and make a blessing to others.  Those whose are not, will not incur God’s blessing, and will bring sorrow upon themselves and others.  May the Lord purify your hearts, and keep them pure through the power of His Holy Spirit.  Amen.