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Jealousy and Envy III

james316This is the third installment on the subject of Jealousy and Envy.  If you haven’t already done so, please go back and read the last installment of this topic.  Last time, we talked about the two Greek words that are translated as envy or jealousy.  Those are zelos and phthonos.  We talked about the Jewish leaders and how they were envious and jealous of Jesus and this envy partnered with other things and became phthonos.  A fact recognized by Pontius Pilate.  Today, we’re going to do a quick review of what those Greek words mean and then we’re going to look at how all this played out with the Apostles.  Then at long last, we’re going to look at how we overcome these things.  But first a quick review…

James 3:16  For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. 

A Tale of Two Words

We talked about the word being used for envy in this particular scripture was the Greek word zēlos.  Wherever you find zēlos, you are going to find these things:  confusion and every evil work.  Before we can continue, let us take a close look at this word and what it means.   Zēlos can have different meanings depending on the context of its usage.  This isn’t unusual.  We have many words like that in modern English.  Consider the word “Hot” as an example.  Look at the meaning in these three examples of common usage:

  1. “Be careful, that plate is really hot.”
  2. “I’ve never seen the boss this mad before. He’s really hot.  You better wait for him to cool down”.
  3. “She looks really hot in that dress.”

It’s the same word.  It’s spelled the same and yet we have three completely different meanings depending on the context in which it’s used.  The ancient Greeks did the same with their language and the word zēlos is one of those occasions.  Zēlos can be defined as envy, jealous, zeal, emulation, fervent mind and indignation.  the word can take on any of those meanings depending on the context of its use.

There is another word that is frequently used and that word is Phthonos. This word is always translated as envy in the New Testament. But this envy always has a sense of evil attached to it.  The Zēlos style of envy is fairly tame.  It simply wants what you have.  Phthonos on the other hand is not tame at all.  In the world of Phthonos, it isn’t good enough to simply desire what you have. Phthonos wants to strip what it desires from you so they have it and you do not.  They will do whatever it takes to get what they want including murder if they have to.  Now that we have a better understanding of these words, let us continue our study.

In the book of Acts, we see the same patterns of behavior from the Jewish leaders that ultimately led to the killing of Jesus, arise once more against the apostles.

Act 5:12-16  And many miracles and wonders were done among the people by the hands of the apostles; and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch.  And of the rest no one dared to join himself to them, but the people magnified them; and more believing ones were added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women;  So as to carry out the sick into the streets and place them on cots and mattresses, so that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them. And also a multitude came from the cities around Jerusalem, bringing sick ones, and those being tormented by unclean spirits, who were all healed.

Act 5:17-18  And rising up, the high priest, and all those who were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees) were filled with anger, And laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the public custody.

Notice it says they were filled with “anger.”  The word translated as anger is none other than our friend “zelos.”  Other translations have it as indignation or zeal.  Wuest and some others more correctly (in my opinion) translated it as “jealousy.”  Wuest puts it this way:

Then having arisen, the chief priest and all those with him, the sect which is of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. And they laid their hands upon the apostles and put them in the public prison.

Remember the basic definition of envy and jealousy? Envy involves two people.  Jealousy involves three.  It’s pretty easy to see that multitudes we following the apostles and their words were being confirmed with signs following them.  The Jewish leaders were losing their influence with the people, who were flocking to the apostles and this new way.  The Jewish leaders were filled with jealousy.

Now let’s continue reading…

Act 5:19-33  But the angel of the Lord opened the prison doors by night and brought them out, and said, Go! Stand and speak all the words of this Life to the people in the temple. And hearing, they went into the temple about dawn, and taught. But the high priest came, and those with him. And they called the sanhedrin together, and all the elderhood of the sons of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought.  But having come near, the officers did not find them in the prison. And returning, reported, saying, We indeed found the prison shut with all safety, and the keepers standing outside in front of the doors. But having opened it, we found no one inside.  And when the high priest and the temple commander and the chief priests heard these things, they were bewildered about them, what this might be.  But one came, reporting to them, saying, Behold, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people.  Then the commander went with the officers and brought them, not with force, for they feared the people, lest they should be stoned.  And bringing them, they stood in the sanhedrin. And the high priest asked them,  saying, Did we not strictly command you that you not teach in this name? And behold, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine and intend to bring this man’s blood on us.  And Peter and the apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.  The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you killed and hanged on a tree.  This One God has exalted to be a Ruler and Savior to His right hand in order to give repentance and remission of sins to Israel.  And we are His witnesses of these things. And so also is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.  But those hearing were cut to the heart, and they took counsel to kill them.

Read that last verse again.  But first, remember what James said… every EVIL work? Well, here it is.

Act 5:33  When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them. 

They were discussing how they might kill these men.  Can you see how quickly they made the leap all the way to murder to get what they wanted?  Let’s continue reading.

Act 5:34-42  Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space;  And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men.   For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought.  After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed.  And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought:  But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.  And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.  And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.  And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ. 

If you read Acts chapter 13, you will find that something similar happened with Paul and Barnabas.  You can read all of that yourself.  But I want to point out something.

Act 13:44-46  And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.  But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming.  Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. 

You can see the same pattern beginning to develop here also.  They saw the multitudes, were filled with jealousy (Zelos) and started their evil behaviors once again.  The outcome was different in this case because Paul and Barnabas altered their course in pursuit of the Gentiles.  Had they stayed in pursuit of the Jews, I have no doubt their lives would have been endangered.

So, what’s the point of all this?  My point is this, if you have envy and jealousy in your heart and leave these things unchecked, they will grow out of control and you may find yourself doing things you never dreamed you would do.  I don’t think any of the Jewish leaders ever dreamed that once they became a leader, they would then be able to have people tortured and killed.  Yet, this is what they did and they were able to twist the scriptures in such a way as to justify it.  Their hearts were truly about as far from God’s heart as they could be.  Take a moment to look at your own heart.  Is envy or jealousy lurking around in there?

Here’s what the Holy Spirit had to say through the Apostle Paul:

Gal 5:19-26  Now the works of the flesh are clearly revealed, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lustfulness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, fightings, jealousies, angers, rivalries, divisions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkennesses, revelings, and things like these; of which I tell you before, as I also said before, that they who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  But those belonging to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts.  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become glory-seeking, provoking one another, envying one another.

Envyings and jealousies are put in the same category and adultery, sorcery, drunkenness and murders along with many others.  And guess what? “… those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

So, what are we to do?

Rom 13:12-14  The night is far spent, the day is at hand; therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk becomingly, as in the day; not in carousings and drinking; not in co-habitation and lustful acts; not in strife and envy.  But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not take thought beforehand for the lusts of the flesh.

My friend, we have a choice to make.  We can walk in carousings and drinking, co-habitation and lustful acts and in strife and envy. -OR- We can choose to walk becomingly, as in the day.  We can put on the Lord Jesus Christ and not even give a thought about the lusts of the flesh.

Titus 3:3-7  For we ourselves also were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, slaving for various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.  But when the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that being justified by His grace, we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

It is the love of God that is in us and works through us that melts these things away from us is we allow it to.  It is our choice.

Please remember…

1Cor 13:4-7  Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Rom 5:5  And hope does not make us ashamed, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit given to us.

My friend, you have been given a precious gift.  The love of God has been pour out into your heart by the Holy Spirit which is given to us.  Therefore, let us all set aside envyings and jealousies and all of the evil that can come from that.  Let us instead love others as Christ commanded us.

1Peter 4:8 Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.

Peter says to keep “fervent” in your love for each other. I want you to see a couple of things here. First the word fervent describes how our love for one another is supposed to be. So just what is this fervent love? In the Greek, the word translated as fervent is “ektenēs” which means to love without ceasing. Modern dictionaries describe fervent as exhibiting or marked by great intensity of feeling.  So you could say that we are to love one another without ceasing and with great intensity of feeling.  The other thing I want you to see is this is not optional.  It doesn’t say that if you choose to love, you may want to do so fervently. It doesn’t say anything like that at all.  In fact, Peter marks this passage as being the most important.  He says ‘Above all’ which means above everything else, make sure you do this thing I’m about to tell you. What is that thing? We are to keep fervent in our love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.  Why is this kind of love expected?  It’s because that’s exactly how God loves each of us and His love is in our hearts. We just have to let it out and let it flow.

Precious child of God, take a moment to re-read those last three scriptures and realize there is no place for envy or jealousy in our hearts any more… only love one for another.  If you find yourself dealing with these things in your own heart, take a moment to repent.  See it as the sin that it is and ask His forgiveness and his help in getting rid of it.  My friend, I had to do that very thing recently and I am not ashamed to admit that I had to get help from a godly counselor to get rid of it. God had his finger on my heart about this for a while. In fact, this section on envy and jealousy was supposed to come before my teaching on judgments, but I couldn’t write anything about it. I avoided the subject. I wrote about other things instead. I even tried to convince myself that God must not want me to write about this subject at all. I started to grow confused and frustrated. So, I scheduled the appointment because I realized that something wasn’t right in my heart.  A short time into the appointment, the counselor got right on it. She could see it. It had to be pointed out to me, but I finally could see it.  She led me through a prayer of repentance and it was dealt with.  After that appointment, I suddenly had a desire to write about this topic again.  This time no writer’s block at all.  So why am I telling you all of this?  Well, for one thing, I want you to know that much of what I have written about, I have had to walk out myself.  Secondly, I want you to know that help is available and if you can’t get past something in your life, you may need to get help to overcome it. I want you to know there is no shame in that. I have needed lots of help at times.  The Bible clearly states we are to confess our sins, one to another (James 5:16). We aren’t to hide from it. Lastly, it is important that I give my own testimony about God’s goodness to me and his forgiveness for me in this area of my life. Rev 12:11 says the we overcome him (the evil one) by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. My friend, it doesn’t matter what it is, whether it is fear, hatred, envy, jealousy, adultery, lust, murder or anything else, God’s love and forgiveness is always available to you.  You just need to talk to him about it and ask for it and remember to get help if you need it.  Until next time, may God’s richest blessings be yours in Christ today.


Copyright (c) 2021 M. Unruh