Like an anger-blind, half-starved rat prowling in the foul-smelling sewers below street level, so is the person caged within the suffocating radius of selfish jealousy. Trapped by resentment and diseased by rage, he feeds on the filth of his own imagination.
“Jealousy,” says Proverbs 6:34, “enrages a man.”
The Hebrews used only one word for jealousy as the Old Testament was being written: qua-nah, which meant “to be intensely red.” The term was descriptive of one whose face flushed as a sudden flow of blood announced the surge of emotion. To demonstrate the grim irony of language, “zeal” and “ardor” come from the same word as “jealousy.”
Here is the way it works. I love something very much, indeed, too much. I pursue it with zeal. I desire, in fact, to possess it completely. But the thing I love slips out of my hands and passes into another’s. I begin to experience the gnawing pangs of jealousy. Strangely, the feelings of zeal and love begin to change. By the dark, transforming power of sin, my love turns to hate. I was open, happy, filled to the brim with exquisite delight, but no longer! Now I am closed within a narrow compass of inner rage, intensely and insanely angry.
Jealousy and envy are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference. Envy begins with empty hands, mourning for what it doesn’t have. Jealousy is not quite the same. It begins with full hands but is threatened by the loss of its plenty. It is the pain of losing what I have to someone else, in spite of all my efforts to keep it. Hence, the tortured cry of Othello when he fears that he is losing Desdemona:
I had rather be a toad
And live upon the vapor of a dungeon,
Than keep a corner in the thing I love
For other’s uses. (Othello III, iii. 270)
This was Cain’s sin. He was jealous of Abel. He resented God’s acceptance of his brother. No doubt his face was red with emotion and his eyes filled with rage as God smiled on Abel’s sacrifice. Not until Abel’s warm blood poured over Cain’s cruel hands did jealousy subside. Solomon might well have written the epitaph for Abel’s tombstone:
Jealousy is as severe as Sheol;
Its flashes are flashes of fire.
(Song of Solomon 8:6)
Anyone who has experienced deliverance from this damnable parasite knows only too well the extent of its damage. Jealousy will decimate a friendship, dissolve a romance, and destroy a marriage. It will shoot tension through the ranks of professionals. It will nullify unity on a team . . . it will ruin a church . . . it will separate preachers . . . it will foster competition in a choir, bringing bitterness and finger-pointing among talented instrumentalists and capable singers. With squint eyes, jealousy will question motives and deplore another’s success. It will become severe, suspicious, narrow, and negative.
I know what I’m saying. I lived many of my earlier years in the dismal, gaseous subterranean pipelines of jealousy, breathing its fumes and obeying its commands. It was gross agony.
But finally, by the grace of Jesus Christ, I realized that I didn’t have to live in darkness. I crawled out . . . and the releasing sunlight of freedom captured my heart. The air was so fresh and clean. Oh, the difference it has made! It is utter delight.
Ask my wife.
Excerpt taken from Come Before Winter and Share My Hope, copyright © 1985, 1988, 1994 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission. For additional information and resources visit us at www.insight.org.