Morning. David Sorn. Lead pastor here at Renovation Church.
This morning I want to talk about a term I made up that I probably didn’t make up: “Spiritual Jealousy”
I find we sometimes give ourselves too much creative credit.
I thought “Spiritual Jealousy” was a good creative term, but all it takes is a quick google search to find out I’m incredible non-creative
As Solomon said, “There’s nothing new under the sun”
But indeed, not only can we be jealous of other people, but sometimes we are jealous of other people’s spirituality or where they are in their walk w/ God
And the Bible gives us plenty of examples
And shockingly, we are going to cover one of those today J
We are continuing in the book of Acts this morning. Acts is the 5th book of the New Testament.
It’s the story of how the early church got started after Jesus ascended into heaven.
Over the last few weeks we’ve seen the Apostle Paul on the move spreading the good news of Jesus all across modern-day Turkey & Greece
But not without opposition. And that’ll continue today
(Acts 17:1-4) – NIV
1 When Paul and his companions had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. 2 As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,” he said. 4 Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women.
Ok, so let’s check the map here. Where in the world are these places?!?
(PUT UP PAUL’S 2ND MISSIONARY JOURNEY MAP)
They left Philippi and passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia and on to Thessalonica.
This was on a famous roman road called the Egnatian Way…the road actually went all the way back to Rome
By the way, you can still see remnants of the road today…kind of cool.
And they arrive in Thessalonica.
In just a little bit, we’re gonna see them move on to Berea as well
Thessalonica was the largest and most prosperous city in Macedonia, & it was the capital as well.
I said last week that one of the cool things about Acts is it gives context to the letters we read in the New Testament.
Two of the letters in the NT are 1 & 2 Thessalonians, which are written to the people we’re gonna meet today. Kind of cool.
Ok, so it looked like things were looking up in Thessalonica, but they’re about to go South
(Acts 17:5-12) – NIV
5 But other Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd 6 But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other believers before the city officials, shouting: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, 7and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.” 8 When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil. 9 Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go. 10 As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 12 As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.
And just when it looks like things are going well in Berea…all of a sudden, here come the jealous Jews from back in Thessalonica
They travel 45 miles for this………
(Acts 17:13-15) – NIV
13 But when the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, some of them went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up. 14 The believers immediately sent Paul to the coast, but Silas and Timothy stayed at Berea. 15 Those who escorted Paul brought him to Athens and then left with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible.
This is crazy to me. But then again, jealousy will make people do crazy things.
Think about all the “made for TV movies” that have been made solely on the concept of jealousy.
How do you think the Lifetime TV Network makes its money?
Jealousy will make you crazy.
And these Jewish leaders are spiritually jealous.
But think about this…these are supposed to be the religious leaders. They are supposed to be dedicated to guiding the people into loving and serving God
But when some new guys come to town & tell people the messiah has come, instead of rejoicing with them…they’re furious that the people aren’t following THEM anymore.
It’s jealousy. It’s spiritual jealousy.
And it induces them to crazymaking
Let me read my favorite verse of this psg, verse 5 again to you
(Acts 17:5) – NIV
5 But other Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd
IN the words of Brian Fellows, that’s CRAZY!
And all because they were spiritually jealous
By the way, this is not a new concept in Acts, and it’s not a new concept in the Bible. Even though it may sound like one.
In Acts chapter 5, the early Christian leaders in Jerusalem were healing tons of people and thousands were coming to Christ.
And then verse 17 says this:
(Acts 5:17) – NIV
17 Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy.
Or, in Acts 13, in Pisidian Antioch, God starts doing great things through Paul, and this happens
(Acts 13:44-45) – NIV
44 On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45 When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy. They began to contradict what Paul was saying and heaped abuse on him.
And this concept is all over Scripture.
We see it in the parable of the vineyard workers when the people grumble that they all get the same payment
We see it in the jealousy of Joseph’s brothers
We see in it Korah’s rebellion when he’s jealous of Moses.
Crazy story in Numbers 16…and yes there are actual stories in the book of Numbers.
And the place we see it most is the crucifixion of Christ. Why was he killed?? Because they were spiritually jealous.
The Bible makes it clear that people will indeed be jealous when they see God moving in your life.
There’s just something about God moving in someone’s life.
It most likely comes from the fact that every single human being is built to connect w/ God.
You’re built for it. Just like you’re built to receive love.
And when we see other people getting it, we don’t know what to do.
Before I knew Jesus, a lot of Christians drove me nuts. Just nuts.
And I could’ve never articulated it at the time, but I was jealous. In fact, even envious.
They had something I wanted.
And maybe you’ve even been on the receiving end of that jealousy.
Maybe it’s someone at work…or someone else that’s just bothered by God’s blessing in your life or by God moving in your life.
(walk to one side) And they’re just not treating you well. And maybe this is why.
They crave what you have…but they don’t know it
But wait…hold on…Time-Out!
Now, this all may be true…but this is a great opportunity for me to point out how we often oddly read the Bible.
So often we read ourselves as the protagonist (that’s the good person in the story in case you missed that in 8th grade English)
We insert ourselves as Paul…and we think… “Yeah, people are sometimes jealous of me”
And we see the negative side…but that’s for someone else.
Or as one friend humbly told me, I keep reading the Bible and thinking, “Oh, that verse would be good for this person or that person…but I never think…Oh, I need to hear that.”
Because here’s the crazy thing, sometimes the learning point from Scripture is that we’re the messed up people in the story.
So let’s look at this story in a different light.
Maybe we’re like those crazy jealous people in the story.
HOW ARE WE SPIRITUALLY JEALOUS?
But really? Can we really be spiritually jealous of other people? You bet.
I forced myself to do a hard inventory on this topic this week.
“David, who are you spiritually jealous of? Who have you been spiritually jealous of?”
Did I come up with people? You bet.
Often it’s just the people who experience God differently than we do.
I have trouble sometimes with people who are just complete “take-it-in-faith” people.
Oh, no worries. God will provide.
I mean…they just trust. They trust God like they trust gravity.
But for me. I’m a concrete guy. I’m a I like maps, stats, and facts guy. So “faith” always comes a little harder. It’s there. But it’s harder.
And if I’m brutally honest…I think I’m sometimes jealous of those “faith” people.
And this kind of spiritual jealousy can happen no matter where you are in your faith
Many of you are new believers… I tell you what, it’s easy to sort of look at some of these ppl who’ve know JC longer than you and struggle w/ jealousy of their knowledge or how they know God
Many of you have been believers for a while…and guess what, sometimes, you can be jealous of new believers and their passion for God
I think people struggle w/ this all over the spectrum
Another way we let spiritual jealousy creep in is by letting ourselves foolishly look at God’s spiritual gifts (the talents and gifts He gives each of his believers) and RANKING them.
Sometimes we treat spiritual gifts like opening a pack of baseball cards
I can remember going to Ben Franklin as a kid (sidenote…poor Benjamin Franklin…what a tarnished legacy”
I mean, the man was brilliant. Weird spiritual beliefs. But brilliant. And now what, 250 years later…he got a craft store named after him.
That would be like, 250 years from now, someone says, “Maude, where you headed” (I’m assuming Maude’s going to be a popular name again) “Oh I’m just headed over to Barack Obama to pick up some wool for my latest knitting project) Or “I’m just heading over to George Bush to pick up some buttons!”
Poor Benjamin Franklin
But anyway, I used to go to Ben Franklin to buy baseball and basketball cards. And often, I’d buy them at the same time as my friends, and we’d open them together.
“What’d you get? What’d you get?“
And sometimes we treat spiritual gifts that way. Whoa! You got evangelism! You got prophecy! Oh man…I only got hospitality… Lame…
But no gift that God gave you is “lame.”
For every gift God gives out, EVERY gift has a perfect purpose and is equally important.
But when you keep your eyes on other people, you’re going to miss that truth.
Often, I Think we’re jealous of not even other people’s spirituality…what we’re really jealous of are the carnal things we THINK their spiritual gift gives them: Fame, power, you name it.
It’s sad really. It looks like we’re jealous of a spiritual thing, but really we’re only jealous of human distractions like popularity.
That’s what happened in Acts 17. They were simply jealous that the crowds were following Paul & not them. It was just a human thing
If you don’t think Spiritual Jealousy is real, I only need to point you to this new thing called the World Wide Web
There isn’t a well-known pastor in America that doesn’t have people who write negative blogs about them. Some of them, daily
There are people out there, “Christians,” who have made it their life’s mission to take down other pastors.
And many of these pastors are people that you would say, “What negative thing could you possibly even say about them?!?”
Well, if you’re listening to the wrong voice, the devil could certainly whisper some ideas into your ear.
And it happens.
My wife recently read a book by Brother Yun who is a Chinese believer who underwent great persecution.
And she shared a quote with me where he basically said, “In Asia, persecution comes from outside the church, but in America, persecution comes from inside the church”
So much of it can be traced back to today’s passage. People are jealous.
Just like back then, people see large crowds following other groups of people, and they become jealous.
But that’s about us, not about God.
Are they following God? Well, then what’s the problem? J
And you can struggle with this even if you’re not a crazy blogger.
I can’t tell you how often I have people badmouth other churches in our area to me.
And by the way, they’re almost always large churches.
“Oh, David, can you believe what they’re doing over there?”
“You mean bringing lots of people to Christ!”
“No, no, no….not that! I don’t care about that. I’m talking about the fog machines and the cameramen and the video screens and the….”
We frame it like we’re coming from a place of high spiritual wisdom & righteousness & Godliness, but often the only place we’re coming from is spiritual jealousy.
And if we’re not careful, we’re going to start looking more like the jealous jewish leaders than the Apostle Paul
And we’ll be in danger of wasting our time in jealousy rather than changing the world
HOW IS IT AFFECTING US
And spiritual jealousy is a tricky sin. It might be sneaking up on you this very instant.
And the problem is, when you’re caught in spiritual jealousy, we miss God’s handiwork.
We’re so fixated on the “comparison game” that we couldn’t even recognize a blessing when we saw one.
There was a story told once of two shopkeepers were bitter rivals. Their stores were directly across the street from each other, and they would spend each day keeping track of each other’s business. If one got a customer, he would smile in triumph at his rival.
One night an angel appeared to one of the shopkeepers in a dream and said, “I will give you anything you ask, but whatever you receive, your competitor will receive twice as much. Would you be rich? You can be very rich, but he will be twice as wealthy. Do you want a healthy life? You can, but his life will be twice as healthy. What is your desire?”
The man frowned, thought for a moment, and then said, “Here is my request: Strike me blind in one eye!”
One sign of jealousy is when it’s easier to show sympathy and “weep with those who weep” than it is to exhibit joy and “rejoice with those who rejoice.”
Think about that. Let me ask you a question: When God does something great in someone’s life, how do YOU react?
They get a job, they have a child, they experience something miraculous, they hear God speak, they take a spiritual risk, they get blessed.
How do YOU react?
Here’s an even tougher test of that same concept.
What if it’s something YOU wanted personally?
You’re out of work, THEY Get a job.
How do you react?
In Luke 15, there’s a story of a prodigal son who runs away and squanders his inheritance in a life of sin.
But eventually he comes to his senses and comes back to his father.
His father (who represents God) is so excited that his lost son comes home that he throws him this huge party
But the older brother who was always there and never left, throws a “man-child” hissy fit because he was always good and no one threw him a party.
And in a similar way, (and it’s hard to admit this), but we sometimes struggle when God is good to other people.
Why not me, God!?! Why not me!
HOW DO WE GET OVER IT?
So what do you do about that? How do you get over spiritual jealousy?
First things first. Acknowledge it. Do an inventory. Who is it in your life?
Who’s in your head so much that they should be paying rent?
Who are you maybe spiritually jealous of?
And realize this: Spiritual Jealousy will always be a limiter to your own spiritual growth.
For instance, imagine I called two of you up here, and gave you each a 100 piece puzzle, and I said, the first person to complete it wins $1,000.
Now, pretend the first person just went to town on it…worked really hard, really efficiently, really fast.
So fast that the other contestant was really distracted by their progress.
So distracted that they spent almost all of their time looking over at the other contestant and worrying about their puzzle.
But guess what? For every second you’re looking at your neighbor’s puzzle, you’re not building your own.
And it’s the same principle with your faith.
It’s hard to drive straight when you’re always staring at the nicer car in the lane next to you.
One of my favorite quotes from the Chronicles of Narnia is something Aslan (who represents God) says multiple times to the characters when they ask him questions about other people…he says, “I tell no one any story but their own”
Sometimes in our faith life…we just keep looking at everyone else’s walk with God that we’re never actually taking the time to build our own.
And we’re not even thinking about it that way because were CONSUMED with talking about what someone else is doing…
”Oh, and I can’t believe she did…she calls herself a Christian”
And the whole time we don’t even notice our own sin at all. Why???
Because we keep looking over at our neighbor to the point that we’re blinded in our own sin.
Want to get over spiritual jealousy? Pray for the person you’re jealous of
If you are truly in this thing for God and not yourself, then everything He does through other people is awesome. Right?? Right?!?
Why wouldn’t you be rejoicing over it? We should be rejoicing over what He’s doing in your friend’s life. Or in another church’s life.
So they got a new job? So their family was blessed. So they whatever….
What does that have to do with you?
It’s not your story.
Rejoice with them! God is moving.
This whole thing is really an odd combination of spiritual jealousy, envy, and a misunderstanding of God.
In a sense, a lot of our struggle could actually be classified as envy, not jealousy.
We are envying what other people have. “Why isn’t that me? I want that! God, I want to be there!”
And the only way we seem to know how to deal & cope with it is to drag people down.
Just like the Jews in Thessalonica drug Paul down.
We smudge them. We tarnish their name. Oh, they’re fakers, they’re this, that, etc.
People do that w/ churches too like I said earlier.
But in a sense, it’s not just envy. It IS jealousy too.
See jealousy is the fear that something we possess will be taken away by another person.
And what we possess, what we have, in this case is God’s love. It’s Him moving in our lives. And when we see it in another person, and it bugs us.
Isn’t that crazy?? But it’s true!!! Sometimes it bugs us!
“NO! That should be me! I want that! Not fair!” All these childish things come up…
But with it comes our childish and blind reason.
Because let me tell you something we’ve been almost completely blind to
With other humans, jealousy is sometimes warranted. If you see another person who aiming for your job and might get it, or your possessions, or your spouse, or you name it…
We become jealous.
They’re potentially gonna steal something that is limited. Something this is finite.
People don’t have a lot of wives to go around, or husbands to go around, so they get jealous.
But here’s the difference….God’s love is not finite…it CAN NOT be quantified. It’s not limited! It can not run out!
So our spiritual jealousy of Him working in someone else’s life is completely unjustified.
So what if He’s doing amazing things in their life? That’s THEIR story.
And it doesn’t matter. It’s not like He now used up his supply of blessings….
It’s not like He’s gonna say, “Ooooo….sorry I used up all my good stuff on your neighbor. Could I get you next year? Would you take a raincheck?”
God can’t use up his love. It doesn’t run out!
So if your friend is completely in love with God and talking about what God’s doing…
Don’t get jealous. That’s pointless.
Start loving God!
He’s got an unlimited supply of love to love YOU back with!
So keep seeking Him. And let Him write a beautiful story of grace…in your life.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.