Jealousy and fear are more connected than many people realize. Jealousy encompasses unhappiness, resentment, bitterness, and sometimes even anger, at someone because they possess something you don´t or something you want. Fear, in this case, is being afraid that, if you don´t get that thing for yourself, you are worth less than those who do. The feeling that someone is worth more than you are can bring you face-to-face with these emotions and it can be a dangerous situation because, when jealousy and fear combine, things can escalate quickly. This problem is not unique to our time. We will consider from the Bible two cases of how jealousy and fear played out; one from the Old Testament and the other from the New Testament also and how we as believers today can fight it.
The case of Joseph and his brothers in the Old Testament
“Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors.” (Genesis 37:3)
Jacob had 12 sons but he loved Joseph more than all his children because he was the son of his old age. He made Joseph a coat of many colors, which made his brothers jealous of him and his dream. Joseph was favored and was getting more good things from his father than his brothers. This was a recipe for disaster. It was only natural for his brothers to have fears and see him as a threat because he may end up taking everything from them because of his dreams. Had God not intervened, their jealousy would have resulted in the death of Joseph. Jealousy and fear made them do the unthinkable; selling him for 20 pieces of silver and covering up their actions by telling their father that wild animals killed him.
Jealousy, when allowed to linger can bring out the dark side in a person and lead one to do evil. Joseph´s brothers didn’t just become afraid and jealous in a day. But they nurtured their jealousy and fears and gave it room to grow in their hearts which in the end turned to hatred and the consequences brought grief to their father and regret for them. (Genesis 42:21-22)
The case of Jesus and the Pharisees in the New Testament
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Jesus was loved by many, especially among the poor who followed him during his ministry. He preached the good news and performed many miracles but some were not happy with his success; such were the Pharisees who were mostly the leaders of the Jewish synagogues. They were known for their acceptance and strict observance of the law of Moses and the oral tradition including all 600+ laws in the Torah.
The Pharisees were in charge, – so they thought – it was their words and doctrines that mattered. It was they who had the final say on religious issues and had the people’s allegiance, not this ordinary carpenter´s son. They became jealous of Jesus because of his popularity, the huge crowd that followed him, and also because his teachings exposed their pretensions because it was only external, at surface level and not from the heart.
They were also afraid because Jesus was gaining the crowds and, if it should continue, an insurrection against the government would begin and they could lose power over the people. So, they schemed and had him killed. Jealousy and fear can easily be stirred when the threat of losing something valuable is perceived. For the Pharisees, this was the case and they went to extremes in order to maintain their control of the people, instead of accepting and rejoicing in God’s salvation plan being fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
How can we fight Jealousy and Fear?
1. The Fear of the Lord
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” (Proverbs 9:10; 10:27)
A man who fears the Lord is a wise man. Wisdom is the correct application of what we know. A man who fears God always strives for holiness and obedience to God´s commands. He desires to please the Lord in all he does. He knows the Lord has a plan for everyone and will celebrate and praise God when his neighbor makes progress instead of becoming jealous. Joseph´s brothers and the Pharisees didn’t reverence God in their conduct and became a tool for Satan. Jealousy and fear melt away when the fear of the Lord is present. Is there jealousy and fear in your heart right now on account of your neighbor? Do you fear the Lord? If you are willing to listen to God´s instructions in his word and obey them, you will conquer these two old foes in the power of the Holy Spirit.
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31)
A genuine love for the Lord and his word will naturally translate into a genuine love for our neighbor. The opposite of love is selfishness and this was clearly exhibited by Joseph´s brothers and the Pharisees who felt threatened because of the progress of others. Jealousy and fear lose their hold and power when love is present.
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, they will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, and I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now, we see in a mirror dimly but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-13)