Have you ever had a friend who seemed to have everything come easily to them? Maybe they were really popular, had a rich family, were the most athletic, or even just the best looking? Maybe they were the smartest in school, or the most promoted at church, or the funniest at parties. Maybe they just always seemed better then you.
I know I have. In fact, I’ve had my fair share of experiences on both sides of this. Sometimes I’m the superstar, and sometimes I’m the loser–at least, that’s the way I’ve felt. Throughout my time in high school, I had goals. I wanted to be liked. I wanted to have lots of friends. I wanted to pursue my career. I wanted girls to like me more than the other guys. I wanted a lot of things.
And so, I pursued them. Along the way, I made friends. One was super kind, and also wanted to go into ministry. This was really encouraging. But when I realized she had a richer family then I did, for some reason, something in my heart dropped. Something in my heart said, “Why can’t that be me?”
Then I met another friend, who came in years after I did, but was a little older, and was better with leadership then me. So, he got a paid position, and I didn’t. And I felt it again.
I met another friend, who wanted to become a pastor, just like me…and then he started dating the girl I had a crush on. There goes that feeling once again.
Have you ever felt this way?
This is jealousy. And if we’re not careful, it can destroy relationships. Everyone feels it naturally when someone else succeeds and we don’t. But the way we respond to it is what’s most important, as we’ll see in a minute. So, if you would do me a favor, and turn in your Bible to 1 Samuel 18, verses 6-16–that would be awesome. Then we’ll recap and apply this story in the next section…
So, to give some context here, David (the soon-to-be replacement king) and Saul (the current king) just returned home from fighting the Philistines in battle. To be specific, this is right after the famous “David vs. Goliath” Bible story we all hear about as kids. Goliath throws insults at David and God. David throws a rock at Goliath. Goliath dies. End of story.
But right afterwards, as they’re entering the city gate, they’re greeted with cheers and celebration. Their army was victorious! I can just imagine David and Saul nodding their heads like, “That’s what I’m talking about!” And then the shouts begin…
“Saul has killed his thousands!” They say. That’s understandable. Saul is their king.
“But David has killed his ten-thousands!” Wait…what? Last I checked, David killed one giant. I guess he counted as ten-thousand or something. But, whatever…
Saul hears this. He knows it’s by far an exaggeration. The people are just excited about David. He’s their hero. He’s succeeding in inspiring Israel. But Saul isn’t happy. There’s that jealousy right there. Especially when you read verse 9.
“So from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David.”(1 Samuel 18:9 NLT)
Now, contrast that with Saul’s son’s reaction to all this. If anything, he has so much more to lose then Saul. For Saul, David will become king only after he dies–it’s not actually going to affect him. But for Jonathan, it’s because of David that he will never become king. I can imagine how strong that temptation for jealousy must have been. But check out how he responds when someone questions him about it, in a later chapter.
“Saul boiled with rage at Jonathan. ‘You stupid son of a whore!’ he swore at him. ‘Do you think I don’t know that you want him to be king in your place, shaming yourself and your mother? As long as that son of Jesse is alive, you’ll never be king. Now go and get him so I can kill him!’”
‘But why should he be put to death?’ Jonathan asked his father. ‘What has he done?’ Then Saul hurled his spear at Jonathan, intending to kill him. So at last Jonathan realized that his father was really determined to kill David. Jonathan left the table in fierce anger and refused to eat on that second day of the festival, for he was crushed by his father’s shameful behavior toward David.” (1 Samuel 20:30-34 NLT)
Unlike Saul, Jonathan recognized that David was only serving God, as best he could, and there was no right reason to try and harm him. Because to Jonathan, self-gain wasn’t the most important. Faithfulness was–to God and to his friend. Jonathan was more concerned about doing what was right then advancing his own self-interests. He was more concerned about the big picture then he was himself. That is how he responded to jealousy. And that is how we can too.
So, here’s my challenge to y’all this month: when you’re faced with jealousy, focus on the big picture. It’s not about you, it’s about God. All he’s tasked you to do is be faithful to him, and be there for the people who need you–including the ones you’re tempted to be jealous of.
Is it easy? No way. But it’s definitely worth it!