We all have seeds of jealousy and envy in us. The question is who among us will acknowledge it? A Puritan preacher named Thomas Manton said of the human penchant for envy and jealousy, “We are born with this Adamic sin. We drink it in with our mother’s milk.” It is that deeply a part of us.
Such sinful seeds keep us from rejoicing in the blessings and accomplishments of others’ ministries or works. Their effect is to erect powerful walls between us and our brothers and sisters: “Wrath is cruel and anger a torrent, but who is able to stand before jealousy?” (Proverbs 27:4, NKJV). James adds to this, “If you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth” (James 3:14). In plain terms, this sin of jealousy and envy is a bitter poison. If we hold onto it, it will not only cost us spiritual authority but open us to demonic activity.
King Saul provides the clearest example of this in all of scripture. In 1 Samuel, we find David returning from a battle in which he slaughtered the Philistines. As he and King Saul rode into Jerusalem, the women of Israel came to celebrate David’s victories, dancing and singing, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7).
Saul was wounded by this joyous celebration, thinking to himself, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed only thousands. Now what more can he have but the kingdom?” (1 Samuel 18:8). Immediately, Saul was consumed by a spirit of jealousy and envy. In the very next verse, we read of the deadly effect it had on him. “Saul eyed [envied] David from that day forward” (1 Samuel 18:9). Tragically, after this, “Saul became David’s enemy continually” (1 Samuel 18:29).
What happened the next day ought to fill us all with holy fear: “Now Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him, but had departed from Saul” (1 Samuel 18:12). Saul had been absolutely deluded by his jealousy. He could not humble himself before the Lord in repentance. Had he recognized his own envy and plucked it from his heart, God would have heaped honors on his anointed servant. Christ explained this truth of God’s kingdom to his followers, saying, “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11).