Is Jealousy a Sin? (What Does the Bible Say

By Christabel Lambo •  Updated: 10/15/23 •  13 min read

Jealousy has long been a topic of contemplation and debate when it comes to ethical and moral considerations. To understand whether jealousy is a sin, we turn to the wisdom of the Bible. Let us explore the Old and New Testaments to gain insights into the nature of jealousy as a transgression and how we can overcome it with the help of a higher power.

In Numbers 5:14, we find a story that sheds light on the consequences of jealousy. It tells of a husband who becomes jealous and suspicious of his wife, accusing her of being unfaithful. The priest is called upon to perform a ritual to determine her innocence or guilt. This story shows us that jealousy can lead to harmful accusations and distrust, disrupting the harmony of relationships.

The Bible also warns against the destructive power of jealousy. In Proverbs 14:30, it states, ‘A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.’ This verse reminds us that jealousy can eat away at our inner peace and well-being, causing harm not only to ourselves but also to those around us.

However, it is essential to distinguish between divine jealousy and human jealousy. In Exodus 34:14, we learn that God is a jealous God. This divine jealousy is not rooted in insecurity or possessiveness but rather in a desire for our loyalty and devotion. God’s jealousy is based on His love for us and His desire for a deep and intimate relationship with His creation.

On the other hand, human jealousy often stems from feelings of insecurity, comparison, and coveting what others have. In James 3:14-16, the Bible warns against this kind of jealousy, stating, ‘But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.’

So, while divine jealousy is justified and rooted in love, human jealousy is seen as a sinful and destructive emotion. It is crucial for us to recognize our own tendencies towards jealousy and seek guidance from a higher power to overcome it.

In conclusion, the Bible provides insights into the nature of jealousy as a transgression. It warns us of the harmful consequences of human jealousy and encourages us to seek a deeper understanding of divine jealousy. By seeking guidance from the teachings of the Bible and relying on a higher power, we can overcome jealousy and cultivate a heart at peace.

Key Takeaways

The Definition of Jealousy in the Bible

Jealousy, as defined in the Bible, is a feeling of discontent or resentment that arises when one perceives another person to have an advantage, success, or possessions. It is an emotion that can have significant consequences in relationships, as evidenced by various stories and teachings in the Bible.

One such story is that of Cain and Abel. In Genesis 4, Cain becomes jealous of his brother Abel because God accepts Abel’s offering but not his own. Instead of addressing his feelings of jealousy in a healthy manner, Cain allows his jealousy to fester and lead him down a destructive path. He becomes filled with anger and ultimately kills his brother out of jealousy. This tragic story serves as a warning of the destructive power of jealousy and the importance of addressing it before it escalates into something harmful.

In the book of Proverbs, jealousy is described as rottenness to the bones (Proverbs 14:30). This verse emphasizes the negative impact that jealousy can have on our well-being. It can consume us from the inside out, leading to feelings of bitterness, mistrust, and even aggression.

Furthermore, the apostle Paul addresses the issue of jealousy in his letter to the Corinthians. He writes, ‘For you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?’ (1 Corinthians 3:3). Paul highlights that jealousy is a characteristic of our sinful nature and should be avoided in order to live a life that is pleasing to God.

Understanding the biblical definition of jealousy allows us to recognize its destructive nature and strive towards healthier emotions and actions. Rather than allowing jealousy to drive us towards negative behaviors, we can cultivate gratitude and contentment in our relationships. The Bible encourages us to focus on the blessings and successes of others, rather than becoming envious or resentful.

Jealousy as a Sin in the Old Testament

In the Old Testament, the consequences of coveting what belongs to others are clearly addressed. The book of Exodus states, ‘You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s’ (Exodus 20:17). This commandment emphasizes the importance of contentment and warns against the dangers of jealousy.

One of the notable stories illustrating the destructive power of jealousy is the account of Cain and Abel. After God accepted Abel’s offering but rejected Cain’s, Cain became jealous and angry. In Genesis 4:6-7, God warns Cain, ‘Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.’ However, instead of heeding God’s warning, Cain’s jealousy grew, leading him to commit the first murder by killing his brother Abel.

Another example of jealousy causing harm is found in the story of King Saul’s jealousy towards David. Saul, the first king of Israel, was initially pleased with David’s skills and appointed him as his armor-bearer. However, as David’s popularity and success grew, Saul’s jealousy consumed him. In 1 Samuel 18:9, it is written, ‘And Saul eyed David from that day on.’ Saul’s jealousy eventually led him to seek David’s destruction, even though David had done nothing wrong. This jealousy caused Saul to lose favor with God and ultimately resulted in his downfall.

These stories serve as cautionary tales, showing the destructive consequences of jealousy and the importance of righteousness in overcoming it. Jealousy can lead to actions that are contrary to God’s teachings, such as theft, deceit, and violence. As Proverbs 14:30 states, ‘A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.’ Jealousy rots the soul and hinders one’s ability to live a righteous life.

In the New Testament, jealousy is further addressed and understood in the context of Christian teachings. The apostle Paul warns against jealousy in his letter to the Galatians, stating, ‘Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another’ (Galatians 5:26). Rather than being jealous of others, Christians are encouraged to focus on love, contentment, and unity.

Jesus himself taught about the dangers of jealousy in the parable of the laborers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16). In this story, the landowner hires workers at different times of the day, yet pays them all the same wage. When those who worked longer hours became jealous, the landowner responded, ‘Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ (Matthew 20:15). This parable teaches that God’s grace and blessings are not to be measured or envied but received with gratitude.

Jealousy as a Sin in the New Testament

The New Testament speaks extensively about the dangers of jealousy and coveting what belongs to others. It emphasizes the importance of contentment and warns against the detrimental effects of envy. Let us delve deeper into biblical teachings to gain a better understanding of God’s jealousy and human jealousy.

In relationships, jealousy can have devastating consequences. It breeds distrust, insecurity, and resentment, hindering the growth and well-being of individuals and couples. We can find a relevant story in the book of Genesis, where the jealousy of Joseph’s brothers led them to sell him into slavery (Genesis 37:11). Their envy blinded them to the point where they were willing to harm their own flesh and blood. This story serves as a cautionary tale, reminding us of the destructive power of jealousy.

Similarly, in the workplace, jealousy can create an unhealthy environment. It can lead to competition, sabotage, and an overall negative atmosphere that hampers productivity and collaboration. We can draw inspiration from the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16). In this parable, the workers who were hired first became envious of those who were hired later but received the same wage. The landowner’s response teaches us about fairness and contentment. He says, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you’ (Matthew 20:13-14). This story reminds us to focus on our own responsibilities and blessings rather than comparing ourselves to others.

The New Testament encourages believers to cultivate contentment and gratitude for what they have. The Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 4:11-12, ‘I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.’ This verse reminds us that true fulfillment comes from within and not from coveting what others possess.

To overcome jealousy, it is essential to celebrate the successes of others. The Apostle Paul teaches in Romans 12:15, ‘Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.’ By genuinely rejoicing in the accomplishments of others, we can cultivate a spirit of cooperation and eliminate jealousy from our hearts.

Understanding God’s Jealousy and Human Jealousy

Understanding God’s Jealousy and Human Jealousy

God’s jealousy and human jealousy can be better understood by examining biblical teachings and the consequences of jealousy in relationships and the workplace. The Bible provides us with insights into God’s jealousy, depicting it as a righteous and justified response to idolatry and unfaithfulness.

For example, in Exodus 34:14, God declares, ‘Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.’ This reveals that God’s jealousy stems from His desire for exclusive worship and devotion, as He rightfully deserves.

To further comprehend the depth of God’s jealousy, we can look at the story of the Israelites in the Old Testament. Despite God’s faithfulness and provision, the Israelites often turned to other gods and idols, breaking their covenant with Him. This provoked God’s jealousy and led to severe consequences, such as the destruction of the golden calf (Exodus 32:19-20) and the exile of the Israelites (2 Kings 17:7-18). These instances highlight the seriousness of God’s jealousy when His people forsake Him for false gods.

In contrast, human jealousy often arises from a sense of insecurity and fear of losing something valuable. This can be seen in the story of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:1-8). When God accepted Abel’s offering but rejected Cain’s, Cain became jealous of his brother’s favor with God. Instead of addressing his feelings in a healthy way, Cain allowed jealousy to consume him, leading to the tragic murder of his own brother. This demonstrates how human jealousy can have devastating consequences, damaging relationships and even leading to violence.

Understanding the differences between God’s jealousy and human jealousy is crucial for navigating our own emotions and responses. While God’s jealousy is rooted in His desire for exclusive worship and devotion, human jealousy often stems from insecurity and fear of loss. God’s jealousy is righteous and justified, serving as a reminder of His rightful place in our lives. On the other hand, human jealousy can lead to broken relationships, resentment, and harmful actions.

Overcoming Jealousy With God’s Help

To address and overcome jealousy, individuals can seek guidance and rely on divine assistance. As stated in Proverbs 14:30, ‘A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.’ Jealousy is a destructive emotion that can eat away at our well-being, but with God’s help, we can find peace and clarity.

One biblical story that illustrates the consequences of jealousy is the story of Cain and Abel. In Genesis 4:3-8, Cain becomes jealous of his brother Abel because God accepted Abel’s offering but not his own. Instead of seeking God’s guidance and dealing with his own insecurities, Cain allows his jealousy to consume him. This leads to tragedy as Cain kills his brother out of envy. This story serves as a powerful reminder of the destructive nature of jealousy and the importance of addressing it with God’s help.

Seeking God’s guidance through prayer, meditation, and studying religious texts can provide individuals with the wisdom and strength needed to overcome jealousy. Philippians 4:6-7 encourages us to ‘not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’ By turning to God in times of jealousy, we can experience a sense of peace and clarity that helps us confront our insecurities and fears.

In addition to seeking God’s guidance, cultivating qualities such as gratitude, contentment, and compassion can help us shift our focus away from comparison and towards personal growth and fulfillment. 1 Timothy 6:6 reminds us that ‘godliness with contentment is great gain.’ When we focus on what we have been blessed with rather than what others possess, we can find contentment and overcome jealousy.

Overcoming jealousy is an ongoing process that requires patience, self-compassion, and a commitment to personal growth with the help of divine assistance. Romans 12:2 encourages us to ‘not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.’ By renewing our minds and seeking God’s will, we can overcome jealousy and live a life filled with peace and fulfillment.

Christabel Lambo

Here is the profile rewritten in the first person: My name is Christabel, and I am a passionate teacher of the faith and mother of three children. For over a decade, I have been teaching theology and counseling at a local bible school. In addition, I write and lead women's Bible studies at my church, offering practical and biblical advice on marriage, parenting, family life, and spirituality. As a mother of three busy kids myself, I understand the challenges of juggling family, work, and faith. My aim is to help other moms and wives grow deeper in their walk with God by applying theological insights to real-world situations. I draw upon my education, life experiences, and maternal wisdom to connect with women and offer encouragement through my writing. My greatest joy is being able to equip and inspire Christian women to thrive spiritually amidst the everyday busyness of life. I love digging into Scripture and finding nuggets of truth that provide guidance for the issues and questions my readers face. My prayer is that the biblical counsel I provide gives women strength and hope to embrace their calling as wives, mothers, and daughters of Christ.