Q: #16. Why does God say jealousy is a sin, but then says He is jealous?
A: As we discuss later in a question on anger, mentioning that there is a right and wrong (sinful) type of anger, the same thing also applies to jealousy. Jealousy is not always sinful. It CAN have positive connotations, such as when it is applied to a desire to bring God glory, do His will, further His kingdom, or a desire to protect and love others, etc… Most often, in this positive context, it becomes synonymous with being zealous. Let me give a few examples in the Bible where being jealous/zealous is good.
(1 Kin 19:10) And he (Elijah) said, I have been very jealous (zealous) for the Lord of hosts…
Paul was jealous for the Christians at Corinth saying:
(2 Cor 11:2) For I am jealous over you with a GODLY JEALOUSY: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. (caps emphasis mine)
Jesus had a zeal, or a righteous desire, to protect His Father’s house and name when He drove the moneychangers out of the Temple (Mt 21:12-13)(Mk 11:15-17)(Lk 19:45-46)(Jn 2:12-17)(Ps 69:9).
Joshua was jealous to protect Moses position as God’s chosen leader (Num 11:28-29). Paul mentioned that is was good to be zealous (Gal 4:18).
Look at what the Lord said to Moses about Phinehas, who was zealous to protect God’s honor.
(Num 25:11-13) Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, WHILE HE WAS ZEALOUS FOR MY SAKE AMONG THEM, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy (zeal). (12) Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace: (13) and he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; BECAUSE HE WAS ZEALOUS FOR HIS GOD, and made an atonement for the children of Israel. (caps emphasis mine)
These are some examples of a proper jealousy. God’s jealousy stems from some of these same desires. The Lord deserves our love, honor, and worship, and He should always have first place in our lives. If we fail to give God what He rightly deserves, it will cause us harm. God has a fervent zealousness for our respect, love, and faithfulness, and he rewards those who diligently seek Him (Heb 11:6). Doing these things will lead to a blessed and bountiful life, because only through Him is this possible. God is also jealous/zealous for such things as: His Holy Name (Ezek 39:25), His land (Joel 2:18), His love for His chosen people (Zech 1:14)(Zech 8:2)(Ezek 36:5-6), worship and service to Him alone (Ex 20:5)(Deut 4:24)(Deut 32:16,21)(Ps 78:58).
“Human” jealousy is what is considered sin. Our jealousy is synonymous with covetousness and envy. God is never shown in the Bible to envy any person or thing. Man, on the other hand, is often filled with envy. We covet and envy other people’s possessions, money, beauty, talent, etc… This is wrong jealousy. We have examples of sinful jealousy all through the Bible:
(Gen 30:1) Rachel of Leah
(Gen 26:12-16) The Philistines of Isaac
(Gen 37:4-28) Joseph’s brothers of Joseph
(Num 16:1-3) Some of the Israelite men of Moses and Aaron
(1 Sam 18:6-12) Saul of David
(Acts 5:17-18) The High Priest and his associates of Peter and the apostles.
(Acts 13:45) The Jews of Paul and Barnabas
(Acts 17:5) The Jews of Paul and Silas
Sinful jealousy is based on our own selfish desires. It leads to no greater good. This is the main difference between right and wrong jealousy. God’s jealousy, and our jealousy for Him, leads to our lives being better. Human jealousy is harmful, sinful, and will destroy us. Let us all strive to be jealous in knowing God more intimately, showing His love, becoming diligent worshippers, guarding our time with God, and becoming more like Jesus each day.