Today’s Reading: Acts 17
Quaker minister and advocate of religious freedom, who also founded Pennsylvania, wrote about the dangers of jealousy:
Jealousy is a kind of civil war in the soul, where judgment and imagination are at perpetual jars [odds]. . . . Nothing stands safe in its way: nature, interest, religion, must yield to its fury. It violates contracts, dissolves society, breaks wedlock, betrays friends and neighbors. Nobody is good, and everyone is either doing or designing a mischief. It has a venom that . . . bites.
On our 260 journey today we find Paul ensnared in the consequences of jealousy. Paul had just finished preaching in Thessalonica and he left to preach in Berea—and jealousy was about to enter the picture:
The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men. (Acts 17:10-12)
His trip from Thessalonica to Berea was a sixty-mile journey. Sixty miles to walk and preach the gospel. While he was there, he was seeing success. It says that “many of them believed.”
But then another group made the sixty-mile walk. Not only does love and mission make you walk sixty miles, hate, jealousy, and anger will make you walk that far too. The Jews of Thessalonica were walking after them to mess up Paul’s journey. They hated Paul in Thessalonica. They were so jealous of him that they wanted to make his life miserable sixty miles from their hometown: “When the Jews of Thessalonica found out that the word of God had been proclaimed by Paul in Berea also, they came there as well, agitating and stirring up the crowds” (verse 13).
This all started in their hometown, which we read about in verses 5-7:
The Jews, becoming jealous and taking along some wicked men from the market place, formed a mob and set the city in an uproar; and attacking the house of Jason, they were seeking to bring them out to the people. When they did not find them, they began dragging Jason and some brethren before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have upset the world have come here also.”
Instead of letting it go and saying, “At least they are out of our city,” their jealousy made them walk sixty miles. It takes about forty-five minutes to walk three miles if you’re walking at a brisk pace (you do the math) . . . that’s at least fifteen hours of walking.
They couldn’t let it go. They couldn’t be happy that Paul and Silas were out of their town. They had to go and wreak havoc in the other city for them. That is the power of jealousy.
There is a distinction between jealousy and envy. To envy, or covet, is to want something that belongs to another person. The tenth commandment says, “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 belongs to your neighbor” (Exodus 20:17). In contrast, jealousy is the fear that something we possess will be taken away by another person. Although jealousy can apply to our jobs, our possessions, or our reputations, the word more often refers to anxiety that comes when we are afraid the affections of a loved one might be lost to a rival. We fear that our mates, or perhaps our children, will be lured away by some other person who, when compared to us, seems to be more attractive, capable, and successful.
Jealousy is a form of hatred built upon insecurity and fear.
What were they afraid of? They were losing their influence to the gospel and they projected it on Paul. It was really Jesus, but Paul was the spokesperson, so their insecurity and fear made them go after Paul.
The story is told of a great English preacher, F. B. Meyer, and his struggle with jealousy when another great English preacher, G. Campbell Morgan, returned to England after being in America. Meyer admitted to some friends, “It was easy to pray for the success of Campbell Morgan when he was in America. But when he came back to England and took a church near mine, it was something different. The old Adam in me was inclined to jealousy, but I got my heel upon his head, and whether I felt right toward my friend, I determined to act right.”
F. B. Meyer’s jealousy is that insecurity that said, You are close, now I don’t want you to do so well. Do well in America but not around the corner.
As R. T. Kendall wrote in Jealousy, “It takes minimal grace to weep with those who weep; it takes a lot of grace to rejoice with those who rejoice.” That second part—rejoicing with those who rejoice—reveals the heart. Rejoicing with those who rejoice is saying they got blessed and you didn’t, and that you’re okay with that.
Can you and I be joyful when other people are blessed by God? That is a sure sign of jealousy being defeated. Those sixty-mile walkers did not like all those people believing. Instead of rejoicing that lives were being changed, they saw it as Judaism no longer holding the leading voice in their lives because Jesus was.
Let’s make it a point today to rejoice with someone. How do we rejoice someone? By loving them. The presence of jealousy means the absence of love.
Paul reminds us in the love chapter: “Love is large and incredibly patient. Love is gentle and consistently kind to all. It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else” (1 Corinthians 13:4, TPT).
That’s love . . . when you refuse to be jealous.