Prayer For Godly Jealousy For The Things Of God

What to Do When Jealousy Strikes

Prayer For Godly Jealousy For The Things Of God

Jealous. That was the only word that could describe the feeling I had when I heard a friend had gotten her book published. I was full of jealousy. 

Writing a book (and getting it published) has been a dream of mine since I was a teenager. Yet now at age 53, it still has not happened. Not for lack of trying, mind you. But it just has not happened! So, when I found out it had happened for a friend, that proverbial “green-eyed monster” consumed me.

And here’s the saddest thing of all: my friend’s book was about her journey with her young son’s cancer. It was about how God had seen, supported, and strengthened her, her son, and her family through the darkest hours of their lives.

It was a book written with such gut-wrenching honesty and humility. And, it was meant to be an encouragement and blessing to other families dealing with childhood cancer. 

How could I be jealous ofthat? But I was—to my shame!  

What Jealousy Is 

Jealousy is that sneaky sinthat comes upon us unexpectedly, unannounced, and most certainlyuninvited.  

Jealousy can take the form of eagerness to obtain something that you don’t have, and this form of it is associated with covetousness and idolatry (see Colossians 3:5).

Covetousness is the worship of something (a house, a car, a job, a ministry) or someone (a husband, a child, a friend) that another has. Covetousness is so egregious to God, that he included it in the Ten Commandments. 

“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) 

AndGod knows that when we idolize what another has, eventually jealous feelingswill follow. What are we to do with jealousy, then? 

Be Repentant 

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality… idolatry… jealousy… and things these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness… (Galatians 5:19-22)

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) 

Jealousy is sin. It is the flesh’sresponse to covetousness, and it needs to be confessed andrepented. Repenting jealousy is to agree with God that this feeling iswrong. It is not holy, healthy, or productive. 

Jealousy can be so destructive—both spiritually, emotionally, and relationally. In fact, it can literally lead one to murder, the apostle James says in 4:2: “You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.”

Themoment jealousy rears its nasty head, confess it. Don’t let it steep in yourmind and embitter your heart. Confess, and find immediate and unfailingforgiveness and cleansing (1 John 1:9). 

Be Counteractive 

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

There is a reason why Paul contrasts the flesh and the Spirit in Galatians chapter 5. The two are constantly at war with one another. But that war was won when Jesus died and rose again, and we can also be victors through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

We can, through His help, conquer and counteract the sinful flesh with spiritual fruit. 

Love for another and forthe goodness God has shown them (whatever that may be), having patience withourselves and God’s timing, and exercising self-control of our emotions allcounteract jealousy. 

Be Content 

A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot. (Proverbs 14:30) 

Jealousy is not only covetousness but discontentment. Jealousy says, in effect, “God, I’m not happy or satisfied with who I am or what you’ve given me. I want to be more. I want more. I want what so-and-so is and has!”

I have had to come to the realization that God has not allowed me to publish, for whatever reason. I have had to accept that and find contentment in the writing opportunities he has given me.  

I have to work at it, though. It does not come easily. I can relate to Paul’s comment in Philippians 4:11-13, that I, too, am “learning” to be content. It is an on-going process as I wait upon God and “learn” to be satisfied, content, with what he has given me already.  

Jealousy is, in a way, saying that Jesus—who he is as ourSavior and Lord, and what he graciously did for us on the cross—is not enough.None of us would say that outright. But jealousy is the feeling that expressesit, and it is an affront to him. May it not be so! 

Be Joyful 

Rejoice with those who are rejoicing. (Romans 12:15) 

Another counteractive “cure” for jealousy, as I found with my friend’s publishing success, is to rejoice with that person.

Rejoicing with another person takes the focus off of ourselves and puts it on God: what he has done for that person, how he has blessed them, the gifts he’s given them, the opportunities he’s provided for them. 

Rejoicing with another is also borne love and kindness. Another manifestation of living out the fruits of the Spirit rather than the flesh.

Rejoicing in another’s good and godly fortune also maintains unity and harmony within the body of Christ. For where there is jealousy, there is strife, quarreling, disunity (1 Corinthians 3:3). 

So, make the choice torejoice. 

Be Jealous…for others andfor God! 

I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. (2 Cor. 11:2, NIV) 

If ever there is good jealousy, the Apostle Paul says it is jealousy for other believers and for God. 

This “godly jealousy”is outward and upward focused, rather than self-focused. It is an eagerness for thegood of others, especially spiritual welfare (i.e. theirsalvation and sanctification). 

It is an eagerness for God to be glorified in this darkened world. That his name and power would be seen and manifested in miraculous ways. That sinful mankind would repent and turn to him, accepting the free gift of grace he offers through Jesus Christ. That they would find forgiveness and a relationship with God, their Heavenly, Holy Father (Ephesians 2:8-9).  

Expressing holy, godly jealousy for his saving work on our behalf, and on the behalf of others, is acceptable and perfect. That jealousy does not offend him. 

May it be that this outward, upward jealousy is the only type of jealousy we manifest in our lives. 

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13 Powerful Prayers for Overcoming Jealousy

Prayer For Godly Jealousy For The Things Of God

There are many reasons why an individual may experience jealousy. These powerful prayers for overcoming jealousy will help you to find peace and heal your heart from any discontent.

Prayer #1

Wonderful Counselor, I bind that spirit of jealousy that’s attempting to consume my life. I curse it out completely in the name of Jesus, for it is more than cruelty and overwhelming fury. Remove it now, mighty God, along with the hatred, anger, fear and insecurities that fuel it.

Prayer #2

Loving Lord we know that the jealousies of the flesh are ruinous and evil – and are abhorrent in Your eyes and yet You display a good and godly jealousy over Your children, and the things of God that are precious in Your sight.

Thank You Lord that You are jealous in that way over Your love for me – I thank You also for the godly jealous displayed by Paul over the church of God and pray that we too may develop a desire him, to pray for Your protection of the church, from the evil ways of Satan who desire to lead believers astray – in the same way that he deceived Eve in the garden of Eden.

Help me more and more to develop a godly passion – a godly jealousy over the things of God. Help me not to perpetuate truth through compromise, nor water down the gospel of grace in order to maintain a false unity – but rather Lord I pray that I may develop a passion for the truth as we seek to share the gospel of grace with all who are wiling to listen, in Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Prayer #3

Father, I am not glad. I am jealous. So, please, make me glad in You. Change my heart by the power of your Spirit. I’m not turning to anyone or anything else. Just you. I lift up my jealous, sinful soul to you Forgive me through Jesus. Strengthen my faith. Help me.

Prayer #4

Everlasting Father, I desire to be as holy as You are. Set me free of the thoughts that consume my mind which cause the jealousy to arise. Substitute the negativity and cruelty within my heart with Your peace and love, and gentle kindness.

Prayer #5

Dear Heavenly Father,

I pray for wives who struggle with jealousy. I pray they would not be jealous of other marriages, other women, or of their husbands.

I pray that instead of being jealous of their husband’s opportunities, job, friends, or anything else, they would be confident through their faith in You! Instead of letting jealousy root in their heart over what another wife has or a friend has, that thankfulness in the gifts You have given would satisfy. Remove and carve from our hearts any bit of jealous that resides in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Prayer #6

Father, come and be the all consuming fire in me! Consume all my flesh Lord, that I will be free from all envy and jealousy, that I will only look to YOU for all I need; that I will serve only an audience of ONE. I pray I will be more and more YOU, and walk and talk You. Conform my mind and thoughts to Your thoughts Lord. Take complete control of me Holy Spirit that I will not do my own will, but only Yours!

Prayer #7

Loving Father forgive me for my feelings of jealousy which I know are not righteous and very detrimental, to my well-being, my health and my relationships. Keep me from looking at the attributes and achievements of others and wishing I had their gifts and graces. – Help me Lord to develop an attitude of contentment and peace, which I know only comes from You.

Lord sometimes my stupid jealousy has caused rifts between dear friends and me – and even has contributed to problems with my own family.. and this desire to have what belongs to others – or to enjoy the popularity and charisma that others seem to have, has become at times so stifling that I don’t know which way to turn – and I know that this is not Your will for my life.

Forgive me for my jealousies and help me to develop an attitude of gratitude for all that I am and all that I have. And Lord I pray that You would give me the grace to change my thoughts from those of envy and jealousy to right thinking and pure thoughts.

Lord I know that it says in scripture to think about whatever is true, and good, whatever is right and pure, whatever is lovely and admirable, and whatever is excellent and praiseworthy and to fix my mind on such things. Help me Lord to change my thought pattern from the bad to the good – for I know that all things are possible with you and I ask this in Jesus name. Thank You Father. Amen.

Prayer #8

Prince of Peace, help those who are struggling today. May they experience Your love and show love in return to all they come into contact with.

Help me to not be envious towards my neighbors and friends but rather to be happy for them and encourage them to go even further. Cleanse me of anything that breaks Your heart, oh Savior.

Help me live a righteous life, Heavenly Father. Because on this day I declare it, I decree it and speak it into my life, in JESUS’ mighty name, Amen!

Prayer #9

Dear Lord we bring before You the many people that are enmeshed in a web of envy and jealousy, which we know has a very detrimental effect on the lives of all who are caught up in its destructive ways.

Lord we know that jealousy is a cancer that rots a person from the inside out and we know that jealousy is a root that gives birth to other fleshly evils and unwholesome desires – and Lord, we ask You to look down in compassion and pity all who have succumbed to this ruinous route.

Lord we know that all good things comes from You and we pray that in Your grace You would seek out those that do not yet know You but who desire to turn from their envious and jealous attitudes – and draw them into a saving relationship with the Lord Jesus. And Lord, if they are believers who have jealous streaks in their heart we pray that You would convict them of their need to turn from this destructive path so that they may return back into fellowship with Yourself.

Lord If there are any hidden jealousies that are tucked away in my own heart, I pray that in Your grace, You would bring them to my attention so that I may confess them as my own struggles, even if I am unaware of them or have camouflaged them in my foolish pride.

Thank You Lord that You died for each one of us and do not turn Your back on any who cry out to You for help… so in Your love and compassion we pray that even now You would draw very close to those that are sinking in a cess-pit of jealousy and draw them into Your arms, in Jesus name we pray, Amen.

Prayer #10

Dear Lord, Please help me. I get jealous of my own husband. I get jealous of the time that he has, the things that he gets to do or doesn’t do, I get jealous of the opportunities he receives, and it hurts. I need to appreciate what you have given specifically to me, embracing it and responding to it all with joy in Jesus name, Amen.

Prayer #11

Father, Please give me the GRACE to overcome any immoral fleshly activity in my life that would fuel dissension and jealousy.

Remove any pride that would cause me to think myself more deserving or better than others.

Help me to “Put on” the Lord Jesus by coming into Your presence daily and worshipping You, and communicating with You in prayer and studying Your word, that My mind would be renewed.

Prayer #12

Dear heavenly Father, I so often look at other people and simply wish I was them, or had what they have – and Father it seems to be developing into an obsession, which frightens me Lord. Help me to overcome this obsessive jealousy of wishing I was someone else and of being envious of their opportunities and personalities.

Lord I know that I am fearfully and wonderfully made and that You scheduled every day of my life and that You even know the numbers of hairs on my head – and in my heart I know that You died for ME… because you loved ME. Help me Lord to be content with ME and who I am and please help me to overcome this desire to always be someone else.

I pray Lord that every time a feeling of jealousy or envy starts to creep into my thoughts, that You would help me to take that thought captive and hand it over to Jesus – and help me instead to fix my mind on You – and call to mind that You died on the cross and rose again because of Your love for ME.

Thank You for loving me and I pray that I may learn to become the person You made me to be – and be released from always wishing I was someone else. Thank You in the name of Jesus Christ, my Saviour. Amen

Prayer #13

Father, uproot in me any of the works of the flesh, that would war against Your holiness in me! Bring to me, the Spirit of burning and burn off all the flesh that would yield to jealousy and envy, cruelty and hatred.

Father do not allow your turtledove to be turned over to the wild beasts of the earth! Rescue me from all darkness! Fill me with more of Your love, peace, kindness and patience. Overwhelm me with YOUR LOVE, that I would not think or act in worldly ways.

Give me GRACE to deny my flesh and to walk in the light as You are in the light.

Here is a great video from Pastor Rick Warren where he discusses how to triumphant fear in the relationship and find peace and comfort.

About the Author of this Blog Post
Crystal Ayres has served as our editor-in-chief for the last five years. She is a proud veteran, wife and mother. The goal of ConnectUs is to publish compelling content that addresses some of the biggest issues the world faces. If you would to reach out to contact Crystal, then go here to send her a message.

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Bible Verses About Jealousy: 20 Important Quotes

Prayer For Godly Jealousy For The Things Of God

The battle that rages inside all of us is that even when our intentions are good, we still have a sin nature and often yield to sin.  One of those sins is jealousy, which is closely related to one of the “seven deadly sins” called envy or covetous.

  There are a number of verses that deal with this topic because when we fall into jealousy or envy, we will often spiral down very quickly in our spiritual life.  It is easy to fall into jealousy in our materialistic society.  The mantra of culture seems to be to keep up with the Jones’.  Grab all that you can.

  Put yourself first in all things.  Consider what Scripture says about jealousy and envy…

Bible Verses Where Jealousy is Contrasted with Good Characteristics

Song of Solomon 8:6 Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD.

1Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it his not arrogant

Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

James 3:14-15 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.

James 3:16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.

Scriptures Where Jealousy Leads to Destruction

Genesis 4:8  Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.

Psalm 37:1-3 Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers!  For they will soon fade the grass and wither the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.

Proverbs 6:34 For jealousy makes a man furious, and he will not spare when he takes revenge.

James 3:16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.

James 4:1-2  What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.

Proverbs 14:30  A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.

Bible Quotes that Show That God is a Jealous God

Exodus 20:5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me

Exodus 34:14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God)

Deuteronomy 4:24 For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

Psalm 79:5  How long, O LORD? Will you be angry forever? Will your jealousy burn fire?

Verses About Jealousy and Sin

Exodus 20:17 “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.”

Proverbs 27:4   Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?

Acts 7:9 “And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him

1Corinthians 3:3-5 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? 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it his not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful

Ephesians 5:3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.

4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.

5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

Galatians 5:19-21 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Romans 13:13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.

There are many more examples that I could point to in Scripture.  If we are honest with ourselves, we all get envious or jealous at times.  Sometimes it may be subtle in our own minds as we wish things were different.  Maybe we question God about some of the circumstances in our life.

  God can handle any question that we may have but we need to ask if we are honestly seeking an answer to a struggle in our life or questioning the ways and will of God.  That is a fine line.  Thankfully, we serve and love a great God.  He is the God of the Old Testament and the New Testament.

  He is the same yesterday, today and forever.  He loves us so much in spite of our sins.  My prayer today is that we all would evaluate our own life and if convicted by the Holy Spirit about the sin of jealousy, that we would ask forgiveness and repent of our sin.

  God wants to give us freedom over our sin that comes through the shed blood of Jesus.  Praise Him!

Take a look at these other similar type articles:


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Dealing With Jealousy {Growing in Godliness Series for Kids}

Prayer For Godly Jealousy For The Things Of God

It begins with a seed of discontent. A thought of insecurity. Jealousy is a green monster that must be slain. Helping our children understand why jealousy is harmful is a step in the right direction on the narrow path of godliness. {Deuteronomy 5:32}

Scripture Focus:1 Samuel 18:6-16; 1 Corinthians 13:4

Materials: a sheet of green paper

Free Poster:  Click on the image below and print.

Background: David killed Goliath. It was quite the event and Saul added David to his court. Saul’s son Jonathan became David’s best friend. David served Saul well and was given many leadership opportunities.

Object Lesson on Jealousy:

{Hold up the green paper.}

What color is this? [Green] What emotion do you feel when you see this color? [Allow for answers.] Have you ever heard the saying, “green with envy”? What does it mean? [Allow for answers.]

People who know a lot of about words and where they come from think that the term “green with envy” began with the Greeks. The Greeks believed that emotions came from the organs in your body.

The liver produces bile, which is a yellow-green color.

So when people became jealous, they thought it was because the liver was producing too much bile and it caused their faces to turn slightly green.

An author, name Shakespeare, used the phrase “green-eyed monster” to personify jealousy.

Act 3 of Othello:
O! beware my lord, of Jealousy;
It is the green-ey’d monster which doth mock
The meat it feeds on.

Jealousy and envy are similar, but not the same thing. What does it mean for a person to be jealous? [Allow answers. Lead them to a definition similar to “the fear and anger of losing something of value, especially a relationship”.] What does it mean to be envious? [Wanting or wishing for something that belongs to someone else, such as a better job or a possession.]

Jealousy is “I don’t want to lose this,” where as being envious is “I want what he has.”

Neither of these attitudes are glorifying to God. And being a jealous person, or being an envious person, can cause health issues if you don’t take care of the sin issue causing these emotions.

Bible Lesson on Jealousy:

David was a great servant of King Saul’s. King Saul’s son, Jonathan, loved David a brother. Jonathan gave David his own cloak and his armor, sword, and bow. And the scripture says that David behaved wisely wherever he went and that he was accepted by all the people.

After Saul sent David to fight the Philistines, David was coming home. The people came out onto the streets and the women sang and danced saying, “Saul has killed thousands, but David, ten thousands.” King Saul heard this and jealousy and envy filled his heart.

What was he afraid to lose? His kingdom. Why was he envious of David? Because the people d David better than they did King Saul. From that day forward Saul was angry and suspicious of David.

But wherever David went, he behaved in a wise manor. Saul watched this and was afraid of David because he knew the Lord as with David and not with him.

One day when David was playing the harp for Saul, the king grabbed a spear and threw it at David. David escaped, twice, from Saul.

All of the people loved David. The jealous and envy of King Saul would cause David to eventually run for his life and spend years in the wilderness running from a King who was “green with envy” and had no heart for God.

Life Application for Jealousy:

Is jealousy a bad thing? [Kids will say Yes.] But the Bible says that God is a jealous God. (Exodus 34:14) Scripture plainly tell us that God is good and perfect. So jealousy must not always be a bad thing.

Most of the time in the Bible we hear of God being jealous when he is telling the people to stop worshiping false idols.

Do you remember what the definition of jealousy is? [“the fear and anger of losing something of value, especially a relationship”] What relationship does God NOT want to lose? [his relationship with people] If God sees that there is something taking you away from his presence, then he is jealous for you. He wants to bless you. He wants to spend time with you. He wants to use you. But if we are distracted by other things and not listening to God, or spending time with him, then our relationship with God becomes damaged. God doesn’t want that.

{Hold up the poster. Read it aloud.}

1 Corinthians 13 is filled with definitions of love. Here we read that love is not jealous. Is this the good form or bad form of jealousy? [In this verse, it is the bad form of jealousy.

] In 2 Corinthians 11:2, Paul says that he is “jealous for [for the people] with a godly jealousy.

” This means he saw the people behaving in ways that did not honor God and he was jealous for them to have a right relationship with Jesus.

We are not to be jealous and envious of other people in such a way that we brake relationships with others. Nor are we to be mean and angry and act King Saul. We are to be jealous with a godly jealousy desiring all people to know Jesus and walk with him. We are not to be jealous OF people, but we are not be jealous FOR people.

What can we learn from King Saul? If we want to be godly, then we must choose to not be jealous because of selfish reasons, but because we want people to know Christ.

{Display the poster in the room throughout this series and read it each week.}

Follow Up Activities:

King Saul Persecutes David

Saul is Jealous of David

King Saul Becomes Jealous of David

For more ideas, lessons, coloring pages, games, etc, click to my Old Testament Pinterest board! I’ve found all kinds of fun stuff for you! Follow Future.Flying.Saucers.’s board OT Bible Lessons & Activities for Kids on Pinterest.

**Make sure you SUBSCRIBE to FutureFlyingSaucers so you don’t miss the next lesson. And be sure to share this lesson with your friends. It’s your sharing that helps us spread the gospel around the world!


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Jealous God? What Does That Mean?

Prayer For Godly Jealousy For The Things Of God

From our own experiences, we all know what human jealousy is. Jealousy is commonly understood as resentment against a person for having or enjoying what we think should be our own. As novelist, poet and essayist Erica Jong put it, “Jealousy is all the fun you think they had.”

But is this the only type of jealousy discussed in the Bible? What is godly jealousy?

One man who tells us he had the kind of jealousy that God has is the apostle Paul.

Paul’s “godly jealousy”

Would you have thought of the great apostle Paul as someone who harbored jealousy? But he said he did. Let’s consider the context of his statement.

On his second evangelistic tour, he stopped in the bustling city of Corinth. While living there, Paul learned firsthand about the difficulties the Christians living in Corinth faced.

Corinth was a wealthy, multiethnic port city. The business of the docks brought exposure to languages, ethics, cultures and religions from all over the known world; and it was a center for pagan worship.

Cults for the gods of Egypt, Rome and Greece were all found there.

The famous temple of Venus (also known as Aphrodite, the goddess of love) was said to have 1,000 “priestesses” or temple prostitutes.

The city’s reputation for rampant sexual immorality was known everywhere and inspired the phrase to Corinthianize, meaning “to live the Corinthians; hence, to lead a life of licentiousness and debauchery” (William Dwight Whitney, The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia: Dictionary, 1906).

It’s no wonder Paul had a soft spot in his heart for those striving to maintain their Christianity in spite of daily difficulties in Corinth. Even after he left Corinth to continue his journeys, the members there were often in his thoughts.

Two letters he wrote to the Corinthians show the deep love and concern he felt for them—even to the point of correcting them and trying to protect them.

Dangers from sin and false teachers

In his second epistle to the church at Corinth, Paul reminded them to beware of false prophets and not give their words any credence.

Then he wrote, “Oh, that you would bear with me in a little folly—and indeed you do bear with me. For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy.

For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:1-2, emphasis added throughout).

“Jealousy” here is from the Greek word zelos and can be either an “intense positive interest in something—zeal—ardor, marked by a sense of dedication” as in 2 Corinthians 11:2, or the word can refer to “intense negative feelings over another’s achievements or success, jealousy, envy” as in 1 Corinthians 3:3 (Frederick William Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament).

Paul knew that the Corinthians’ faithfulness to the one true God was threatened by the prevalence of sin in their society and by the influence of false teachers.

He spoke to the Corinthian members as a father would to a daughter he loved and wanted to protect, because he loved them in that same way. He was on guard for them. Dictionary.

com defines jealousy as “vigilance in maintaining or guarding something.”

We all have the desire to guard and protect something or someone we care for, with every available means—to be jealous for them (not of them). This is the sense in which Paul was jealous for the Corinthians, and it is the type of jealousy God feels for His own children as well.

“Jealous God” misunderstood

Godly jealousy can be easily misunderstood when considering a scripture such as Exodus 20:5, which says in the context of the Second Commandment, “For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations.”

This can sound as though God punishes innocent people! But is that what this is really saying? This would instill terror instead of love into our understanding of who and what God is.

This interpretation is contradicted directly in Ezekiel 18, which states plainly that the father who sins will be accountable for himself only, and his child will not bear the spiritual consequence of his father’s sin.

But even the sinner, if he repents and “turns from all his sins … and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die.

None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him” (Ezekiel 18:21-22).

A caring father corrects his child when he does wrong or persists in an activity that is dangerous, because parents want the best for their children. So does God.

The context of Exodus 20 shows that God was concerned that His people would worship idols and false gods, taking them away from the knowledge of the one true God and into sin.

The passage in Exodus 20 states that God would visit “the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me [continue in sin], but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments” (verses 5-6).

Although God does not punish later generations for the sins of their predecessors, there is a tendency for sin in one generation to carry forward, often down to the third or fourth generation following.

Note, for example, Leviticus 26:39, in this connection: “And those of you who are left shall waste away in their iniquity in your enemies’ lands; also in their fathers’ iniquities, which are with them, they shall waste away.” Too often, children follow the poor examples of their parents; that is the meaning of this statement.

The loving God of the Old Testament

People often think of “the God of the Old Testament” as an unfair, tyrannical judge—perhaps as a God showing the human form of jealousy. But a glance at just a few scriptures counters that assessment.

  • “The LORD your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).
  • “But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth” (Psalm 86:15).
  • “Thus says the LORD: ‘Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,’ says the LORD” (Jeremiah 9:23-24).

The beautiful word lovingkindness implies mercy, kindness, favor, graciousness and forgiveness. Does that sound a harsh and angry God who doesn’t love you? He is not a God who is jealous with the selfish, human type of jealousy.

And of the New Testament

God’s goodness and love are exemplified throughout the New Testament. Jesus Christ tells us, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

The apostle Paul also wrote a lot about God’s love.

What kept Paul going in spite of everything others did to him? He had come to know the love, mercy and faithfulness of God, and he trusted Him. Paul sums it up in his letter to the Christians living in Rome:

“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39).

Growing to understand God’s love

As disciples of Jesus Christ, James and John were jealous and zealous for God. Christ even called them the “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17). But Jesus showed that their hotheaded jealousy was misguided. When a village in Samaria refused to receive Christ, James and John angrily wanted to call down fire from heaven and destroy the whole town.

Jesus sharply corrected them for their impetuous, angry attitude: “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of,” Jesus told them. “For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them” (Luke 9:55-56).

This rebuke must have left a deep impression on John. The disciple known as a “Son of Thunder” later became known as the apostle of love. In the Gospel and epistles that bear his name, we gain much insight into the nature of God’s love.

As we come to know God more deeply, understanding His love, our natural response should be to love Him in return and to learn to always put Him first. We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

Even while we were sinners, God sent His Son to die for us so that we might live. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Obviously, God does not want us to turn our backs on His love or to trample the sacrifice of “the Son of God underfoot” (Hebrews 10:29). He is jealous for us for our own good—because He loves us.

John, the apostle of love, shows how God’s love begins to work in us, writing in his first epistle, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:2-3).

This brings us back to what we are told in the Second Commandment, that God is a “jealous God” who shows “mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” God knows that keeping His commandments will bring us blessings and that breaking them will hurt us, so godly jealousy— love—He greatly desires for us to obey.

For more about God’s love and how He wants us to respond, see the following articles:

  • God Is Love.
  • Love of God.
  • The 10 Commandments for Today.

Another resource that can be helpful is “Knowing God,” our free seven-day Journey. Let us be your guide as you spend a week discovering who God is and what He has in store for you—in this life and the next.

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