We can thank one man for a number of common words. Hostile, auspicious, dwindle, and watchdog were all first written down by the Bard of Stratford, William Shakespeare. He coined a number of phrases still in use five centuries later as well. If you’ve told your teenager that he’s going to “eat you out of house and home,” you’ve quoted Shakespeare. If you’ve been on a “wild goose chase,” “in a pickle,” or known someone who “wears his heart on his sleeve,” you’ve used a Shakespearean original.1 But it’s not the pickle or the goose that I want to discuss today. It’s the “green-eyed monster,” immortalized by Shakespeare in his tragedy all about jealousy—Othello.
Admitting that you struggle with jealousy is hard because it sounds petty, doesn’t it? I ought to know. I denied harboring the green-eyed monster in my own heart for quite some time. But it was there, lurking in the shadows, feeding on my discontentment and rivalry with others. I’m not exactly sure how it gained so much strength, but like a teenage boy who discovers the weight room and protein shakes, it began to grow—and fast.
Of course, jealousy isn’t always bad. In fact, Scripture names it as an attribute and even a name of God (Ex. 20:5; 34:14). And Paul refers to a “godly jealousy” for his beloved church in Corinth (2 Cor. 11:2). A husband who feels no jealousy for his wife when another man flirts with her clearly lacks Christ-like love for his bride. However, like anger, what can be righteous often ends up skewed and unrecognizable as anything good.
Proverbs calls jealousy “rottenness to the bones” (14:30) and says it “cannot be withstood” (27:4). James, the wisdom literature of the New Testament, says that jealousy is demonic and a mark of earthly wisdom (3:14-16). Finally, Paul names it among the fruits of the flesh in Galatians 5 (v. 20). This rotten, monstrous, fleshly type of jealousy must be put to death before it consumes us.
If jealousy has gotten the drop on you, come boldly before the throne of grace with these two simple prayer requests to drive the Sword of the Spirit into the heart of the green-eyed monster.
Prayer Request #1: “Show Me Your Glory”
Perhaps the boldest of all requests in the Bible came from the lips of the humblest man on the planet (Num. 12:3). Moses beseeches God to let him see His glory (Ex. 34:18). While this request was not specifically made in response to jealousy, it will certainly go to battle against the green-eyed monster. Sinful jealousy is an inordinate desire for my glory. If I desire a possession or a promotion or a place that another person has, I do so because I want the glory from it. I believe that the object of my affection and envy will bring me something due only to God. The remedy? To see the greatness of God’s glory. In its view, all other pseudo-glories will fade into nothing.
As you pray this, spend time in passages such as Isaiah 40 where you’ll find descriptions of God such as these:
- To God, “the nations are like a drop from a bucket and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales” (v. 15)
- To God, all the inhabitants of the earth are like grasshoppers (v. 22)
- All of the vast reaches of outer space are like “thin cloth” that God spreads out “like a tent to live in” (v. 22)
- He knows every star by name (v. 26)
- He knows exactly how many of stars there are (v. 26)
- He never ever gets fatigued (v. 28)
- There’s absolutely nothing discovered or undiscovered that He doesn’t understand perfectly (v.28).
- There is no one like Him in heaven on earth or under the earth. He alone is God. (v. 25)
Ask God to show you His glory, to impress these truths about His nature (and many others that will make your brain short-circuit) that you may be in awe of His glory and not your own. The green-eyed monster cannot survive where God’s glory is exalted.
I have foolishly sought my own glory in being jealous. I recognize that in desiring what someone else has I have attempted to elevate myself to divine status. O God, show me Your glory! Help me to stand in slack-jawed wonder at the works of Your hand, the excellence of Your perfections, and the infinity of Your greatness. Wipe out my selfish attempts at pseudo-glory and captivate me with Your worth and wonder.
Prayer Request #2: “Tear Down My Kingdom”
The builders at Babel sought to make a name for themselves by building a tower that would reach the heavens (Gen. 11). They worked together, placing each brick into the magnificent tower. I imagine that every once in a while as they stood on the ground to take a drink of water, they would look up just to admire their work for a few seconds. “Look what we’ve done!” they would say. “Surely no tower in all the world is finer,” the next guy would say. Then, with a wipe of their brow and a slap on the back, they’d go back to work.
So it goes with our own kingdoms. We build them brick by brick, admiring the work of our hands, all the while sinfully endeavoring to take the place of God. Jealousy is often the mortar that holds these bricks together. Jealousy, a sin that resides only in our hearts, binds our dreams together, making our pseudo-kingdoms into something spectacular in our own imaginations.
These kingdoms must come down.
We must pray that God will topple our kingdoms like the walls of Jericho: fallen rubble, forbidden to be rebuilt (Josh. 6). Jealousy will not survive when we pursue God’s kingdom with our whole hearts.
Jesus gave this request to us in His model prayer (Matt 6:9-14). “Your kingdom come, Your will be done.” He instructs us to ask God to build His own kingdom in our hearts so that our imaginary would-be dynasties will fall into oblivion. Seeking God’s kingdom means adopting an eternal focus (Col. 3:2) and a Christward gaze (Heb. 12:2). It means allowing “the things of earth to grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”2 It requires a total denial of self and adoption of the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:1-11). It requires total surrender.
We’ll never achieve this on our own. That’s why we must lift our voices to heaven and call upon the name of the LORD to save us from the destruction of jealousy and our own mini-kingdoms.
I have spent countless hours building my own personal Tower of Babel, trying to take your place by establishing my own kingdom. Please, Lord, tear it down, leave it rubble. Erode the jealousy that holds it together to dust and begin building Your kingdom afresh in my heart. By Your grace and Your help may I seek first the Kingdom of God and Your righteousness, fixing my eyes on Jesus and setting my affection on the things of heaven. O, Father, slay the green-eyed monster in my heart and let Your kingdom come!
1 A list of these and other words and phrases coined by Shakespeare can be found at https://grammar.yourdictionary.com/word-lists/list-of-words-and-phrases-shakespeare-invented.html
2 Lyrics from “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” by Helen Lemmel