jealousy

Jealousy is as old as Cain and Abel (cf. Genesis 4). Man has often displayed jealous behavior to get what he wants, when he wants it; usually in spite of a person or situation. Jealousy is a strong response that can be used for extreme harm or extraordinary good. The letter of James (4:5) touch’s on the topic of jealousy with reference to a certain Old Testament quotation. What is jealousy? Is jealousy godly? Is the jealousy of God in the OT the same or different as that seen of God when mentioned in the New Testament?

James 4:5 says, “Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that He has made to dwell in us”?” James 4:5 specifically states he is quoting Scripture, but when scanning the OT, one observes there is no passage that it directly quotes. However, there are many OT texts that it could be alluding or echoing.

The God of the Bible is a jealous God. Theologically speaking, the theme of God’s jealous love for His people is tied to the exclusiveness of his claims like the exclusiveness of a spouse’s claims in marriage. This claim is ratcheted up because God is not only the metaphorical husband of His people but also their God. He alone is God. Since He is personal, God is jealous when His followers commit adultery because of the betrayal of idolatry. God longs for His follower’s faithfulness with a jealous longing.

Teaching God’s Jealous Character from Exodus 20:5 & 34:14.

From the decalogue and the Law we see teachings of a jealous God (Exodus 20). God is jealous within a concrete context of covenant infidelity (Exodus 34). James describes a jealous God who has not changed in His demand of absolute devotion to Himself by obedience to His commandments. The Hebrew word for jealous [קַנָּא] is used only of God with the focus on punishing those who hate Him (Ex 20:5; 34:14; Dt. 4:24; 5:9; 6:15) and demanding exclusive service (Ex 34:14).

The second Commandment expands and explains the first commandment. It deals with the heart, rather than the object of worship. This commandment becomes the gauge that measures the spiritual vitality of God’s people. God desires worship above all else. Commands against idols and pagan gods appear throughout the OT. Although James is so practical in structure, the doctrine of God is vital to the teaching of the letter. Throughout James’ letter there is an emphasis on a monotheistic God who is One (cf. 2:19). Within the doctrine of God is the doctrine of His character. James emphasizes His jealousy. God is jealous because He desires His people to adhere to the law and likewise abstain from being worldly. God’s jealousy is seen in the Law and through James’ command to His people to obey Him exclusively through their faithfulness and denial of worldly pleasures.

Analogy of Worldly Friendship from Deuteronomy 6:14-15.

The character of a jealous God who desires faithfulness in His people continues throughout the OT Torah. God is jealous for His people and desires them to worship Him exclusively. In the Septuagint [LXX] the word for jealousy is ζηλωτής–where we get our English word ‘zealous,’ or better translated ‘envy’. Within James 4:4-5, a discussion exists of worldly attitudes rooted in fights and quarrels among believers. These attitudes were from envy and selfish ambition in the pursuit of worldly pleasures (cf. James 4:2a, ζηλοῦτε). These selfish motives led to worldly lifestyles (cf. James 3:14-16). Selfish living is the antithesis of a faithful relationship with God. Selfish ambition is considered rebellion and adultery against God (Deut. 6:14-15).

The call to reject pagan idolatry in the OT was primarily against the cultic worship and gods of other nations like Babylon and Assyria. However, the idolatry in the NT brings friendship with the world to the level of being an enemy of God. Worldly living is against that which God teaches and expects of His people. One either loves God or loves the world. Loving the world to James means not only that you don’t love God, it means you are His enemy

The idea of friendship in OT and NT culture was not the shallow depiction that we see in today’s culture. God intended friendship to encourage spiritual unity and accountability against idolatry and worldliness. With a deeper understanding of friendship it becomes clear that—as James says—love for God and love for the world are mutually exclusive (cf. Luke 16:13; 1 John 2:15-16; Matthew 6:24). To be friends with the world is to be God’s enemy. Love for the world or other gods is treason toward God. God is a jealous God and does not tolerate compromising relationships, especially with the gods and idols of this world.

Analogy of Adultery from Ezekiel 16:38, 42.

Ezekiel continues the theme of the Law by echoing that God is jealous for His own honor. Ezekiel compares the rebellion of his day to that of the Exile during Moses’ day (cf. 20:1-26). Ezekiel pleads for God’s grace and restoration in the light of His jealous dealings throughout time (20:42-44). Ezekiel also touches on the adultery of his people and the jealousy of a God who desires their faithfulness (16:38, 42). God keeps His covenantal wedding vows and expects His bride—the nation of Israel—to uphold them too.

Ezekiel continues in the vein of James by relating God’s jealousy to that of an adulterous relationship. It is very likely James is thinking of the OT view that God—the jealous lover—is married to His people and His bride is adulterous and unfaithful. The reference to women in Ezekiel adheres to God’s people being His bride. James’ readers are the church, which is the Bride of Christ. Jesus also used this marriage analogy to call His followers to faithfulness.

In a godly marriage, there is a healthy form of jealousy which a husband should have for his wife. If he found out that she was having affections for another man he would rightly be jealous of her love. If he did not, one would question the husband’s love for his bride. James and the OT reinforce this analogy. God loves His people though they have committed spiritual adultery. God is gracious to restore them if they repent and turn back to Him.

James 4:5 demonstrates in the NT that God desires total allegiance as He did in the OT. God is a righteously jealous Husband who tolerates no rivals. We cannot be friends with the world without provoking the jealousy of God. We cannot claim to be the bride of Christ and then run to the worldly “man next door” for comfort. James supports the OT texts that command His people to turn from all spiritual adultery and be exclusively devoted to God. Living for self and seeking pleasure apart from God is to commit spiritual adultery. To James, active faith is tested by the world and God expects His followers to be faithful to Him alone.

To view a more technical paper with sources see JEALOUSLY intertextuality paper [James 4.5]

adulterous

picture-1

We are tempted every day. No one is invisible to temptation. When the Bible talks about temptation, it is never “if”; it is always “when.” The bait is bound to lure you in and tempt to hook you. It is our responsibility to know what the bait is and how to avoid its trap.

The Bible is clear from the Seventh Commandment: “Do not commit adultery.” (Exodus 20:14) Now, adultery doesn’t happen over night. There are certain sly and stealthy steps that lead to Adultery:

It all starts with a distraction—maybe you are tired or weak, lonely or desperate, invisible or in the moment. Then that distractions leads to an attraction. It only takes a moment to notice someone of the opposite sex (walking along and BAM!); this is the the step of the second look. At this point we must stop, look the other way and change. James 1:14-15 “ But each of us is tempted when, by his own evil desires, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” Sadly, most do not stop at this step, but are tempted to step into the trap.

The next step is infatuation (sinful attitude) or in other words adultery of the mind (heart). Your imagination starts pursuing what you would like to do with that person of the opposite sex. Jesus says adulterous attitudes are just as sinful as adulterous actions (Mt.5:28). These attitudes are just one small step away from our final step, which is the sinful action. God is clear that this is having sex with someone who is not your spouse outside the covenant of marriage.

Adultery can take on many different shapes and forms:

  • Lust—“adulterous attitude” with an imagined desire to do something with someone other than your spouse.
  • Pornography—“adulterous attitude” with an image that represents someone created in the image of God and that is not your spouse.
  • Masturbation—“adulterous attitude” bringing about an emotion connected with the sinful act.
  • Sex before of Marriage—“adulterous action”
  • Cheating on boyfriend or girlfriend—“adulterous action”
  • Affairs before marriage—“adulterous action”

There are essentially two different ways of responding to an adulterous situation. First, repent and change by seeking counsel, restoration, and forgiveness. The other is to reject and covering up by continuing to live in your sin and believe in sinful lies.

Lies are easy to come by when used to cover up adultery, here are some of the most common:

1. Marriage (or another relationship) will make it all better. If you do not change your sinful attitudes before marriage you will bring them into your marriage. This is a recipe for relationship murder. Wedding vows are a commitment for life, “till death do you part.” You choose to love God and your future spouse.

2. God wants me to be happy. Some think, “I would be happy if we could just have sex now.” Truth is: God places obedience before happiness (Ps.16:11). When we obey God’s way of doing this it brings us the most joy. It is like drinking puddle water when God offers your puree. If we disobey God it just brings about guilt and a desire to continue on sinning.

3. I didn’t do anything wrong. Pretending it never happened or denial is a quick fix, but it never really fixes the problem. Two wrongs do not make a right. Even though know one will know or might never find out, you still know and so does God. Remember, your lust grows to sin, sin leads to death, and death brings about the stench of decay. It is a matter of time before your sin finds you out. God doesn’t allow us to conceal our sin successfully.

4. My friends think it is okay. Maybe you have a support system of friends that back your sinful decisions and give you the confirmation that what you are doing is normal and all right. God calls these friends, “fools.” True friends do not lead you into sin; they protect you and bring you to God.

Have you been lured in to take a nibble or eat of adultery’s  buffet? Are you past the distraction step into the attraction, infatuation or sinful action step? Here is some ammunition to help you the next time you are tempted to sin:

1. Think about the consequences of your sinfulness. Stop to think for a moment about what this sin will do to you, your future spouse, children, or your relationship with God. A brief moment of ecstasy for a lifetime of pain. Sin is destructive and it murders relationships. And once you are cooked Satan loves to fry us in our guilt making us believe that we are now worthless and not important to God.

2. Know your weaknesses. Is there a particular time or place that brings you more temptation? (movies, tv, internet, alone, after school, late at night, tired, flirty, etc.) Avoid these if you can, if not pray for protection and seek a godly friend to keep you accountable. Do you have a good friend/leader you can talk to about this?

3. Make purity your purpose. Commit to God to do it His way: to be pure until marriage. Allow God to change you from the inside out. God what you to do it His way always, because His way always works.