by: FCC Staff
Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?
Wrath, anger and jealousy often get a bad rap. As well they should, as most often, human expressions of these principles are flawed, unholy, and damaging to all concerned. But there are plenty of instances where we see God pouring out his wrath, expressing His anger (Ezekiel 25:17, Romans 1:18, Deuteronomy 28:47-48, Revelation 17:1-18, etc.), and the First Commandment we hear God proclaim,
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 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, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20:4-6)
So what makes it OK for God to act in wrath, anger, and jealousy, and not us? Well, to put it simply, He is God. He is holy, all-knowing, all-powerful, and omnipresent. When He has wrath, it is truly just; when his anger burns, it is at true injustice; and when He is jealous, He is so because He rightly desires what is His: our hearts in worship and love.
We see Jesus on multiple occasions justly asserting His prerogative over people, because He knew what was truly in their hearts. (Matthew 12:25, 22:18, Mark 2:8, Luke 6:8, 11:17, 16:15, John 2:25) God acts in this way because it is His right and responsibility to do so. We are to refrain from such behavior, in most cases, because we do NOT know what is truly in the hearts of others, or even in our own hearts for that matter. (Jeremiah 17:9)
We have plenty of scriptures to tell us to refrain from anger (Psalm 37:8), not avenge ourselves (Romans 12:19), and to turn away wrath. (Proverbs 15:1) But we see jealousy held up as being even more corrosive than wrath and anger in our proverb for today. How can it be more destructive?
James has some profound instructional wisdom in this area, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 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. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” (James 4:1-3)
James astutely points out that covetous jealousy is at the root of a lot of conflict among people. Turn on the news or read the headlines and you don’t have to look very far to see this on full display. And while we might not hear the biblical term of ‘covet’ thrown around a lot in our culture, you can see a sense of entitlement on full display.
Why do they get that, and not me? Why do I have to do this and they don’t? I want the same things everyone else gets, whether I have earned it, or need it, or not. Entitlement. And from this covetous jealousy, James is right, fights, quarrels and even death boil up. We may personally think it’s unjust, or unfair, but if we are honest, we can likely admit before God that we “ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”
When we ask, it should be for forgiveness. An appeal to God to let His anger, wrath and jealousy be satiated by the death of His Holy Son. God will not deny the appeal of a truly repentant heart. And if we have Christ, what more do we need, what room for covetous jealousy can remain in a heart that is truly content and grateful for the gifts of God’s grace?
So today, when our passions get riled up, and we are tempted to act in anger or wrath, let’s check first for the hidden poison of sinful jealousy. Let’s confess before God the condition of our hearts, because after all, He knows our hearts already. Let’s not deceive ourselves into thinking we are justified in our anger, unless we can see that it is something that would anger God as well. And in those things, we can still point to the cross for justice. After all, if the Father is content with the sacrifice of Christ, how much more should we be as well?
Prayer for Today
Father, search my heart and expose any covetous jealousy that resides there. When I am angry or want to act in wrath, direct me back to you, Jesus. By your Holy Spirit, give me the wisdom to know when to speak, what to say, and when to remain silent. Let me be content with all you provide me today, Lord, that I might not be tempted to give in to the sinful passions of my heart. Amen.