Spiritual Jealousy: It’s Cause and Cure

Part 2 of exploding misconceptions that make us feel needlessly inferior or jealous of fellow Christians

Grantley Morris

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“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you,” says James 4:8. “Oh taste and see that the Lord is good,” invites another Scripture (Psalm 34:8). I’ve met people who are scared to do anything like that, not because they do not long for God, but precisely because they do, and the slightest rejection from him would be so devastating that it would make them suicidal. I can promise that God will passionately accept everyone who wants him. I can almost guarantee, however, that we will encounter things that sorely tempt us to misinterpret God’s heart, leaving us with the false impression that God favors others over us.

Our goal is to face those concerns head-on and expose them for the lies that they are.

Spiritual jealousy is serious. It devastates like a deadly cancer. Not only did it provoke the first murder (Genesis 4:4-8), I think we all, at least sometimes, have fallen into it. I freely confess that I certainly have.

In Part 1, we explored ten reasons for fearing that God favors others over us, and pronounced each one invalid. For those longing for further reassurance, however, we will look again at each haunting reason, this time finding new Scriptures and fresh insights into why we can dismiss these fears. To keep them fresh, I have slightly changed some of the headings, but for consistency, I have retained the numbers. Then we will add a couple of additional thoughts.

(1) Selective truth-telling

Regrettably, when asked to give a testimony, many Christians feel obligated to act like used car salesmen; suckering in the gullible by showing off the desirable and concealing the downsides. Some do not deliberately deceive, but simply give their testimony before they themselves discover the full price of Christlikeness.

Either way, by stirring up envy and false expectations, selective truth-telling is spiritually dangerous. It gives a superficial impression of glorifying the God of truth, when it actually damages his kingdom: people of whom heaven is proud are left floundering, thinking themselves spiritually inferior, or even unfit to be called Christian, simply because their lives do not match the distorted tales of fellow believers. We are left tempted to tell God if he doesn’t do the same for us, we’ll no longer believe in his love or the power of the cross to cleanse us from all sin.

For a little about how the Bible is far more honest than most of today’s Christian testimonies, see You: More Powerful & Capable Than You Thought.

(2) Christians who seem more blessed than us, often suffer more than us

Top athletes might eventually happen to end up with more recognition than us, but to get there they must sacrifice far more and suffer much tougher training than the rest of us. Brutal, seemingly senseless, training is also the lot of elite soldiers, but they might be assigned secret operations that deprive them of all recognition. The same principles apply to spiritual heroes.

The implications are two-fold. Yes, it hammers home the reality that the lives of those we envy would seem less enviable if we understood how much it cost them. The other side of it, however, is that if our lives seem so much harder than that of most other people, it is likely to be because God believes us capable of greater things than them. A smart coach – and no one is smarter than God – assigns the toughest training to those he sees as having the greatest potential. Those he seems to favor by letting them have it easy are the ones he thinks will never be champions. So those a good coach most believes in are those who receive the harshest training.

Before imagining those who have been given more have it easy, consider carefully Jesus’ words:

    Luke 12:48  . . . Much will be demanded from everyone who has been given much, and from the one who has been entrusted with much, even more will be asked.” (Common English Bible)

Christians who instruct others are in the limelight, with people looking up to them as spiritual experts, and hanging on to their every word. James was such a person. Seeing things from God’s perspective, however, he wrote, “Let not many of you be teachers, my brothers, knowing that we [teachers] will receive heavier judgment,” (James 3:1).

(3) Stark seasonal variations affect the spiritual lives of us all

Like vine branches, we are not continually laden with fruit. That would be unnatural (Ecclesiastes 3:1). For a significant portion of its life, a grapevine is nothing but a dry, twisted stick; fruitless, useless for shade, worthless as timber; to all appearances fit only to be ripped from the ground and reduced to ashes. Yet those barren times are as vital in the life of the vine, as the seasons of fruit.

What bewilders us and incites jealously, however, is that we each have a unique seasonal cycle. When we are at our driest, some people will be enjoying the most fruitful time of their life. We can get depressed not only when comparing ourselves with others, but even by comparing ourselves with other seasons in our own lives.

When we feel so very close to God and everything is going well, we call it a mountaintop experience. During such times, people are given insight into everyday spiritual reality. The clouds lift a little and they are allowed a tiny glimpse of things as they really are. Other times, the clouds return. When this happens, nothing has changed, except how much of spiritual reality we are allowed to see. That’s the very time when real faith begins; the time when heaven gets interested because we finally get a chance to do something praiseworthy.

    2 Corinthians 5:7  . . . we walk by faith, not by sight.

    2 Corinthians 4:18  . . . we don’t look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

    Romans 8:24-25  . . . For we were saved in hope, but hope that is seen is not hope. . . .

No matter how spectacular, having mountaintop experiences is like being a trainee pilot who has experienced perfect take-offs and landings but never with him at the controls. Having warm fuzzies abandon you, however, is like finally being entrusted with the controls. That’s when heaven gets ready to applaud.

No matter how divinely blessed you are, how Spirit-filled, how great you are in heaven’s eyes and how spiritually powerful you become, you will either have times when you are assaulted by doubts, fears and worries, or you are fake.

(4) Almost inevitably, we think the other Christian’s field seems greener

I could quickly slump into depression if I were to start thinking of all the other ways in which many people have greater blessings and gifts, even in areas that are critically important to me. For example, ministry is virtually all there is to my life, and, given my lack of other abilities, my entire ministry centers on writing. Nevertheless, there are innumerable people who can write with literally ten times greater ease and speed and less anguish than me. As writers, they might be far more gifted and less handicapped than me but, rather than grieving my Lord by plunging into jealousy and resentment, there is another way of viewing this. Consider King David. He had the opportunity to give an offering to the Lord that cost him nothing. Such was his love and reverence for God, however, that he insisted on paying full price for it (2 Samuel 24:24, c.f. Deuteronomy 16:16; Malachi 1:6-10; Mark 14:3-9; Luke 21:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8:1-4). The greater suffering that writing causes me is itself a special blessing because it increases the cost, and hence the value, of the love gift I can offer the One who, out of the extremity of his love, suffered stupendously for me.

For more encouragement along these lines, see God isn’t Fair?

(5) Mistaking the approval of other Christians for God’s blessing

    Luke 6:26 Woe, when men speak well of you, for their fathers did the same thing to the false prophets.

    Romans 16:18 For those who are such don’t serve our Lord, Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by their smooth and flattering speech, they deceive the hearts of the innocent.

    2 Timothy 4:3 For the time will come when they will not listen to the sound doctrine, but having itching ears, will heap up for themselves teachers after their own lusts

(6) The sins of covetousness and worldliness can entice us to pine for the wrong things

Scriptures such as the following scream how opposed God’s ways are to the world’s ways:

    Luke 6:20-26  . . . Blessed are you who are poor . . .
    Blessed are you who hunger now . . .
    Blessed are you who weep now . . .
    Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude and mock you, and throw out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake . . .
    But woe to you who are rich!  . . .
    Woe to you, you who are full now . . .
    Woe to you who laugh now . . .
    Woe, when men speak well of you . . .

(7) Do what you wanna do, be what you wanna be?

What makes this satanic lie feel right is that it is close to the truth. We should indeed encourage people along those lines when it comes to fulfilling their divinely ordained destiny. There is nothing we cannot achieve, provided it is of God. No matter how inadequate and inhibited we feel, we can do and be whatever God wants us to. Annoyingly, it is then that the deceiver starts wailing that we can’t.

When Moses stood before the burning bush, he was divinely called to be a leader. It seemed so far beyond his abilities that he almost refused. When it came to entering the Promised Land, it seemed to the Israelites so impossible that they really did refuse, and an entire generation missed out.

Someone wrote a meme about the pros and cons of being an adult. The positive, observed the sage, is that I can eat 38 chocolate Easter eggs and no one will stop me. The downside, continued this fount of wisdom, is that I ate 38 Easter eggs and no one stopped me. We laugh at the dilemma because the implications were not particularly serious. Apply that to not being in submission to an infinitely wise and loving God, however, and the consequences can be dire.

We have the astonishing privilege of doing things now that for all of eternity we will be thrilled about. That bliss can be yours. All it takes is to snuggle into the exquisite and unsurpassable greatness of divine wisdom. The key is to settle for nothing other than the perfection of God’s plan for your life, despite the temporary temptation to resent God’s ways, and the powerful delusion that you could devise a better plan.

Rest in the assurance that God’s love soars infinitely beyond your ability to love yourself, and that by yielding to him you become the focus of infinite wisdom and power.

(8) It is not miracles but hard times that end up achieving the most of lasting (eternal) value in people’s lives

We look with envy at people enjoying spiritual highs and think, “That’s just what I need to build my faith,” when what we really mean is, “That’s just what I want to avoid the need for faith.”

Signs and feelings are not the savior they seem. Warm, gooey feelings and miraculous signs are cotton candy that entice spiritual infants but all too quickly become an enemy of spiritual health. To grow up spiritually we must be weaned off signs and feelings, and learn to live by raw faith, no matter how tough things get.

(9) The body of Christ has many different parts, each of which is indispensable and must be treated differently

When referring to the leaders and big names of the Jerusalem church, Paul wrote:

    “ . . .  those who seem to be something – whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favoritism to no man –“ (Galatians 2:6, New King James Version)

Let the truth overwhelm you: Paul was writing about the so-called pillars of the church, including Peter, James and John. (Galatians 2:9) He had in mind the most intimate friends of Jesus when divinely moved to declare that God has no favorites.

Try the Classic Amplified Bible:

    “ . . .  those who were reputed to be something, though what was their individual position and whether they really were of importance or not makes no difference to me; God is not impressed with the positions that men hold and he is not partial and recognizes no external distinctions.”

One more time, remembering that Paul was referring to apostles ranked with the greatest and most spiritually gifted leaders the church has ever known:

    “ . . .  as far as their reputed leaders were concerned (I neither know nor care what their exact position was: God is not impressed with a man’s office) . . . ”

And what of the great apostle himself? Paul reminded the Corinthians that he preached Jesus as Lord and himself, not merely as Christ’s servant but as their slave/servant. (2 Corinthians 4:5 – note also 1 Corinthians 3:4-7) Burn that into your brain.

Prominence in the church – even God-ordained prominence – does not imply prominence in the heart of God. Not even apostleship breaks this immutable rule.

Just as the life-styles of Jesus and John the Baptist differed enormously, (Matthew 3:4; 11:18-19) there should be a rich diversity within the body of Christ. Unfortunately, a warped view of holiness and/or submission often leads to drab conformity. In reality, this is carnality – the inability to love or appreciate anyone who is not a boring clone. Deodorized saints are the order of the day. Real saints get up hypocrites’ noses. To reach the many different people groups he encountered, Paul became “all things to all men” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). If Paul as an individual could contemplate this, imagine the breadth that should be evident within the body as a whole. This is possible only if we allow the Spirit to nurture our individuality.

Imagine an orchestra in which every instrument is identical and produces the same notes at the same time. Yes, there would be a bland equality eliminating the senseless temptation to feel inferior, but not only would the result sound pathetic, there would be no point in having most of the instruments. That sort of ‘equality’ would devalue everyone. Rather than be upset that all of us are different and assigned different roles, this is precisely what we should delight in, because it makes each of us indispensable.

God wants harmony. His evil enemy, the god of this world, wants rivalry. Which God do we serve?

(10) Love: the joyous antidote to envy

Consider Paul languishing in prison. He must have felt as frustrated as an injured sports star forced to try to know the progress of a critical game from a hospital bed instead of playing. Not only were others getting all the glory, some were using it as an opportunity to add to Paul’s anguish and to further their own agenda (Philippians 1:15-16). Nevertheless, as Paul penned his letter from prison to the Philippians, he not only urged his readers to rejoice, he turned his own sorrow into joy by rejoicing that his rivals were helping to spread the gospel (Philippians 1:18).

Incidentally, today we study what Paul wrote while incarcerated, and have no idea of even the names of those who at the time were getting all the glory.

An insidious addiction

Not only is envy needless, it soon becomes a debilitating addiction. It’s insatiable. Feed it, and its victim would feel momentary relief, followed by a craving for an even large dose; intensifying the downward spiral. It puts even God in a no-win situation. If he compassionately and wisely refuses to feed your addiction, you are likely to resent him for it. If he were to feed your addiction by giving you what you envy, you would be delighted for a while and then find something new to envy, and the ugly addiction would tighten its grip.

Once this addiction gets its claws around our necks, nothing can ever satisfying it. We would find ourselves continually envying others, even if we had more money, possessions, fame, health, power, abilities and spiritual gifts than anyone else on earth. There would always be someone whose house location, ability, sexual partner, or whatever we would covet.

Breaking an addiction is torturous. Initially, the journey to peace and fulfillment grows increasingly harder, rather than easier. Everything within, screams out for the very thing that is destroying us. Are you willing to undergo that torment for the One who was tortured for you? Will you choose to trust the love of the One who sacrifices his all for you? Will you cease lashing out at him, like a wounded beast attacking the person who alone truly cares and is able to help?

The Wise One does not respond to emotional blackmail. Any refusal of ours to believe in God’s love until we understand all his ways does not move God to rewrite the Bible. There is no alternative to faith. It remains the glue that holds together our relationship with God.

God loves you, and you are commanded to love him with everything you’ve got. Nowhere in the deal is there any command for God to relinquish his divinity and to so drastically limit himself (and his longing to give you the best) that everything he does is so intelligible to our puny minds that recognizing his love and goodness never requires faith on our part.

Lover of God or Lover of Trinkets?

Jesus declared that if anyone loves his father, mother, wife or children, his brothers and sisters or even his own life more than him, that person is unworthy of him (Matthew 10:37; Luke 14:26). This is not some startling revelation, but common sense. What woman deserves a superb husband who is utterly devoted to her, if she loves someone or some thing more than him? And Jesus is far superior in love and in every other way than any husband.

Does this Scripture mirror your heart?

    Psalm 27:4 One thing I have asked of the Lord, that I will seek after: that I may dwell in the Lord’s house all the days of my life, to see the Lord’s beauty, and to inquire in his temple.

Note how this verse begins. Is communing with God so much our highest priority that it’s as if it’s the only thing we ask – the only thing we want? Can we say with the psalmist, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants after you, God,” (Psalm 42:1)? Do we fulfill God’s most basic command, to love him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, or do we love – or perhaps I should say idolize – lesser things?

Even supernatural experiences are trivia compared with the privilege of delighting God by displaying raw faith and obedience without such props.

To paraphrase someone who genuinely knew God, “I consider everything else as trash . . . compared with the priceless privilege of knowing Christ and his power and of sharing in his suffering” (Philippians 3:8, 10). If that sentiment mystifies you, it indicates you are currently as ignorant as a little boy who cannot understand why anyone would ever want to kiss a girl. Keep seeking God, however, and you will discover why Paul fell so deeply in love with God that nothing else came close.

No matter what it is – honor, wisdom, supernatural power, spiritual gifts, happiness, peace, freedom, health, a full stomach, sexual fulfillment, an end to constant physical and emotional pain, or whatever – nothing comes anywhere near the matchless privilege of being able to share our hearts and lives 24/7 with the greatest, most amazing and most beautiful person in the universe, and to keep growing in our knowledge of him. He is the treasure that anyone with half a brain would eagerly trade everything for (c.f. Matthew 13:44-46).

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good,” pleads the psalmist (Psalm 34:8). Keep hungering and thirsting after him; seeking him with all your heart. The result will be astonishing.

Discovering True Love

Insufficient love devastates us. Our problem is never that God does not love us enough, but that we do not love enough. Many of us are so self-centered that we do not even know what true love is. Real love is about denying ourselves. It is driven by what we can give someone, not by what that person can give us. That’s how God loves us and it’s how he expects us to love. Our failure to love God the way he loves us, leaves us raw, confused and unfulfilled. In fact, it makes us dysfunctional and causes us to fall into delusion; plunging us into gloom that distorts our perception of everything.

One of the inevitable consequences of failing to understand real love is failing to understand – and hence to believe and even recognize – God ’s love for us. Put another way: how can we expect to see God’s love if we are too self-obsessed to see beyond ourselves?

Arrested by the very authorities who had Jesus crucified, the apostles were interrogated, beaten and, before finally released, ordered never again to preach the gospel – an order they were determined to keep on breaking. They left, bleeding and in pain, “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for Jesus’ name” (Acts 5:41). If that sort of love mystifies us, is it any wonder we find God’s love too mysterious to recognize?


I promised further reassurances in this webpage. I believe I have delivered. I cannot, however, make the ludicrous assertion that you will no longer need faith. Our Savior has ordained that faith is not just the foundation, but the cement holding together every brick in our relationship with God. If, after reading these two webpages and the many others I have about God’s love, you still find yourself almost continuously plagued by doubt, it’s not because you are an inferior Christian, it’s because you face a challenge that has the potential to increase your faith beyond the rest of us, just as someone continually wearied by heavy exercise will end up stronger than those who have it easy. To understand what is making this such a battle for you, please see Scrupulosity: When doubt Goes On and On and the pages it leads to.

As we draw this webpage to a close, let’s explore a couple of minor points mentioned earlier and see where they take us.

We mentioned a coach letting some take it easier because they have less athletic potential. Does not having what it takes to be a champion athlete make them inferior? In some other area they might be far superior to those who get all the accolades as an athlete. They might be brilliant at music, art, comedy, writing, parenting, business, surgery, golf, or whatever. Let’s avoid becoming so small-minded as to imagine only certain skills are of value. In physical strength, Samson might have been extraordinary, but in character he was pathetic. I might envy his physique but only a fool would want to be anything like him in other ways. Moreover, it would be atrociously wrong to imply that one must be outstanding in anything in order to be invaluable. Wouldn’t you be appalled at any parent who measured out love according to a child’s skillset? Isn’t God the perfect parent?

As I have written elsewhere, ‘success’ hinges entirely on the measure used. Genuine success – the synthetic varieties don’t last – is achieving what God expects of us. Only God can measure it. Don’t gauge hurdlers by how high they jump, or pole-vaulters by how fast they run. Judge archers by their accuracy but don’t apply this measure to javelin throwers. If that seems obvious it’s because sport lacks the mystery of real life. In the game of life spectators speculate, the Judge judges.

Remember me calling Judgement Day, the Great Reversal? Ponder the implications.

Inspirational Examples

After almost completing this webpage, I came across a video of evangelist Nick Vujicic. I was blown away. With much humor and boldness and a powerful, captivating and loving personality, Nick goes all over the world, even to highly restricted countries, preaching the Gospel. Despite the danger in some of these countries, he says no one would hand-cuff him. The audience burst into laughter, as they had done over and over throughout his message. They see the joke: he has no hands. In fact, he has no arms, nor legs, and his humor and beaming smile had made everyone totally relaxed about it.

The video left me convinced that to be so dynamic and positive today, Nick must have had an idyllic upbringing. I had to go to another source to learn that when he was born, no one celebrated his birth. Everyone saw his existence as a tragedy. At times, school was so bad that he was close to suicide. He ended up with a family of his own, but despite his longings, he had earlier wondered what’s the point of marrying someone with whom he could not even hold hands, or of having children he could never hold.

Then I was staggered to discover equally impressive videos of two other Christians who were likewise born with missing limbs. I do not know if they have ever met each other, but all are so filled with joy, confidence and a can-do attitude, mixed with a fervent devotion to God, that any initial feeling of pity one might have for them quickly dissolves into admiration, and even a temptation to envy them.

For Amy Brooks, having no hands or legs and only stumps for arms, turns feeding oneself and other tasks we think nothing of, into mindboggling achievements she somehow manages. She has chosen as her life verse, “I will give thanks to you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful. My soul knows that very well” (Psalm 139:14). Not only was Amy born devoid of limbs, she was later in a car hit by a drunk driver. Having no legs and only a lap seat belt, she suffered such injuries that she now battles daily pain. This is the woman who says that God spoils her.

Jen Bricker-Bauer, like so many women, loves shoes. She has no feet, but instead of wallowing in self-pity or envy, she delights in helping friends go shoe shopping. Abandoned at birth, Jen has chosen to be so content with not having what almost everyone takes for granted, that she insists that if she had the choice of being born whole, she would choose the way she is because it empowers her to touch people's lives. The other two people say similar things.

If my body were like any of these three, I think I would be drowning in self-pity. With strangers gawking at me, or recoiling from me, something as minor as being seen in public might take more courage than I could muster. Could I overcome the temptation to be bitter? There is nothing so ugly as a bitter person. Their gratitude to God, however, transforms these heroes. It floods them with such beauty that people are instinctively drawn to them, even before they discover that it is their thankfulness to God that makes them so attractive. Such an attitude can transform you, too, and make you one of heaven’s heroes.

From the almost bottomless pool of examples, I’ll draw just one more. Due to what at the time was believed to be a doctor’s error, baby Fanny was permanently blinded. Try counting all the things she was forever deprived of, and all the difficulties that act inflicted on her. At age nine, she wrote:

    O what a happy soul am I,
    Although I cannot see,
    I am resolved that in this world
    Contented I will be.
    How many blessings I enjoy
    That other people don’t.
    To weep and sigh because I’m blind,
    I cannot, and I won’t.

She began memorizing entire books of the Bible. By the age of fifteen, she had committed to memory well over ten thousand verses (over a quarter of a million words).

In addition to teaching and Rescue Mission work, Fanny Crosby ended up writing over 8,000 Christian songs exalting God, many of which profoundly touched generations of people around the world; lifting their spirits and drawing them closer to the God she loved. ‘To God be the Glory’ and ‘Blessed Assurance’ are but two examples. Just the number of her songs that have been printed soars beyond a hundred million copies. Calculate the number of people who ever sang, or listened to, a song of hers, multiplied by all the times many did it throughout their lives, and the total would be mind boggling.

“If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow I would not accept it,” she said. Fanny worried that seeing “beautiful and interesting things” might have distracted her from singing God’s praises.

There is no one so blind as those who refuse to see the goodness of God. Nothing devastates like self-pity and envy; nothing heals, like thankfulness and selfless love. Which will you choose?

    Curse and be worse;
    Bless and be blessed.
    Hate your Maker and be razed;
    Praise him and be raised.
    Adore him and soar with him,
    Or act like a clown and go down and down.
    Be hell-bent or heaven-sent;
    Bitter stench or heaven’s scent.
    It’s you who choose to win or lose.
    Resent and be sent down and down:
    It’s you who choose to drown in booze;
    To live in shame or praise the name.
    Win boos or applause: the choice is yours.
    So soar with him who bore your sin.
    Be one with him who won for you.

Youtube videos referred to above:

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Most of the above is adapted extract from my webpage Signs of God’s Approval. Parts, however, are adapted from portions of my book Waiting for your Ministry.

Not to be sold. © Copyright, 2021 Grantley Morris. Not to be copied in whole or in part without citing this entire paragraph. Many more compassionate, inspiring, sometimes hilarious writings by Grantley Morris available free at the following internet site www.net-burst.net Freely you have received, freely give.


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