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Posts Tagged ‘jealousy’

Art by Luba Lukova

Art by Luba Lukova

Rachel and Leah, coming from a culture in which the role of women was clearly defined, needed children to show their worth. It was their children that gave them place in their small world. And yet, Leah wanted that one other thing, that intangible thing called love.

Genesis 30:19-20
Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a sixth son. Then Leah said, “God has presented me with a precious gift. This time my husband will treat me with honor, because I have borne him six sons.”

Leah’s resources were few: she was not the beauty like her sister, she was the oldest and she was married by her father’s trickery. She was, if anything, an embarrassment. She had already born four sons and still, her husband favored Rachel. How could that be? Rachel was barren and yet Jacob loved her.

When Leah’s womb stopped bearing children, she must have been devastated. More than likely, Jacob limited his time wither her sexually as well. She had been more of a production machine. He appreciated the growth in his family and community, no doubt, but not for love. Even when the sisters gave him their maidservants, these arrangements were all about fruitfulness, not love. Jacob had been entranced by Rachel from the beginning. He was fixed on her and nothing Leah could do to change that. And yet she kept trying.

Leah is like so many young women today who mold themselves by the reflection they see in the eyes of men. Women often go to great extremes to create a picture of beauty they imagine men want to see. They craft their public personas to be appealing. They read magazines and books, take surveys and spend great amounts of money on surface improvements, to attract the male. Women do all they can to appear younger as long as possible since society has nurtured the idea that older women are no longer sexy or appealing. In the eyes of many men, women have two stages: young and seductive or motherly and caregiving.

How often are marriages destroyed by a man’s lust for someone younger, suppler, and carefree?

But I say only this. We cannot make any of them love us.

God commands us to love unconditionally. There is no promise of reciprocity. There is no promise of reward.

Some claim that it is most difficult to love our enemies. But I say, it is most difficult to love someone who has stopped loving us.

In this place, resentments are always at the edges of every conversation; disappointment waves like a flag for attention; togetherness feels like aloneness.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.Love never fails. [I Corinthians 13:4-8a]

God loved me in this way. God loved me before I loved back. God would not “make me” love. God loved. And over time, consistency and faithfulness won. Only, through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, can I love in this way. Only the Christ within can love like that.

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Painting by Titian, 16 Cent.

I’m pretty sure everything started out fairly normal for the brothers, Cain and Abel. Raised by the same parents, they got the same instruction, the same opportunities, the same attention; much like most siblings of today. So, what went wrong? And why is it a warning for me?

Jude 1:10-11a
Yet these people slander whatever they do not understand, and the very things they do understand by instinct—as irrational animals do—will destroy them. Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain . . .

Things must have started going downhill long before the big moment in Genesis 4:3-5, when both boys brought an offering to God, Cain (the eldest) from his farm produce and Abel from his herds. The produce offering was rejected while the animal offering was accepted. Cain thought his offering was fine, the way to go. Maybe it didn’t occur to him to find out what would be better, or that something “could” be better. Maybe Abel just lucked out when he brought a blood sacrifice. We’ll never know.

But what we do know is that the Cain/Abel dynamic was already in place and Cain, instead of changing up to another offering or trying another way, resented his brother’s good fortune. I doubt he took any time at all to analyze his situation or consider some alternatives. He “went with his gut” and confronted his brother. Sometimes, I think people assume that Abel was Mr. Goody-2-Shoes and had the inside track on offering styles of the day. But, what if Abel was doing a little victory dance in the end zone? I’m just sayin.’

But here’s the point. I must be more cautionary in my actions, more circumspect. I may “think” I know what is going on, but then again, I may not. How easy it is to over-react. The “Way of Cain” is thoughtless, emotional, and brash. Cain’s way burns bridges and changes lives forever. Even if there is forgiveness for Cain, the damage is done.

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That’s me still: acting like a mere mortal. Basic. Common. Plain. Simple. I’m working on the complicated stuff, but truth is truth and I’m still displaying mere mortal signs: jealousy and quarreling to name two.

I Corinthians 3:3
You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men [and women]?

Are there really people out there who don’t quarrel and behave jealously? Are they able to let go of what they want and allow the other person to have it? Are they able to let go of control? Are they able to state their opinion without an attitude, without demand, without guile? Can they trust unequivocally? Can they rejoice with those who have more, deserved or undeserved?

What is the opposite of a mere mortal? I assume it’s a saint? I’ve always had trouble with that label. Peppered throughout the New Testament, it’s a way of referring to the devoted and the believers. It’s more than just being “nice” or “kind” or “good.” A saint is a position of holiness. Some denominations set aside the “really” good ones and put their stories through all kinds of tests and research to qualify them, canonize them, and then broadcast them. And yet, Paul seems to use the word more blithely: believers as saints, followers as saints, beloved as saints, dead believers as saints.

It’s easier to find evidence that I’m a mere mortal than it is to find evidence that I’m a saint. Maybe today, eh? Maybe today I can declare it my “saint’s day.”

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Acts 5:17
Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy.

There’s nothing like momentum or success to bring out jealousy. If only I could say I know this by observation and persecution. Instead, I know jealousy personally–shameful, but true.

Jealousy starts out with envy. It starts out rather innocently perhaps, “oh look what they bought, have, can do” and “gee, I wish I could afford that, get that or do what they can do.” There is a longing that settles in, depending on the amount of energy given to it. And out of the longing, an obsession with others’ gains, and eventually, resentment finds a foothold and builds exponentially.

It’s bad enough that envy and jealousy are fed on a personal level: house, car, job, friends, wealth, clothes, youth, body, athletic abilities, artistic abilities, mastery, etc. But it becomes really sordid when it’s on an organization level, or worse, on a national or international level.

There are church pastors and church goers who become envious of other churches, either their attendance, their notoriety, their leadership, or even their music. There is something dreadfully wrong with this picture.

Isn’t that just the foot being envious of the hand… of course the hand can do more… it was designed that way. But where is the commitment to what the foot can do?

And so, the foot keeps dragging on the hand: “not so fast,” “that’s not how we’ve done it in the past,” “we can’t do it that way,” “we’ve never seen that before,” “who gave you the authority to do all that ‘hand’ stuff?” Sometimes, the “foot” worries that all that attention to the “hand” will suck up all the resources.

But is that how God works? Nope.

The more we give, the more we receive. We cannot outgive God… that goes for money, energy, ideas, activity, healing, blessings and even, success.

Today I ask forgiveness for my jealous and envious heart. Today, I am going to be the best foot I can be. Today, I will speak blessings to the momentum of others. Today, I stop holding others back. Today, I set the captive free. Today I become a a true cheerleader for others.

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