If jealousy is wrong, why is God jealous?

Post by Terence Jones

This is a question that many people have asked me and I thought I would share my solution to this dilemma with Scripture. No doubt most of us recall the Exodus 20:5 passage or similar passages that say, “for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God.” We also recall verses like 1 John 4:8 which says, “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” Yet, Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:4 says, “love is kind and is not jealous.” So what gives?

Well, there is a distinction between two types of jealousy in Scripture. The first is that of a humanly selfish jealousy that resembles the same heart of covetousness. For instance, in Genesis 37:11 we read: “His [Joseph’s] brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind.” Later in Acts 7:9 we see that the motivation behind why they sold their brother Joseph was due to an evil jealousy. “The patriarchs became jealous of Joseph and sold him into Egypt…” We see then that this kind of jealousy is devoid of kindness and meets the qualifications as to what Paul said love was not in 1 Corinthians 13:4.

The second type of jealousy is what Paul calls a “godly jealousy.” “For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin” (2 Corinthians 11:2). He speaks about his influence in presenting the church to Christ as a “pure virgin.” Obviously here we see anything but evil, selfish motives and instead a selfless heart for the betterment of the church body. This is the type of jealousy God declares He has for Israel in Exodus 20:5. This is the godly jealousy we see that a husband has for his wife; what Christ has for His bride.

A similar distinction is made in Scripture between “righteous judgment” and judgment. A “righteous judgment” is what Christ qualifies as selfless and for the betterment of another (cf. Matthew 7:5). This righteous judgment is also not made based on outward appearances (John 7:24). The alternative judgment, on the other hand, is of a selfish motivation to bring condemnation on another. It is this selfish motivated judgment we are commanded to abstain from in Matthew 7:1-2 and Luke 6:37.

(Quoted Scripture verses taken from the New American Standard Bible)

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