Who can stand before jealousy? - Geneva College, a Christian College in Pennsylvania (PA)

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Biblical Wisdom
September 4, 2019

Who can stand before jealousy?

by Dr. Bill Edgar, former chair of the Geneva College Board of Trustees, former Geneva College President and longtime pastor in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPNCA)

Proverbs 27:4 – Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?

I heard recently of a Seminary professor’s warning to his students: “It is not the successful retired pastor in your church whom you need to fear. He wants you to succeed. It is the pastor who failed you need to watch out for.” When a man who has failed at your job sees Dame Success looking favorably on you, after scorning him, jealousy may possess him and make an enemy. Likewise, before you mess with someone else’s wife, remember jealousy, Shakespeare’s green-eyed monster (Othello, Acts 3, Scene 3, 165-171). “He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself. He will get wounds and dishonor, and his disgrace will not be wiped away. For jealousy makes a man furious, and he will not spare when he takes revenge (Proverbs 6:32-34).” Who can stand before jealousy?

Wrath can be cruel and anger overwhelming. Indeed, they may sweep all before them to instant destruction, like a tsunami hitting the coastlands. “The wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1:20).” Nevertheless, anger usually passes quickly, just as the waters of a tsunami swiftly retreat to the ocean after wreaking destruction. Those who survive its sudden onslaught will live, just as the person angry with you today may well become your friend tomorrow. Another difference: unlike jealousy, anger rarely hides itself. Instead it flares up loudly, so that you know you need to watch out. Jealousy, however, like its cousin envy, can hide and last for years, plotting and scheming, a silent assassin. It is an enemy often undetected until ready to strike, with weapons subtle as whispered slander or violent as murder.

Knowing the danger of jealousy, a wise person will take care not to provoke it. In particular, he will steer clear of stealing friends or wives or husbands from others. If he is successful in work or friendship, he will be alert to the possibility of envy directed at him. Anger will abate. A gift can turn it aside (Proverbs 21:14). But gifts will not pacify jealousy. The man whose wife you have seduced, or whose wife has seduced you, that man “will accept no compensation; he will refuse though you multiply gifts (Proverbs 6:35).”

The young and naïve quickly detect anger, but they may be oblivious to jealousy. Older and more experienced people should warn them about jealousy, what provokes it, how it operates, how to avoid it, and how dangerous and lasting it can be. That warning is the purpose of this proverb: you already know all about the dangers of anger, but watch out for jealousy. Who can stand before it?

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Photo by Ali Marel on Unsplash