by Kristen Glass Perez
The biblical narrative is full of examples of envy. From Sarah and Hagar to Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers, and the rivalry between Peter and “the disciple Jesus loved” (see John 20:2), envy is everywhere. There is also a surprising, direct admission of jealousy in the story of God and God’s people. When God speaks to Moses and gifts the people with the 10 commandments (Exodus 20:1–17), God instructs the people to have no other gods. As it turns out, God has a reason for this. God says: “I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:5). Wow—even God admits to being jealous!
As people created in God’s own image, we must come to know and accept that jealousy and envy are a part of our nature. But what are we to do with that? Well, we might take heart. God—who loves us so much that God became one of us in Jesus—understands and knows what it means to be jealous. God is not a God who expects us to not be who we are. We are God’s own, and God’s jealousy reminds us to remain focused on God and not on other things. Here is a moment of holy self-revelation—we have a God who tells us up front what to expect about God’s own nature. What a powerful model of self-disclosure for our own lives: to know and name those things that cause us to be jealous.
In our 24/7, digital, online and social media hyper-connected day-to-day lives, it is so easy to be envious. I know that my day will regularly bring me into spaces with good things and life-giving relationships, but there may also be things that cause me to feel sad, angry and jealous. To quote that great poet of our time, Taylor Swift, sometimes we have to acknowledge that “haters are going to hate” (Taylor Swift, “Shake it Off,” 1989) and, more importantly, sometimes we will be the haters.
To put it another way, I can never reach Easter Sunday without the experience of being stuck at the foot of the cross on Good Friday. Left to my own devices, I would always be there, dwelling in envy and ripping posters off my wall. Thankfully, my jealous Creator will not let me stay there. My jealous and envious God picks me up, offering me new ways of being in the world, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Rev. Kristen Glass Perez is Chaplain and Director of Vocational Exploration at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois.
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