Friday, August 04, 2006

The Idolatry of Jealousy

So I've been struggling with some jealousy lately. I'm not going to go into all the details because while I think honesty is important, I don't think it's necessary to be completely transparent with the entire internet. But I do want to share some important lessons I'm learning through that jealousy.

Earlier this week I felt prompted to listen to one of C.J. Mahaney's more well-known messages, "Cravings and Conflict." I'd heard about it before but hadn't ever listened to it myself, so I found a site with free downloads and started it up. Can I just say that I love C.J. Mahaney? Anyway...

First of all, I highly encourage checking out the message, which is taken from James 4:1-2. His stick-with-you main points were: Conflict is worse than you think. It's simpler than you think. And resolving it is easier than you think. Excellent message. The core is that all conflict is caused by sinful cravings. All of it. You're in a conflict? That's revealing the cravings of your heart. You fight and quarrel because you don't have something that you want.

As I reflected on the message and applied it to my heart, I began to reflect on the situation that's prompting me to be jealous. I was amazed as once again, God began tying together all sorts of wisdom I've gleaned recently from this sermon and several other places to address the sin in my heart.

Basically, I realized that the reason I was jealous (a relational conflict, in a sense--though the other person is oblivious) was because I was craving--and feeling like I was not getting--this person's attention/approval/acceptance. Well, what's wrong with wanting someone to pay attention to you or accept you? Nothing, it would seem, unless you examine a little more closely. The truth is, when I was not getting what I wanted, I was becoming jealous and bitter--obviously sinful. And these sinful reactions were revealing a deeper, more serious truth.

My jealousy was saying, in effect, "I am not satisfied with all that God is and promises to be for me in Jesus" (a little Piper for ya there :) I was saying, "Christ is not enough to satisfy my soul; I cannot be truly joyful unless I have X." ("X" being, in this case, another person's attention/acceptance.) And in essence, this is idolatry.

Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? I felt pretty stupid when I said all this out loud to my husband after the Holy Spirit began to clarify it all in my mind and heart. How dumb does it sound to say, "I am worshipping so-and-so's attention and approval instead of worshipping God"? I'd rather just gloss over my sin and say, "I'm jealous" (which is hard enough and embarrassing to admit!).

But that's exactly my problem too much of the time: I like to minimize my sin. I like to pretend it's not really that big of a deal. I'm not a murderer, after all. I don't commit adultery or steal. I'm not so bad, right?

If my sin isn't so bad, I'm not really in desperate need of a Savior. For me to say my sin is no big deal is to say that Christ's sacrifice wasn't really necessary--and no statement could be more insulting to the One who died to provide the only way for me to be reconciled to a holy God. The truth is, my jealousy is serious--more serious than I realized. Jealousy was just the tip of an iceberg called idolatry: treasuring something or someone else in place of God. And it's so serious to Him that it called for a radical solution.

In his book When People are Big and God is Small, Ed Welch says over and over that we need to "need people less and love people more." As I began to identify the deeper roots of the sin in my heart, I realized how foolish my "needs" were. I don't "need" this person's attention--the King of Kings, the Sovereign Creator and Ruler of the universe hears my every cry and His eyes are on me at all times. I don't "need" this person's acceptance--the perfect, holy Son of God died on a cross to purchase my acceptance before God for all time.

Praise be to Him. Nothing in this world can ever truly satisfy. Earthly treasures will rust and burn and fade away. Even the most wonderful people will disappoint. But God will keep all His promises--in Him alone can I be satisfied and find abundant life.


Todd and Micah said...

Thanks Amy. I really needed to hear that. It's almost like I've been waiting for someone to tell me, because I really didn't understand "how" I was feeling. You're right; God is sufficent to supply all our needs, but we so easily lose sight of His promises. It not like I haven't been told that before. But it's one thing to be told and another to actually put it into practice.

Anonymous said...

This is great, Amy. Thanks, it's certainly been an area of struggle for me too.

Anonymous said...

Amy, thank you for this post! I think it's just what God has been trying to teach/tell me, too. =) Why do we always seem to doubt God's goodness, when He always does/gives us just what we _really_ need? =)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your transparency! It is amazing how the Holy Spirit reveals our mental attitude sins to us. The sin of jealousy is something that has sprung up in my life just recently too! But God shed His light upon it on a moonlight night.