What does it mean to be jealous? Sometimes you read of a jealous boyfriend or girlfriend. They are careful about their significant other; they don’t want anyone else to share in their relationship. Other times you hear of jealous siblings. They find joy in the failures of their brothers and sisters. Somehow, they feel as though they are lifted up when others fall. Surely, jealousy is a sin. We are reminded in Scripture to exhibit an attitude of gratefulness in contrast to jealousy.
At the core of jealousy is a forgetfulness of what we have been given. We focus on what others have received, neglecting our own gifts. We also use the word envy to describe such behavior. We speak of someone as “green with envy” when they are upset by the fortune of another. We have all felt this way at one time or another. Maybe it was a job promotion for a coworker or a successful test score for a sibling. We are unable to celebrate the good in their life because we are upset that we did not receive. When we harbor such feelings, we fail to be grateful for the gifts that God has given us.
In this week’s story, Joseph’s brothers relocate to Egypt in order to survive the famine. Significant grace is extended and spite of their previous failures. They had sold their brother into slavery; they did not deserve to be rescued. But in this story, they are given another chance to respond. Joseph blesses his brothers with new clothes. Again, they receive what they do not deserve. But they will be tested. Benjamin receives five new garments. As before, favoritism is given to one brother. How will be other brothers respond? Twenty years earlier, they responded with jealousy and sold the privileged brother into slavery. Joseph knows their tendency. He warns them,
(Genesis 45:24 NIV) . . . Don’t quarrel on the way!
It seems kind of crazy that this would be a possibility. They had been given far more than they deserved. Grace has been extended to them. Why would they quarrel? They should be celebrating. But when we stop and think about it, we have all reacted in this way at one time or another. Our tendency is to focus on what we do not have rather than what we have been given. Our tendency is to be jealous of our siblings, our coworkers, our neighbors. This story is a reminder to choose gratefulness over jealousy. It is a reminder that we have been given what we do not deserve. We have no reason to be jealous, to be envious.
As we delve into this week’s story, may we be reminded of our own propensity to focus on what others have received. May we be reminded of the tremendous grace that God has given each of us through Jesus Christ. And may this grace overpower our temptation to focus on what others have received.