Determined to become the next big rock star, I bought a guitar. A Sears Silvertone, black with an orange starburst around the sound hole. My good friend Ken and I began practicing, and the first obstacle emerged. I couldn’t tune the blasted instrument! Oh, I knew the strings and frets to press to match the tones of adjacent strings, but my ear couldn’t hear the differences. Ken soon tired of tuning mine. OK, ditch the gitfiddle and just sing. Next obstacle. Being tone deaf doesn’t lend itself to singing virtuosity.
So my dream died, but a new force emerged. Jealousy for those who COULD play. Sitting around the pool at a summer camp, one girl entertained us with her guitar. Someone asked if she knew “Summer Song,” a popular tune back then, but she’d never played it. “Hum a few bars” was her response. She listened, tried two chords, and began playing like she wrote it for Chad and Jeremy. Honest, I could have seized the guitar and shattered it. Not fair at all, for her to have that talent when I had none.
That jealousy followed me. If a friend had a prettier girlfriend. If an enemy had a better grade. If a fellow pastor’s church grew faster. If…well, enough true confession. You get the idea. Maybe you even have some of that trait.
The apostle Paul gives us a tip on dealing with jealousy. End it. Imprisoned in Rome, unable to travel and tell about Jesus, Paul saw others, who envied him, take advantage of his absence to move into his role of prime time evangelist. Did he get upset or jealous? No, “the important thing is that Christ is preached. And because of that I rejoice” (Philippians 1:18).
I struggle to get that, but I’m working on it. Paul’s tip #1: care more about the kingdom than your recognition. Ouch. Tip #2, from 1 Cor. 3:6-7, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” The tip: realize you have a unique ministry, based on your spiritual gifts, heart, abilities, personality, experiences. No one can match that, you cannot be in competition with anyone. Our job: do our job. Leave the results to God.
Yeah, I know that sounds simplistic. It is. Simply, when jealousy of another’s gifts or success tries to sneak in, just remind yourself, “My job is to do my job. That’s it.”
Kick Starting the Discussion
What areas of spiritual jealousy most trouble you? What causes them to be so effective? What does it say about you? Have you been able to identify the types and areas of serving that most fit you? Are you doing them? Why or why not? And, importantly, how do you gain a sense that what you do for the kingdom is worth doing?