Discontentment and Jealousy: Our Unspoken Sin

by: Katie Elliott

A member at Pennington Park Church

There are many sins I am quick to confess and repent from. Pride, anger, lack of love, impatience, idolatry, even discontentment are all frequent confessions of mine in prayer and to my small group. Jealousy isn’t a sin I like to readily admit. What is it about jealousy that is different from some other sins to divulge? Pride seems pretty obvious to me. I (pridefully) share about my sin of pride so that others know I’m self-aware. At least if I know I’m prideful, that’s better than being prideful and not admitting it. Right? (Wrong. Oh the mental hoops we jump through to justify sin.)

Some sins are easy to admit because they primarily involve myself. However, jealousy automatically involves someone else. The presence of jealousy indicates there is someone who has something I desire. I’m fine with struggling with my own sin and admitting that to others, but saying out loud that I’m jealous of them is a lot harder. And honestly, saying it out loud increases the jealousy because now not only do they have something I don’t, I’m allowing that to draw me into sin.

Additionally, jealousy feels like a sin I can never get to the bottom of. For years my husband and I have tried to conceive and for just as many years, I have been jealous of others who do so with ease. I hate being jealous! Interactions with my pregnant friends is infected with sin when it should be filled with rejoicing! Even when I can admit that jealousy is there, what’s the solution? What are the practical ways to fight jealousy? Be happy for others? Submit my thoughts to God? Count my blessings? I’ve tried just about every one of these through the years; they don’t get to the core of the problem.

Until just recently when I read this blog post about jealousy I had never connected jealousy to discontentment. I think it’s because, first, I’ve never wanted to admit that I was jealous. Secondly, I never want to admit that I am discontent in my own life. This essentially says to God, as Pastor Chris recently said, “You got this wrong.” I know God doesn’t make mistakes so I would never say he got it wrong that we cannot conceive. But I certainly live my life as if he did when my heart clings to jealous discontentment.

Happy in All Circumstances?

When I’m jealous of others I declare to them and to God that I want something and I’m unhappy I don’t have it. Paul says he has learned to be content in all circumstances. This has to mean that when Paul felt a need or a want and didn’t get it, but others did, he matured spiritually to a place where he could honestly say he wasn’t jealous of the others who did get it or have it.

This makes me think of my two-year-old daughter who is wrestling with big emotions when she doesn’t get her way and we’re trying to teach her to say “I don’t like that, but ok.” Oh how I need this same lesson from my heavenly Father! “I don’t like that God, but I trust you know what’s best!” This is only possible when circumstances are irrelevant. This is only possible when I let the truth that I have everything I need in Jesus permeate every situation in my life.

This is what Paul means when he says he has learned to be content in every circumstance. It’s not that he’s saying to go without family, or children, or groceries and be content. He’s saying we have real wants and they need to be filled, but we cannot be satisfied by the filling of those desires. We have already been satisfied in Jesus and that’s the secret. So whether or not I get the things I want, I am fully satisfied in Jesus. That automatically means I can’t be jealous of others! Letting the Holy Spirit develop contentment in my heart will cause me to rejoice with others, not jealously long for the thing they have that God has withheld from me.

My prayer someday soon is that I can say, like Paul, that I have learned to be content in every circumstance, and a natural reaction to that is the absence of jealousy in my life. Oh what a glorious day that will be!