“For jealousy makes a man furious, and he will not spare when he takes revenge…Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?” (Proverbs 6:34; 27:4)
“Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.” (Ecclesiastes 4:4)
“I’m so jealous!” How often we hear this exclamation today with no regard for its condemning expose of the speaker’s heart. Jealousy and competition in a marriage may very well lead to revengeful anger (Proverbs 6:34). Proverbs 27:4 declares that jealousy is even worse than intense anger, perhaps because it is used to be more concealed than it is today. Ecclesiastes includes covetousness and envy in the collection of all worldly, temporal things that are like a puff of smoke, here for a second and gone forever.
In her book, The Envy of Eve, Melissa Kruger describes the pattern of coveting that is illustrated quite clearly in David’s sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11).* First, we look at that which we desire, as David gazed at Bathsheba (v. 2). Coveting kicks in when we continue to dwell on it, and then we take hold of that which we have seen and strongly desire, as David took Bathsheba to his bed (v. 4). Finally, we hide what we have done, knowing that it is wrong. David went to great lengths to get Uriah to sleep with his wife, Bathsheba so that her pregnancy would appear to be a result of their marital intimacy. However, when that failed (vs. 8-13), David hid his sin by having Uriah killed in battle (vs. 14-15). This was exactly what Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden, and what we do: see, covet, take, and hide.
There is another lesson we can learn from David’s sin with Bathsheba, that is instructive for spouses. David was in the wrong place at the wrong time, doing the wrong thing—all of which gave him the opportunity to see Bathsheba bathing on the rooftop. He should have been in battle, leading the army, in his role as Israel’s military King. Husbands and wives who travel for their work and military troops face the challenge of spending their free time in the right environment with the right people doing what is beneficial. Those who work are at home for extended periods may get bored and turn to the internet for pornography, which is very treacherous for the individual and the marriage. Any thing or person whose intimacy is desired more than we want God and our own spouses is a threat to the marriage. Jealousy for that thing or person robs our spouses of the love that we owe them.
Another danger to marriages is competition, one of consequences of original sin: “Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16) Our world is competitive—no one will argue about that. TV game shows and reality shows are all about competition, and we love them. Men and women compete full-time in the corporate world and politics. Sports is a multi-billion-dollar industry based on competition. But competition between spouses is exactly the opposite of the cooperation that God intended for man and women in marriage. It is vital that we channel our competitive drives for their best expression. Some members of my church get together once a week to play trivia at a local restaurant, which is a great way to enjoy friendly competition.
Do you know if you envy other marriages or spouses? Are you willing to consider that competition or envy may be hindering your relationship with your spouse? Wisdom compels us to examine ourselves at all times, not just when we experience conflicts.
* Kruger, Melissa, The Envy of Eve, Chapter 6, Christian Focus Publications, 2012