The late Fulton Sheen once said “Jealousy is the tribute mediocrity pays to genius.”
And there is simply no other vice that destroys both parties as completely as jealousy. It cankers the soul of the one who experiences it and it reduces the object of jealousy to a forever unreachable “thing.” No wonder jealousy and envy occupy high places of dishonor among human weaknesses!
But what is the source of jealousy? It is nothing less than fear and pride in comparing one’s self to another. It is the notion that mere envy can “even” the scales of perceived injustice, or that awful notion of being treated “unfairly.” That last complaint is the tip off on so many occasions of the insidious trap of jealousy, and the reason the fathers of the faith warn against its soul destroying effects.
Listen to St. John Climacus – “Some people with a hot temper do not worry about it and ignore the remedies that would heal them. They forget, unfortunately, what is written:’ Surely anger kills the fool, and jealousy slays the simple,’ (Job 5:2).” – St. John Climacus
In today’s Gospel Lesson the Lord Jesus faces the jealousy and fear of His hometown. In Matthew 13:54-58 we are told of the Lord’s preaching and teaching in the area where He grew up.
“At that time, Jesus came to his own country, and taught the people in their synagogue so that they were astonished, and said, ‘Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all this?’ And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.’ And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.”
Notice that the wonderful teaching of the Lord didn’t lead these people to freedom of spirit or deeper devotion to God or even gratitude to God that one of their own had become such a mighty Source of wisdom. Their fear and envy turned the wonderful teachings of the Lord to scorn in their hearts because they were gripped by their own fear. But this fear and jealousy has terrible consequences: “And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.” (Matthew 13:58)
At it’s heart, jealousy and envy are rooted in a lack of faith – always. When I compare myself to another and are envious of their achievements, insights, or gifts, I subtly proclaim that I am afraid that my gifts and achievements aren’t good enough, I doubt the grace of God for my own life. And that doubt, that insecurity, that “unbelief” effectively blocks my ability to actually develop and grow my own insights and giftedness. I am frozen in my envy and jealousy and it consumes my own soul. St. John Chrysostom rightly observes “As a moth gnaws a garment, so does envy consume a man.”
Today, are you jealous of someone else? Does your heart ache with envy over someone else’s achievements, gifts, abilities, and insights? Stop! Recognize that the jealousy and envy are secondary emotions driven by root causes. Get to those root causes and you’ll see both the dead end that jealousy is and the path away from it’s quicksand-like trap toward rejoicing in God’s goodness to everyone and freeing your own giftedness to flourish in that place God has planted you! You weren’t meant to compare yourself to anyone other that Christ, so don’t!
P.S. Did you miss last night’s Faith Encouraged LIVE? I was honored to have some distinguished brother priest to join me in talking about our Orthodox Church response to the shifts in our American culture on marriage, and how our Faith empowers us to love everyone and remain faithful to Christ. Take the time to listen to the program and share it with others! Thanks and God bless.
Beautiful and edifying words on the negative passions of envy and jealousy. On my pilgrimage to Mt. Athos a few years ago, one beloved monk told me the greatest sin that monastics grapple with is jealousy over the spiritual gifts that brother monks possess.
As a cradle Orthodox (Antiochian), I am heartened by your “encouraging” homilies and prolific contributions to AFR; You are indefatigable, Father Barnabas. I pray God’s richest blessings for you, your family, and your parish. May He surround you with peace and joy and good health!