I've been thinking about jealousy lately. And I'm wondering if maybe jealousy has gotten a bad rap. I can remember in the early years of my relationship with my husband any time I was jealous it was viewed as a bad thing. And it's that bad rap that causes so many of us to be puzzled by the bible verse that says "Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God." (Exodus 34:14) Wait...God's name is jealous and he is jealous. Then how can jealousy be bad? I think it all has to do with the heart. What is at the root of jealousy we feel? Is it truly the jealousy mentioned in Exodus 34:14 or is it something else entirely?
When my motives are my own selfishness, like if I'm jealous because my neighbor drives a nicer car than I do, or the friend with the new engagement ring just trumped my great weekend story, or my coworker got the promotion that I wanted then I can be sure that I'm not feeling the same thing that the bible talks about in the verse above.
But there are also times when jealousy is the warning that things aren't as they should be. And I think that this is when I'm more in line with what God means when he says that his name is jealous. We were meant to have a certain order to our relationships. No one, aside from God, should come before my spouse. And so if the time and attention that is rightfully my spouse's is going to someone else, he would have the right to get jealous. It would be a holy jealousy just like what is mentioned in Exodus.
God can't be selfish, he can't be petty. He is to be honored and loved and cherished above all else. He knows when he's occupying a lower place in our lives and hearts and he is jealous. He knows that the best thing for us is when we put him first, so when we don't he's jealous. It's the outpouring of pure love, and that's the one time when jealousy can be a good thing.