We must acknowledge the pain we’ve caused, and cry out for holiness.

How Jealousy and Envy Hurt Relationships

by Adam Wittenberg
11/4/15 Christian Living

Relationships are complicated. They can be enjoyable or sometimes quite painful, and they have a funny way of bringing out the best—and the worst—in us.

We’ve all seen it—things are going well in a relationship until one person gets something the other wants, like a boyfriend or girlfriend. Suddenly the darts come out and words start to fly. What went wrong?

Then there are those relationships that seem to constantly demand attention. Perhaps it’s a situation where we want others to like us, and feel sinned against if someone doesn’t have time or give us what we feel we need. What’s driving this need deep inside?

The Bible says that jealousy and selfish ambition are two of the biggest destroyers of relationships. It actually calls them earthly and demonic wisdom.

“This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic,” the book of James says. “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing” (Jas. 3:15–16, NASB).

Most of us have hurt others, or been hurt, because of jealousy and selfishness. Much of our conflict, abuse, and rage, as well as sarcasm, accusation, and perverse speech, comes from these two heart attitudes, which the NKJV calls envy and self-seeking (Bob Sorge’s book Envy is a great resource on this topic).

These “quiet killers” are there whether we acknowledge them or not, and sometimes it’s God grace that they show up so we can confess and be cleansed. The Holy Spirit is working to purify believers, and we can cooperate with Him whenever we hurt someone, or are hurt, even if the other person is not a believer.

The book of James tells us to “not be arrogant and lie against the truth” if we have jealousy and selfish ambition in our hearts (Jas. 3:14). Confession brings freedom by speaking the truth to God, ourselves, and others about the source of the problem. As we identify with our own heart motives, we can pray for our enemies and ask God to move.

We must acknowledge the pain we’ve caused, and cry out for holiness. “Create in me a clean heart,” David prayed after his sin with Bathsheba, “and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Ps. 51:10).

Even when others hurt us, our reaction can reveal self-righteousness and pride that God wants to purge. If someone mistreats us, we can approach that person about their behavior (Mt. 18:15). We can also confess our own wrong behaviors that may have contributed to—or were in reaction to—the conflict. This may prompt a similar response in them, but even if it doesn’t, we can know that we are following Jesus’ command.

Our call is to walk in God’s wisdom from above, which “is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (Jas. 3:17–18).

God will purify our hearts and minds as we follow His Word. James is a great tool—five chapters that are filled with practical wisdom for relationships and everyday life.

Watch Mike Bickle teach on restoring wounded relationships from James 3:13–18 »


Adam Wittenberg


    A Detroit native who was raised in Vermont and Connecticut, Adam worked as a newspaper journalist until 2012, when he moved to Kansas City to complete the Intro to IHOPKC internship. Afterwards, he earned a four-year certificate in House of Prayer Leadership from IHOPU and is now on full-time staff in the Marketing department at IHOPKC. He also serves in the NightWatch (overnight prayer hours) and is active in evangelism. He, and his wife Stephany, have a vision to reach people everywhere with the good news of Jesus Christ.

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