We’ve often taught in our culture that jealousy is a negative thing, but what we need to consider is that jealousy is a protective emotion. It protects the priorities in our relationships. So when you stand at the altar and get married there is a built-in jealousy that God puts in you.
Exodus 34:14 says jealousy is an attribute of God: “Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”
The good kind of jealousy is not destructive or sinful. It is a Godly jealousy that protects our marriage.
How does it work? As we move from the marriage and honeymoon into the everyday function of life together, there is a natural jealousy in which spouses begin to identify where they belong in order of priority:
When it comes to priorities, I should be before your friends. I should be before your parents. I should come before your job, before your hobbies, even before our kids.
When a marriage is operating properly, there is no jealousy because we are prioritizing each other and nothing gets in the way of our affection for each other. But when something is taking one spouse away from the other, a legitimate jealousy kicks in.
I worked a lot when Karen and I first got married. My family started a new business and it required a lot of my time. When I was not working, I was playing golf. I golfed all the time, and before long Karen began to complain about it.
Her issue was not about golf, but about the time it was taking me away from her. On my priorities list, golf was coming in ahead of her.
There are four ways to prove your priorities. One way is through sacrifice. What will you give up for me? The second way is time. How much of your time do you give your spouse?
The third way to prove priorities is through energy. Energy is a limited commodity. If it’s given to one thing it’s taken away from something else. Energy I devote to golf can’t be reused for my spouse. The fourth way to prove priority is by attitude. Am I treating the time I spend with my spouse as a criminal sentence? Or as something that I truly enjoy?
As it turned out, I realized that I was giving time and energy to golf instead of Karen. I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my enjoyment of golf to spend time with Karen. When I did, I treated it like punishment.
I could tell Karen all day long how much I loved her above golf, but my actions proved otherwise. Eventually God convicted me of this, and I had to take a major step. I hung my golf clubs up. I told Karen I was going to stop golfing and I did…for several years.
That event changed our marriage. Karen’s jealousy—and God’s conviction—showed me that my priorities were out of balance.
Where are your priorities? Don’t answer that for yourself. To get the truth, you’ll need to ask your spouse.