They angered him with their high places; they aroused his jealousy with their idols. (Psalm 78:58)
Are You Jealous of Other Athletes’ Abilities? The title of this blog caught my attention. The writer recounted his time as a college freshman baseball player. The first day at the batting cages he met one of his new teammates. “He was a BIG dude! Huge arms, powerful swing. Intimidating guy!” The writer goes on to say that he watched him hit and he started thinking about how he wished he was as big as him, how he wished he could hit as many homeruns. “I started to get a bit jealous and think about how I may not be able to compete with him.” Fortunately, he was able to snap himself out of this negativity and he was able to recognize his own giftings. He was a completely different player. His game was hitting line drives, ground balls between the infielders; it involved hustle and quickness (traits his teammate might not have).
Jealousy amongst athletes may be natural, but it is not a positive trait and will bring no positive reward. I read another blog about a 14-year girl who was a phenomenal swimmer and she moved to another town. She was a hard worker and extremely humble, but rather than embracing her on the swim team her new teammates were consumed with jealousy and excluded her. Everyone knows that this type of jealousy is harmful and petty. In fact, as Christians we should know that such jealousy is sinful (James 3:14-15). But contrary to what the world might think and understand, there is a righteous jealousy.
There is a consistent message, particularly in the Old Testament, where our God is defined as a “jealous God”. The world uses this to mock God and mock Christians who follow this god. In fairness, if they are picturing the above examples, then their mocking is warranted. But God’s jealousy is very different – it is righteous. In Exodus 34:14 we read: 14 Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. In some Bible translations “jealous” reads “zealous”. These words have the same root and show God’s character which vigilantly guards that which is his. The Israelites were called “my people” yet they often strayed, and their hearts were divided as they pursued other idols. While we can never form adequate analogies, I do try to consider my marriage when I think of righteous jealousy. If I suddenly stopped showing emotional/physical affection to my wife, but I started flirting with other women and started putting my arms around them and speaking lovingly to them, my wife would have every reason to feel jealous (and ticked off with me); that would be a righteous jealousy. If the roles were reversed, I would be supremely jealous. Through an oath, my wife and I are one, and no one comes between us. But also, why would I possibly want to hurt someone I love in such a despicable way? My heart cannot be divided.
How much more does this apply with God? He created everything in our known and unknown universe. Despite being phenomenally powerful, he has sought us out personally. He knew us before he formed us in our mother’s womb (Jeremiah 1:5). He allowed his son to come to this earth to be mocked, beaten and killed (Luke 22:63-23:56). Why? So that we could spend eternity with him (John 3:16). Is your heart divided? Do you have any idols that push out God? It could be your spouse, girlfriends, boyfriends. For Christian Athletes, it could easily be your sport. Tim Keller in Gospel in Life asks: “what do you spend the majority of your free time thinking about?” This might reveal what your idols are. Is your heart divided?