For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. Deuteronomy 4:24
I generally think of jealousy as a destructive emotion. I may be inappropriately jealous of a friend’s car or boat. At the gym, I may be jealous of those younger, faster and stronger than me. At church or work, I may engage in petty jealousy of those who receive recognition when I do not.
In today’s passage though, God said that He is a jealous God, demanding that we follow Him above all. He created us to live in right relation to Him and the only right relation is that we place Him above everything in our lives. When we pursue anything before God, we make that thing our god, creating an idol. God loves us and desires that we love Him in return. This is good jealousy.
The best analogy to me, of a good jealousy is that of my marriage. In my marriage, my wife has specific expectations that I will maintain the integrity of the relationship. Anything – other than God – that I put above my wife, pursuing it to her injury, is wrong. She is right to be jealous of my affections as our marriage must be defined by certain boundaries. This again, is good jealousy.
In my drug addiction, I pursued something above God and my marriage, profoundly damaging both relationships. Refusing to consider God’s will or the effect of my actions on my wife, I did what I wanted, and I embraced destruction.
I would love to say that my selfish, idolatrous behavior ended when I found sobriety. Maintaining right relationships though, requires ongoing vigilance. I’m afraid, at times, I still put my own selfish desires above those relationships which matter most. I still cause injury and distance myself from those I love when I pursue my own destructive appetites.
God said it must not be this way. If we want to live in right relationship with Him and those we love, we must ruthlessly sever our ties to anything that damages those relationships. Loving God and family as we are meant to is fulfilling a good jealousy.