Fighting Our Jealousy By Focusing On Jesus—John 3:22-30

20150823FBCPM & 20150903FBCTH

Levi Durfey




Jealousy. Itʼs been around since Adam and Eve. In fact, when Adam came home each night, Eve used to count his ribs. 


Why should we be concerned about jealousy? Because jealousy (and it’s twin, envy) are dangerous, as an ancient Greek legend illustrates:


It seems a young Greek athlete ran in a race and placed second. In honor of the winner his village erected a large statue in the town square. 


Envy and jealousy attacked the runner who came in second to the degree that he made plans to destroy the statue. Each night, under cover of darkness, he went out and chipped away at the foundation of the statue, expecting it to fall on its own some day. 


One night, however, he chipped too much. The statue’s weakened base began to crack until it popped. The huge marble statue came down upon the disgruntled athlete. He died under the crushing weight of the one he had come to hate.


The truth is he died long before the statue fell on him. In giving up his heart to envy and jealousy he had ceased to live for himself. He became a slave to the giant of jealousy. His heart had become a picture of the Greek word “envy,” which means “to boil within.” (Jeremiah, 118)


What do we get jealous about as Christians?


  • We might get jealous when another church has more attendance or more kids at their youth program. 
  • We might get jealous when someone else is elected deaconess or deacon and weʼre not. 
  • We might get jealous when someone else is more liked than we are.
  • We might get jealous when someone else intrudes into our ministry. 


I could say more, but you see the point: every church is a fertile field where the weed of jealousy can grow. 


Weʼll see it happen in our passage and weʼll see the way to kill jealousy in our church and in our lives.


Before we do, it might be helpful to distinguish between jealousy and envy—they are very much related, in fact, they’re twins, but they are also different. How are they different? One explanation I found said:


To envy is to want something which belongs to another person. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house, his wife or his servant, his ox or donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” 


In contrast, jealousy is the fear that something which we possess will be taken away by another person. (Collins)


But another person said:


(1) Jealousy is what makes us act in a certain way.

(2) Envy is what we may passively feel. (Kendall, 360)




The Jealous Disciples Of John The Baptist


After his own baptism by John the Baptist, Jesus began his ministry. His disciples were baptizing a short distance away from where John the Baptist was baptizing (see John 4:1-2). 


John 3:22 After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized. 

John 3:23 And John also was baptizing in AEnon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized. 

John 3:24 For John was not yet cast into prison. 

John 3:25 Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying. 


It’s kind of difficult to make out exactly what is going on here because there aren’t many details of the conversation given in the text. The word “purifying” refers to ceremonial washings that the Jews practiced. Possibly what is happening is that the Jews were asking the disciples of John how the baptism related to the ceremonial washings.


The general gist of the matter is that some Jews came to John’s disciples and wondered, “Hey there, we’ve noticed that there are two of you guys baptizing. Which of the baptisms are better?” 


So John’s disciples come to John with a concern—notice their jealous tone.


John 3:26 And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him. 


Apparently, whatever was said between the Jews and Johnʼs disciples triggered jealousy in his disciples.They approach their teacher and point out that his baptizing business has been hurt by Jesusʼ baptizing—“…all men come to him…” That’s jealousy—fearing someone taking something away from you.


Other Jealous People In The Bible


This isn’t the only time we see jealousy in the Bible. Can you name some “jealousy” stories that are found in the Bible?


  • Cain killed Abel because he was jealous that God accepted his sacrifice. He feared Abel having all of God’s attention.
  • Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him because of the attention his father gave to him (especially that coat of many colors).
  • The elder brother was jealous of the prodigal son because the father killed for him the fatted calf.


We find another example in 1 Samuel 18. This takes place during the reign of King Saul, after young David the shepherd killed Goliath. Saul placed David in charge of the army, or at least part of it. 


5 And David went out whithersoever Saul sent him, and behaved himself wisely: and Saul set him over the men of war, and he was accepted in the sight of all the people, and also in the sight of Saul’s servants. 


6 And it came to pass as they came, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women came out of all cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet king Saul, with tabrets, with joy, and with instruments of musick. 7 And the women answered one another as they played, and said, 


Saul hath slain his thousands, 

And David his ten thousands. 


8 And Saul was very wroth, and the saying displeased him; and he said, They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands: and what can he have more but the kingdom? 9 And Saul eyed David from that day and forward. 


10 And it came to pass on the morrow, that the evil spirit from God came upon Saul [‘evil’ here is not a moral term, but simply describing the intensity of God’s discipline on Saul—i.e., it wasn’t fun!], and he prophesied in the midst of the house: and David played with his hand, as at other times: and there was a javelin in Saul’s hand. 11 And Saul cast the javelin; for he said, I will smite David even to the wall with it. And David avoided out of his presence twice. 12 And Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with him, and was departed from Saul. (1 Samuel 18:5–12)


Why was Saul jealous of David? Because David was more popular than he was. His pride was wounded. 


What did Saul’s jealousy cause him to do? To try and kill David. Christians may not try to kill another Christian, but they do often try to destroy them with gossip or talking behind their back.


I also noted the presence of fear (verse 12) in Saul. Jealousy stems from pride, but also fear. 


We fear that we will be overshadowed, that our efforts will be forgotten, and so forth. 


Maybe they will forget and take what we did for granted (that’s the nature of this life), but does it really matter if we are living an eternal life with Christ?




Jealousy in the church is always a dangerous and detrimental and destructive force. Jealousy rips marriages apart and it wrecks ministries. It tears through friendships like fire through a forest—it may take years, if ever, for those friendships to be reconciled.


Jealousy causes us to have feelings of hurt toward one another. David Jeremiah put it this way:


Whereas Scripture says that we are to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep, the jealous person does the opposite. He rejoices when others weep, and weeps when others rejoice. (118)


There’s an old story about…


Two shopkeepers [who] were bitter rivals. Their stores were directly across the street from each other, and they would spend each day keeping track of each other’s business. If one got a customer, he would smile in triumph at his rival. 


One night an angel appeared to one of the shopkeepers in a dream and said, “I will give you anything you ask, but whatever you receive, your competitor will receive twice as much. Would you be rich? You can be very rich, but he will be twice as wealthy. Do you wish to live a long and healthy life? You can, but his life will be longer and healthier. 


What is your desire? ” The man frowned, thought for a moment, and then said, “Here is my request: Strike me blind in one eye!” 


One sign of jealousy is when it’s easier to show sympathy and “weep with those who weep” than it is to exhibit joy and “rejoice with those who rejoice. ” (Thomas Lindberg, Galaxie)


Who is it in the church or the community that you are jealous of? Who is it that, when something good happens to them, you can’t rejoice?




Why is it so important for us to not be jealous? First, it’s a sin, and an offense against God. All Christians should want to get rid of our sin.


But second, jealousy, like many other sins, hurts ourselves as well as other people:


Dwight L. Moody once told the fable of an eagle who was envious of another that could fly better than he could. One day the bird saw a sportsman with a bow and arrow and said to him, “I wish you would bring down that eagle up there.” The man said he would if he had some feathers for his arrow. 


So the jealous eagle pulled one out of his wing. The arrow was shot, but it didn’t quite reach the rival bird because he was flying too high. The first eagle pulled out another feather, then another–until he had lost so many that he himself couldn’t fly. 


The archer took advantage of the situation, turned around, and killed the helpless bird. Moody made this application: if you are envious of others, the one you will hurt the most by your actions will be yourself. (Sermon Illustrations)


Jealousy and fire have a lot in common. They both can smolder for long periods of time. They can flare up and destroy everything around them. They can burn until they destroy themselves.


How does one put out a fire? Well, you could put water or dirt on it. You could separate out the logs so that they can’t fuel each other. You could put a metal can over the fire and deprive it of oxygen.


What can put out the fires of envy and jealousy? We can find in this passage several ways to extinguish jealousy.


1) Consider What You Have To Be A Gift


John 3:27 John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. 

John was saying: “Look, I didnʼt create this ministry…God gave it to me.” 


Sometimes pastors, choir directors, deacons, deaconesses, Sunday school teachers get involved in a ministry, they see it blossom and grow, then find it difficult to let go or even let someone else in. If they donʼt say it, theyʼre at least thinking it: “This is MY ministry.”


Frankly, this can happen with any member of a church. If you’ve been at a church awhile, you can start to feel like it’s owned by you. You’ve invested your time and energy into it, and when new people start investing their time and energy into it, you can get jealous—“It’s MY church.”


We need to remember what James says: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above…” (James 1:17).


Those gifts from above include our salvation…saved by grace…not of ourselves, it is the gift of God. 


Those gifts from God include our families, “Except that the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it…children are a heritage of the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is his reward” (Psalm 127:1,3). 


Those gifts from above also include our spiritual gifts and ministries:


10 As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:10–11)


Everything we have is from God. And if we are spiritually minded, weʼll realize that we donʼt deserve any of those gifts. We have them only because of the grace and love of our heavenly Father. 


I donʼt deserve my wife, my kids, my possessions, or my ministry…but God gave them to me. And when I remember that, and Iʼm grateful for what I got, then itʼs hard to be jealous of someone who has more. 


The fire of jealousy is smothered when you think: this ministry, this church, this relationship or whatever, isnʼt mine, itʼs a gift from God.


2) Rejoice In Your Position In The Plan


John 3:28 [John the Baptist continues] Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. 

John 3:29 He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. 

John 3:30 He must increase, but I must decrease.


John is basically saying, “Hey, look, the Best Man at a wedding isnʼt interested in running off with the bride. He is only interested in making it a happy wedding for the Groom (Jesus) and the Bride (the Church).”


I recall that my best man, Tom, entertained my mother and sisters who had driven 500 miles to a place where they knew no one. 


Another groomsman bought white dress socks for me the day of the wedding when I discovered that black socks and a white tux and shoes donʼt mix. 


The best man is joyful for the groom and bride, he isnʼt concerned with switching places with the groom.


Donʼt envy someone elseʼs position in the Church. Be content and be joyful in your own position, with your own gifts and talents. 


In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul compares the Church to the human body. He says that some people are like the eyes, some are like the hands, some are like the feet. 


Paul admits that some positions are more honorable or desirable than other positions. But, he says…


21 …the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. 22 Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: (1 Corinthians 12:21–22)


Just as the wedding would be tough without a best man working behind the scenes to buy socks for the groom, so the churchʼs mission glorifying Christ is tougher when the members of the body quarrel over position and forget to do their jobs. 


Hudson Taylor once spoke at a church in Melbourne, Australia. The moderator of the service introduced the missionary in eloquent and glowing terms. He told the large congregation all that Taylor had accomplished in China, and then presented him as “our illustrious guest.” 


Taylor stood quietly for a moment, and then opened his message by saying, “Dear friends, I am the little servant of an illustrious Master.”


Donʼt try to outshine Jesus! 


Let me ask you: as a believer, are you decreasing and letting Christ increase in your life? 


Do you struggle with boasting (whether out loud or in your heart) about your accomplishments? Or do you try to deflect the credit back to Christ?


Rejoice in your position in the plan, and put out the fire of jealousy and envy in your heart.




We live in a world that, more than ever, we are encouraged let our sinful natures run free—even the sin of jealousy.


I read about the “craziest names” people are giving to their kids now. Here are the top seven: Awesome, Savvy, Majestic, Wise, Handsome, Boss, Captain (Bowerman). 


You know, it’s hard enough to battle pride in our hearts, can you imagine how pride is going to make them jealous whenever someone else is more awesome, savvy, majestic, wise, or handsome? 


And how jealous will their future boss or military leader be when he has to call an employee, “Boss” or a lowly private, “Private Captain”?


Yes, it’s hard not to be jealous in this world. But we must seek to put out the fire of jealousy by remembering that all we have are gifts from God and what our place in God’s plan is.


Is there someone that you have hard feelings toward? Someone that you lie awake at night fuming over? There could be several reasons for those feelings, of course, but have you considered the possibility that you might be jealous or envious of them? 


Perhaps they do what you once did in the church or outside the church and you don’t think they could possibly do it as well as you did—whether it’s cleaning, teaching, singing, or parenting. 


Even the apostle Paul faced this temptation to be jealous. Certain other Christians were preaching Christ, but doing it for the wrong reasons. They put down Paul. Paul could have responded with a jealous rage:


15 Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: 16 The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: 17 But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. 18 What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. (Philippians 1:15–18)


What was Paul most concerned about? That Christ be preached. 


Notice that he didn’t just grudgingly say, “Oh, well, at least the gospel is preached.” What did he do instead? He rejoiced. 


As long as there was a faithful message being sent out (and he blasted those who didn’t do that), it didn’t matter to him what the motive of the people preaching were.


You see, Paul understood, as John the Baptist understood, that he was lesser and Jesus Christ was greater. 


Thatʼs the key to beating jealousy in the Christian life: you are lesser, I am lesser, Christ is greater.




Boice, James Montgomery. The Gospel of John: An Expositional Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005.


Bowerman, Mary. “10 Crazy Words People Are Naming Their Babies.” USA Today. Gannett, 18 Aug. 2015. Web. 18 Aug. 2015.


Collins, Gary, in Homemade, July, 1985. Qtd in Galaxie Software. 10,000 Sermon Illustrations. Biblical Studies Press, 2002.


Galaxie Software. 10,000 Sermon Illustrations. Biblical Studies Press, 2002.


Jeremiah, David. Facing the Giants in Your Life: Study Guide. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001.


Kendall, R. T. Understanding Theology, Volume Three. Ross-shire, Great Britain: Christian Focus, 2001.


“Sermon Illustrations.” Sermon Illustrations. Web. 20 Aug. 2015.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s