Jealousy is a very dangerous trait in a person. It seems to me a bit more serious than envy although it appears in the dictionary as envy’s synonym. I might be envious of someone’s good looks or good luck but, if I have a positive attitude about my own life, I don’t spend a lot of time comparing my lot with those of others. If jealousy takes hold of my life, however, it can lead to wishing harm to others – sometimes instigating events that will cause very bad things to happen.
In this morning’s lectionary reading from the first book of Samuel (1 SM 18:6-9, 19:1-7) we read about what seems like a childish attitude on the part of King Saul who is returning from a great victory over the Philistines. At his side was David, the hero that we know from his fame with his slingshot; he used it to slay the giant, Goliath. Everyone was singing and dancing as Saul and David approached. Unfortunately, the lyrics to their song (“Saul has slain his thousands and David his ten thousands”) planted the seed of jealousy in Saul and as it grew he feared that David would take over the kingship of Israel.
It’s always good to have a friend who can see such a situation honestly and speak the truth to the parties. In this case it was fortuitous because Jonathan was both Saul’s son and David’s friend. Well-placed to see the situation as it truly was, Jonathan convinced Saul (for the moment at least) that David had been a faithful servant, desiring nothing but the good of the nation and, in fact, had helped Saul very much by his deeds.
Two adages come to mind as I think about applications of this story for us. The French are known to say: Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose (The more things change, the more they stay the same) and in English we hear that it was ever thus. In our culture of today, there is so much pressure to get ahead, to be the best (which means the most successful or the richest), to climb to the top of the corporate ladder – as well as to be the best-dressed, most glamorous, the richest. We do well to cultivate the qualities of honesty, gratitude and the willingness to be satisfied with what we have and who we are. Oh yes, and don’t forget to thank God for good friends!