There’s a particular scene from one of my favorite movies, Mary Poppins, when Julie Andrews measures herself with a unique tape measure and proclaims, “Mary Poppins—practically perfect in every way.” Her statement wasn’t far from the truth, either. Mary Poppins seems to have life all the way together. She is poised, loving, disciplined and wise, and she has an incredible bag of goodies that’s clutch in nearly every situation. Although Mary Poppins is one of a kind, she is not perfect. Close, perhaps, but then again, she is a fictitious character from a movie.
When classifying someone or something as perfect, only one fits the bill—our Lord and Savior. His character is flawless. He is loving, gracious and virtuous. When describing our Lord, He is truly perfect in every way. Strangely, however, people commonly say we serve a jealous God.
If God is perfect, how is He also considered jealous? Wouldn’t that mean He is no longer above reproach?
Well, the truth is, our God is a jealous God.
However, there is a difference between human jealousy and God’s feeling of jealousy.
Humans feel jealous, and this feeling is commonly associated with selfishness, envy, comparison and distrust. This intense feeling is rooted in sinfulness. For example, sinful jealousy is when a husband is jealous of his wife because she recently won an award at work or some of her clients are men. This type of jealousy mirrors insecurity and selfishness, essentially going against the holy vows he once committed to his wife.
God’s jealousy, on the other hand, is not rooted in greed or envy, nor is it plagued with insecurity. Instead, God’s jealousy can be understood as an intense passion for the consecration of His name and word. As the utmost holy being, deserving of glory and praise, He does not want His children to relegate His position or place anything or anyone above Him.
“I am the Lord: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images” (Isaiah 42:8).
Needless to say, God is not looking down on you and pouting or feeling rage and envy because you’re having fun with your friends, enjoying a vacation, or experiencing success in life. Instead, God would like us to uphold His grace and name with devotion and prayer. His jealousy comes into play when we no longer honor His name and, instead, put other people, places, and things in a higher position of glory.
God wants our relationship with Him to come first, above anyone or anything. He wants our time and attention. He does not want to compete with worldly possessions, either. As we devote more time to God, our relationship with Him strengthens as a result. Even better, we demonstrate to Him that our spirituality is a top priority, above anything else that may require our time. While God created all things, He does not want to take a backseat to money or things. He trusts us to be financially wise and steer clear of pride, greed and selfishness, which are often rooted in a desire for worldly possessions.
God’s passion for our lives and relationship with Him is rooted in love. His jealousy is not on account of fleshly feelings or earthly interests. Instead, He wants to propel us into a better spiritual life where we no longer seek the life we envision but a life rooted in Jesus Christ. So, yes, our God is a jealous God, yet His jealousy is a profound concern and care for our spirit, that we may avoid worldly consumption, chaos and greed.