Jealousy is a deadly sin. Why? It is one that we refuse to face. We might readily admit that we have a problem with anger, resentment, lust, and even pride. However, jealousy is the one we will not face. Therefore, it is a stealth sin, one that goes undetected, and because of this, it is one of the most deadly.
Since it remains hidden, it can disguise itself as a concern for others and even as various forms in spirituality. Moses’ siblings, Miriam and Aaron, spoke against Moses for marrying a Cushite (Ethiopian) woman. However, it seems that they were jealous. Instead of telling Moses, “We want the authority that you have; give us a share,” they charged Moses with hoarding the authority for himself:
· And they said, “Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” And the LORD heard it. (Numbers 12:2; ESV)
Instead of jealousy honestly saying, “I want this, because I am jealous,” it makes its claim based on an egalitarian principle, and these are not hard to find. After all, the Bible claims that we are all equally created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27), we all have been given precious gifts, and all the Israelites were equally the children of their God.
In essence, Miriam and Aaron were arguing:
· We are just as entitled as you are, Moses. God has also spoken through us, and so you have unrighteously hogged all the glory for yourself. The problem is not with us but with you!
Sometimes jealousy can even disguise itself in the form of a utopian vision for social change. Korah, a Levite, was not satisfied with the role that God had bestowed upon him and led a broadly-based revolution against Moses:
· And they rose up before Moses, with a number of the people of Israel, 250 chiefs of the congregation, chosen from the assembly, well-known men. They assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?” (Numbers 16:2-3)
Moses hadn’t exalted himself. It was God who had appointed Moses to this position after having prepared Moses for the job through 40 years of discouragement:
· Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth. (Numbers 12:3)
Moses required great humility to prepare him for the role God had given him. He would not be able to trust in his own opinions but in every word that would proceed from the mouth of God (Deut. 8:3). In contrast, jealousy is convinced that it is entitled to more. Korah and his band were convinced that they were entitled to more and therefore weren’t satisfied with God’s “daily bread.” They were also proud, but they disguised their pride and jealousy in a utopian vision for the entire Israelite nation: “For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them.”
The deceit of pride and jealousy are always wrapped in a veneer of the truth. It was true that all Israel was holy and that the LORD was among them. However, it was not true that Moses had “gone too far.” Nor was it true that there should be no role distinctions, as the revolution had insinuated.
While we are all created in the image of God, there is nothing in the Bible that would eliminate role or wealth distinctions. In fact, so many of the Bible’s teachings are predicated on role distinctions – parent/child, wife/husband, employer/employee, priest/commoner. Even the priests had been divided into three groups, each having its own responsibilities.
Certainly, Korah and team would not have been satisfied once they established their “workers’ paradise.” However, this is the ruse of jealousy, disguising itself in the robes of idealism. However, Moses saw through them:
· And Moses said to Korah, “Hear now, you sons of Levi: is it too small a thing for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself, to do service in the tabernacle of the LORD and to stand before the congregation to minister to them, and that he has brought you near him, and all your brothers the sons of Levi with you? And would you seek the priesthood also? Therefore it is against the LORD that you and all your company have gathered together.” (Numbers 16:8-11)
Korah and team should have known better that they weren’t merely revolting against Moses but against God Himself. However, sin is blinding, especially jealousy. It convinces us that we are totally justified, even in rebelling. The fault is always with the other person, as Scripture repeatedly warns:
· All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the spirit. (Proverbs 16:2)
However, sin is so powerful and deceptive that, once given room, it will not allow us to hear the voice of reason and repent. Therefore, in response to Moses’ chilling revelation that they were sinning against God, the rebels merely stiffened their neck and rationalized their rebellion by blaming Moses for their rebellion:
· “Is it a small thing that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, that you must also make yourself a prince over us? Moreover, you have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, nor given us inheritance of fields and vineyards. Will you put out the eyes of these men?” (Numbers 16:13-14)
According to Korah and his crowd, Moses was at fault. How? Because he hadn’t made good on his promise to Israel! Moses hadn’t yet brought Israel “into a land flowing with milk and honey.” They had conveniently forgotten about Israel’s rebellion against God at Kadesh Barnea. This was why Israel now had to wonder in the desert for 40 years. However, the rebels found it easier to blame Moses – the 1% -- for their problems.
However, Moses had warned them that, ultimately, their rebellion was against God. However, they did not have ears to hear. Their sin had hardened them. They should have been terrified by the prospect that they were in rebellion against God, but they weren’t and repentance had no place in their thinking.
Even after God opened the ground to consume the leadership, and their followers fled in terror:
· On the next day all the congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and against Aaron, saying, “You have killed the people of the LORD.” (Numbers 16:41)
How is it that after seeing God’s terrifying judgment on their esteemed leaders, the people of Israel were still so infected with confidence in the “righteousness” of their rebellion that they would still accuse Moses and Aaron of doing wrong?
Entrenched, unconfessed sin causes us to believe in the “righteousness” of our cause, even in the face of overwhelming evidence against it. They too had become infected with egalitarian jealousy against Moses and Aaron. They still felt entitled to share in Moses “glory.”
Seeing the power of sin and jealousy, we must practice humility and vigilance. Lord, grant us this vigilance – the hatred of darkness and the love of your light.