Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace. (James 3:13-18)
I think all of us are familiar with the story of Snow White. Towards the beginning of this classic fairytale, we discover that every day, Snow White’s stepmother, the queen, looks into her magic mirror and asks a question: “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?”
“You, my queen, are the fairest of all” is the mirror’s typical response. One day, however, when the queen asks her question, the mirror changes its answer: “Queen, you are full fair, ‘tis true, but Snow White is fairer than you.”
From that point on jealousy consumes the queen and her sole purpose in life is to kill Snow White. When the queen learns that her huntsman has failed to do her bidding -- to bring her the still-beating heart of the young princess -- she disguises herself as an old woman and tries to kill Snow White on her own, first with a corset to crush her ribs, then with a poisoned comb for her hair, and finally with a red-delicious-poisoned apple.
Of course, we all know how the story ends. At first it seems as if the queen comes out on top. Snow White dies and is laid to rest in a glass coffin. But then a prince comes along, and we learn that Snow White isn’t really dead; she wakes up and lives happily ever after.
So in the end, all the queen’s work was for nothing. Her jealousy was a waste of time. All it did was create disorder and chaos for everyone involved: Snow White, the huntsman, the dwarves, the prince, even the queen herself. So why did she do it? Why did the queen spend so much time obsessing over Snow White? Because she was jealous, and one of the effects of jealousy is that it eats away at us from the inside out. As we read in the Book of Proverbs, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones” (14:30).
In other words, adding jealousy to your life is like adding lemon juice to milk – it sours it, curdles it, and ruins it.
So what is the antidote when we are poisoned by jealousy? First off, we need to ask ourselves a very important question: “Why can’t I be happy when something good happens to someone else?” When my best friend from high school gets an expensive new car, when my brother gets straight A’s, or when my cousin is voted the most popular guy in school?
In the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” Jeannie is jealous of her brother, Ferris, because he can get away with anything, including ditching school. One day Jeannie finds herself at the police station talking to someone she would rather not: a stoner with a leather jacket, ripped jeans, and wild hair. Their discussion goes something like this:
“What do you care if your brother ditches school,” he asks.
“Why should he get to ditch when everyone else has to go,” she responds.
“You could ditch.”
“Yeah, I’d get caught” she says sarcastically.
“I see. So you’re mad that he ditches and doesn’t get caught. Is that it?”
“Then your problem is you…You ought to spend a little more time dealing with yourself, and a little less time worrying about what your brother does.”
Now I’m not saying that ditching school is a good thing. But I think this conversation answers our question, “Why can’t I be happy when something good happens to someone else?” Because I spend too much time worrying about other people.
Instead of reflecting on the person God created me to be, I compare myself to others. Until we realize that each of us is unique in God’s eyes, as important to him as our friend with the fancy car, or our brother with the great report card, or our cousin -- Mr. Popularity, everything will be chaos. But when I realize that God loves me, and that I’m special, then order will be restored and God will grant me peace.