When envy invades a marriage relationship, the results
are particularly tragic. Husband and wife, once a union of love and
partnership, now compete for recognition and spiritual “one-upmanship.”
Typically, jealousy among spouses masks itself in
legalism—creating discord and suspicion. It effectively destroys the
potential for teamwork by fostering individual kingdom building rather
than cooperation. Jealousy is commonly rooted in insecurity and is
defined as that “peculiar uneasiness” we experience when we see others
receive the attention we desire for ourselves.
When a spouse’s insecurity is left undealt with, he or
she will demand increasing measures of satisfaction from the other.
Take for instance, the story of Sheila and her husband, Bob*.
Sheila became increasingly threatened by the influence of
her seemingly unspiritual husband in their circle of religious friends.
She’d had a long history of being “the spiritual one” of the couple.
In any social gathering, Sheila assumed the role of
directing the conversation around her own spiritual experiences. Her
friends would inwardly cringe at the thought of spending a long evening
with her. At the same time, Bob’s company was refreshing and regularly
Sheila began to complain that she was being ignored and rejected. She continually prodded Bob to be more “spiritual.”
In effect, Sheila was jealous of the fact that her
husband held more influence in the lives of their Christian friends
than she did. This cycle left her open to seek fellowship in intensely
religious circles, where she was the primary relational link instead of
the two of them together.
Alienation and conflict between the spouses grew. Bob
became less and less excited to participate in church activities, and
Sheila became more desperate to be at every meeting.
Her jealousy of her husband burned like the fire Psalms
describes (see Ps. 79:5). Before long she began suspecting him of being
“emotionally unfaithful” and preferring the company of other women “in
his heart.” When Bob refused to respond to Sheila’s manipulation, she
fell into a series of illnesses that required him to stay close to home.
Her sickness exacerbated her imaginings and drove a wedge
of resentment between the couple. Bob could never do enough to
cooperate with or care for her.
Though she appeared outwardly to be the weaker of the
two, in reality, Sheila was locked in a power struggle with her husband
for control of her world and the people in it. She was driven by her
own inadequacy and insecurity. In demanding to be of primary importance
to her husband, she was smothering any flame of true affection between
them and becoming the bane of his existence.
Solomon wrote: “Jealousy [is] as cruel as the grave; its
flames are flames of fire, a most vehement flame” (Song 8:6, NKJV). In
Proverbs, he described “three things that are never satisfied, four
[that] never say, ‘Enough!’: the grave, the barren womb, the earth that
is not satisfied with water—and the fire” (30:15-16).
Jealousy is the fire that never says “enough.” If left to
burn, it will consume love, trust, fellowship and truth, leaving a wide
swath of destruction in the same way that Satan’s envy of God became a
fire of deception, rebellion and ultimate evil.
Envy Begets Suspicion
Jealousy has a close-knit fraternity of emotions that
includes vain imagination, paranoia, anger, hatred and murder. The
spirit of jealousy is impossible to appease, for it will “accept no
recompense” (Prov. 6:35).
The spouse of a jealous person will be continually
suspected or accused of wrongdoing. He will be required to give more
and more frequent proofs of his devotion until the spirit of jealousy
manipulates every aspect of the relationship’s dynamics.
Unfortunately, the following example is all too common in
church circles. It concerns a pastor’s wife I’ve known, who was
convinced her husband was being sought after by females in their
Any expressed concern for the other women in the church
was always suspect to her. It made the pastor reluctant to share the
details of his schedule with his wife, knowing that they would probably
lead to draining discussions and confrontations.
The wife should have been a co-laborer with her husband,
especially with regard to the other women in the church. However, due
to her suspicions, he preferred to have her occupied elsewhere.
The requirements of this pastor’s duties would always put
him in situations his wife perceived to be threatening. He dismissed
her nagging and fits of rage as unjustified, but this only made her
feel and appear more foolish.
Eventually, not even counseling could assuage his
coldness. Nor could it reassure his spouse, who was convinced of her
failure as a woman and a wife.
A relationship ruled by jealousy exists in a continual
cycle of suspicion, accusation and rejection. Ultimately, constant
discord destroys any real intimacy between the two partners, who have