Dealing with the green-eyed monster – Friday, 2nd Week of Lent – Genesis 37:3-4/ Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46
In Just two lines, scripture strikes at our very heart. This is not some plot that has to be unraveled over a two-hour murder mystery. This is the matter of hearts; not one but several. Clearly, we are told that Jacob’s heart loved and in the same breath we are told that the hearts of Josephs’ brothers were filled with hate. The fact that his brothers hate Joseph is repeated in verses 5 and 8. They really, really hate him.
Jealousy is deadly. We call it the green-eyed monster. Jealousy is the emotion we feel when we feel fearful of losing someone or a relationship that is very important to us. Maybe we start to fear a relationship is becoming less sacred in the other person’s eyes. Maybe we fear that someone else is going to take away a connection we have with someone else.
Jealousy is not be confused with envy; many people make that mistake. Some think that they are two sides of the same coin. Envy or covetousness is when you want what someone else has, but jealousy is when you’re worried someone’s trying to take someone that you have. In any case, it’s no fun to feel envy or jealousy because both make you feel inadequate.
The story of Joseph and his brothers in Genesis 37 is a story of jealousy and sibling rivalry. The Joseph story has clear echoes back to the Cain and Abel story at the beginning of Genesis. There is discord in Jacob’s house. It is typical sibling behaviour to think a parent likes one child better than another, but Jacob proves his preference with a gift. While the brothers see only their father’s favouritism Joseph adds fuel to the fire with his youthful boasting.
Joseph’s brothers’ jealousy and hatred of Joseph grow until they feel that they must get rid of Joseph: “And they took him, and cast him into a pit” (Gen 37:23, 24). Then they sell Joseph into slavery, tricking their father into believing Joseph has been killed by an animal. His brothers seem glad to finally get rid of their little brother. Their hate consumed their lives. If Joseph’s brothers had loved and appreciated Joseph, instead of focusing on their hate and jealousy, they would have been much happier.
While most of us are naturally hard wired with jealousy it does not have to define us. Pay attention to the self-talk about how you feel about others especially those you think make you insecure. It’s hard to talk about feelings of jealousy to others because it may make you seem petty but talk about it with people you trust. Remember that jealousy snatches love away. You can’t be jealous and still love. Jealousy always opens a new door to hate.
Finally, this is also a story of a family feud. Families are difficult. It is the rare family where there is not an estrangement of some kind or the other. Jacob’s family story offers us in the season of Lent an opportunity to speak of estrangement and the consequences of rash acts. The story lets us see all the characters and their involvement in this drama and to evaluate choices we have at hand.