Acts 17:1-9 – Beware of Jealousy

When Paul and his companions had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,” he said. Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women.

But other Jews were jealous; so, they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other believers before the city officials, shouting: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.” When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil. Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go. (New International Version)

Inevitably, whenever someone makes a splash and does something which receives a great deal of attention and/or kudos, there’s somebody else grumping in the background with jealousy.

A jealous person is a dangerous person. They seek to topple the object of their jealousy so that attention can be diverted on them.

It is an insidious game which the jealous play. Often, gaslighting is their major tool of choice – to spin circumstances in such a way that others will accept the jealous person’s view of events.

There is a difference between persuasion and gaslighting

Paul sought to persuade people that Jesus is the Messiah by understanding his audience, connecting their spiritual values with his, demonstrating competence and compassion, being clear and concise, and exemplifying a genuine spirit of integrity. Paul painted a compelling picture which was winsome and benefited the people.

Whereas his fellow Jews observed Paul’s success at persuasion and chose to gaslight the crowd by telling outright lies, playing on people’s fears, questioning motives, creating doubt, and withholding information. It is an emotionally abusive form of speaking which paints an awful picture of what will happen if the other person (Paul) has his way.

Paul had the people’s (and God’s) best interests at heart…

…the other Jews were looking out for themselves and had their own interests in mind.

Jealous persons often try to use gaslighting techniques to get their way. It’s what Satan tried to do with God, more than once.

We live in an age of envy

Jealousy is rife in our world, especially in the envy-laced West. Westerners have job-envy, food-envy, body-envy, house-envy, and a hundred other jealousies, mostly fueled by capitalist marketers who are, either knowingly or unknowingly, economic gaslighters – picturing for us a world of things we supposedly need.

And social media ups the ante by allowing millions of people to put forth a reality of themselves to others which isn’t real, at all – which ends up fomenting jealousy in others who believe they deserve this picture, as well.

If this all sounds weird and convoluted, well, it is. But that’s what jealousy does. It twists things to such a degree that we don’t even know what’s real anymore.

Jealousy survives and thrives through comparison – looking at another and deciding I need what they have. Then, unfortunately, the next logical step, for many, is to knock that other person down a few pegs so that I can get some of that attention and receive some of that stuff.

Jealousy and envy can take a very dark turn, at any time

Going beyond disparaging a person, there can be a malicious and underhanded bent to destroy what someone else has. Not just wanting it for yourself but wanting other people not to have it. This is a deep-seated resentment which breathes hatred and destruction. It’s the kind of jealousy the Jews had for Paul.

We all get jealous, at times; it’s part of the human condition. So, here’s a healthy way of dealing with it, instead of going dark and vengeful: Just as our hunger tells us we need to eat, the feeling of jealousy, if we will listen to it in the right way, can show us what is missing from our lives that really matters to us.

Acknowledging and naming the jealousy for what it is, then opens us to determine what my real need is, which perhaps, might not be getting met. We all have legitimate needs for love, belonging, and purpose. It’s just that we sometimes seek to meet those needs in illegitimate ways – like envy.

In a society where expressing needs may be looked upon as selfish or weak, many people opt to hustle for those needs through convincing a bunch of rabblerousers that another should get beat up and disparaged.

Let’s not do that… Let’s not start a riot.

It’s both okay and vital that we learn to ask for what we need and want – because the alternative isn’t going to end well.

Lord Jesus, fill us, your people, with charity, compassion, faith, gentleness, hope, humility, joy, kindness, light, love, mercy, modesty, patience, peace, purity, security, tranquility, trust, truth, understanding, and wisdom. Help us to walk in light and in truth, illuminated by the Holy Spirit so that together we may praise, honor, and glorify Our Father today and throughout all time. Amen.

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