If God is perfect, then why is he jealous? Jealousy does not seem like a
positive characteristic to me.


This is a very good question. I think my answer will be similar to one I
might give if I were asked how a perfect God can have anger as part of his
character. Both jealousy and anger do not easily fit into a human notion
of perfection. I definitely see where your question is coming from. I
too find it hard to think of jealousy as a positive emotion.

My response is this. I do not think that jealousy is evil or
even negative, depending on how one holds this emotion. Like I said,
anger is the same. Jealousy and anger are two emotions which humans only
rarely experience without also having sinful thoughts or actions. There
is such a thing as morally pure anger and jealousy. Let me give a couple
of examples. If I observe an example of blatant racial prejudice or
sexual abuse, it is absolutely right and even good to experience anger.
Of course, the natural course such a feeling can run in humans is toward
hatred, violence, fits of rage and so forth. The fact that the human
emotion of anger can lead to sin does not make the emotion sinful. Bottom
line racial prejudice and sexual abuse are evil and a response of
revulsion and anger are pure and good.

The same can be said for jealousy. I am married. I have made
an oath and a commitment to my wife “until death do us part.” Such a
commitment of love is a sacred thing. If my wife?s attention were to
shift toward another man, or if I were to allow myself to become
emotionally entangled with another woman, I like to think that jealousy
would be aroused. It OUGHT to be aroused. If betrayal of a marriage
vow does not arouse jealousy, then there is a serious problem. Similarly,
God loves us, is committed to us, and holds to us with a jealous type of
love. If we turn our back on him and begin to worship other false gods
then it is righteous and good for him to feel the response of jealousy.

Is this circular reasoning? Am I arguing that jealousy is a
good not an evil thing because God possesses this emotion and then using
the fact that God possesses jealousy as proof that it is not a negative
characteristic? You will have to judge this for yourself. However, I
find that a certain kind of jealousy to protect one?s family from outside
attack and inner betrayal is not a negative thing. I will admit that
jealousy, like anger, almost always has negative sinful behavior
associated with it does not prove that it is sinful.

As support to this idea, let me mention Ephesians 4:26, “In
your anger do not sin.” Here we see that anger, in and of itself, is not
sinful. I will admit that I do not have a similar proof text such as “In
your jealousy do not sin.” However, I believe that the analogy is
legitimate. One thing I can say for sure is that the Bible writers are
not at all embarrassed to declare that God is a jealous God when it comes
to our devotion to him (Exodus 20:5, Exodus 34:14, Deuteronomy 5:9, Joshua
24:19.,Ezekiel 16:38 and others).

John Oakes, PhD

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