Pastoral Message – September 26, 2021
When I was a kid, I remember a family gathering where some of the adults around me were speaking in whispers and seemingly using code words. Of course, that only made me listen more intently. I remember they referred to something- a “green eyed monster”. Wow, a green eyed monster!?! What could be uglier than a green eyed monster? It scared me just thinking that there could be such a creature. I thought I’d better be on the look-out for such a horrible thing. It seemed apparent that an encounter with a green-eyed monster would be fearsome and horrible and dangerous and potentially deadly.
Only later did I come to find out that the term “green eyed monster” was taken from Shakespeare’s Othello, where jealousy is the driving force of the play. And if you know anything about that play, “jealousy… the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on” leads to fearsome, horrible, dangerous and very deadly action.
Jealousy is personified as a green eyed monster symbolically, but that personification becomes real in humans. And while the jealousy we most often think of has to do with romance and relationships, current psychological thinking describes jealousy as an overwhelming insecurity over a perceived loss or inequality. We can feel insecure to the point that our behavior can become manipulative, controlling and abusive. A biblical definition of jealousy could be a suspicious fear, or an obsessive hoarding, grabbing and guarding of all that is selfishly perceived as yours (material goods, blessings, powers, lands, and people).
Unfortunately, after we’ve grown up a bit, we become all too familiar with that green eyed monster. We know it well. We all too often feed it, that it might grow in us. It becomes our “pet” sin. We define others by it. We allow it to control our emotions. We don’t recognize it as sin. Ultimately it keeps us down, forcing us to only view inequities leveled against us. It darkens our worldview and allows us to become bitter and cynical. It robs us of enjoying the blessing we have, because they’re never enough. So we can never really ever be happy, grateful people.
In the scriptures today, we see folks being possessive and jealous around spiritual gifts and powers. In the camp of the Hebrews as the Holy Spirit enlivens the 70 elders, Joshua falls into a hoarding, controlling mentality. But Moses had overcome jealousy, and teaches the younger Joshua a hopeful lesson. Be generous in applying the Holy Spirit.
In the Gospel, Jesus’ disciples confront jealously and try to stop unknown people from healing in Jesus’ name. Their thinking was that only those closest to Jesus should be able to use His brand – nobody should be able to infringe on their copyright. But Jesus strongly challenged his disciples to humble themselves. Otherwise there are dire consequences.
There are always dire consequences to sin. But the consequences to embracing Jesus’ challenge to move away from sin are not dire, but life and love and peace and joy producing. So let’s continue to grow up even more. Let’s confront and then chase away any green eyed monsters in our hearts and minds and attitudes. We do that by embracing humility.We do that by recognizing all we’ve been given. We do that by learning to be less needy. We do that by loving and caring for others. We do that by preferring Jesus to the ridiculousness of so much of our world. Finally, let’s pray for each other as children of God, not to fall into the fear of monsters, but to run into the light of Christ.