Few sins are as progressive as jealousy. Quickly overtaking our soul, it consumes us and becomes woefully evident to those around us. We often don’t even realize we are ensnared.

Noah Webster, in his classic 1828 dictionary, describes jealousy well:

That passion of peculiar uneasiness which arises from the fear that a rival may rob us of the affection of one whom we love, or the suspicion that he has already done it; or it is the uneasiness which arises from the fear that another does or will enjoy some advantage which we desire for ourselves.

Saul is Exhibit #1 in the Jealousy Hall of Shame. A simple song set him off:

It happened as they were coming, when David returned from killing the Philistine, that the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with joy and with musical instruments (1 Samuel 18:6 NASB).

It was a moment of joy and celebration—God had brought a great victory to Israel against her enemies. Saul, who was completely self-absorbed, expected them to praise him. But “the women sang as they played, and said, ‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands’” (v. 7).

It doesn’t take much. One moment of comparison, and suddenly Saul realized that the people had noticed David. Of course, they had also noticed and praised Saul. But jealousy will not rest with a little praise. It wants all, or simply MORE than others.

Watch as jealousy flies through Saul’s soul, and see its deadly and highly predictable consequences. You may notice some of the same signs in your own soul …

ANGER (v. 8) – It’s a quick step from jealousy to anger, which never achieves the righteousness of God.

DISPLEASURE (v. 8)

COMPARISON and SELF-PITY (v. 8)

FEAR OF BEING DISPLACED (v. 8) – Jealousy is nothing more than a false sense of rejection—mindless fear that others will have what you desire.

SUSPICION (v. 9) – It mattered not that David was completely loyal, or that he was Saul’s friend and advocate, or that he was helping the whole kingdom. When jealousy is our lens, everything others do is colored with suspicion.

AN EVIL SPIRIT (v. 10) – This is hard to understand, but Saul had opened a door to evil, and it came rushing in.

RAVING (v. 10) – Jealousy produced an unreasoning, unexplainable, uncontrollable rage.

A DESIRE TO DESTROY (v. 11) – If you are jealous, you will want to destroy the one you fear is taking your place or receiving your glory. You may not hurl a spear, but you will hurl criticism, gossip, slander. You will seek to subtly or openly tear your suspected rival down before others in a vain attempt to maintain first place in others’ opinion.

The tragedy is, your jealousy is so obvious to others, it will have exactly the opposite effect. You will be lowered in others’ eyes when they see the foolishness of your envy.

FEAR (v. 12) – Saul had nothing to fear from David, who was loyally helping Saul and the kingdom. But jealousy caused him to come to fearful and ridiculous conclusions.

THE LOSS OF GOD’S PRESENCE (v. 12) – God will not bless a man who is living for himself (James 4:6).

SEPARATION (v. 13) – The jealous man cannot be in the presence of the one he envies. He seeks to put him in a lower place, hoping to decrease his popularity.

DREAD (vv. 14-15) – All the joy and blessing Saul should have felt with the activity of his most loyal, helpful warrior was replaced by dread.

PLOTTING AND SCHEMING (v. 17) – Saul deviously to battle the very man who was most helping him and the kingdom. Yet jealousy quickly led him to desire David’s demise.

UNFAITHFULNESS and DECEPTION (v. 19) – Saul’s promise was nothing more than a ruse. When he saw it wouldn’t work, he quickly went back on his word, losing his dignity and others’ trust.

LOSS OF RESPECT BY OTHERS (vv. 28-29) – The rest of Saul’s life is marked by a relentless passion to destroy David. It consumed him and ultimately destroyed him, which is exactly what jealousy does.

Jealousy makes us oblivious to the obvious. It makes us look foolish, and the very thing we long for (the respect of others), we quickly lose.

Jealousy takes you farther than you ever intended, to places you never dreamed you would go. And, it never stops.

What Is the Root?

Saul had been lifted to his position purely by the gracious hand of God. He did not deserve it and had not earned it.

But instead of responding in humility, Saul let the position go to his head. He thought he deserved the title, and any perceived threat frightened him. His pride overwhelmed him, and he loved the position more than he loved God.

Self-centeredness marked Saul’s life. All he wanted was self-glory. He longed to be recognized. When anything threatened Saul’s goal, jealousy raised its ugly head.

What About Us?

What do you desire? If you think you are impervious to jealousy, you don’t understand its nature or the weakness of your flesh apart from God.

  • Are you so proud of your position that you believe you’ve earned and deserved the glory?
  • Do you listen for your name to be called and your work recognized? Is there a sharp feeling of disappointment when you are not praised?
  • Do you check social media to see how many people are responding to what you said?
  • Are you so self-absorbed that you think everything is about you and for you?
  • Can you rejoice when God rests His hand of blessing and anointing on others?
  • Are you greatly pleased when others are advancing the cause, perhaps in even greater ways than you?
  • Do you live for the great, transcendent cause of God and His kingdom, or for your own feeble recognition and advancement?
  • Do you rejoice in the failures of others? Do you secretly wish for their demise?
  • Do you criticize or gossip, trying to tear your supposed rival down in the eyes of others?
  • Do you dread seeing the ones you envy? Do you find yourself separating from them? Are you going to extraordinary lengths to see them demoted?
  • Are you oblivious to how visible your jealousy has become?

Stop right now and ask God to open your eyes. Plead with Him for mercy to notice jealousy at the first signs of its rise.

If you see its telltale marks, immediately check your heart. Repent of the roots of pride and self-centeredness. Spend time praying for and encouraging the ones you have falsely accused.

Saul’s spirit has done enough damage in this world. Don’t follow in his tragic steps.