Green-eyed Monster: count the cost

It is interesting that the issue of jealousy seems to wreck havoc in one’s life possibly more than any negative emotion..  Jealously has led many down a road of regret over something that, at the time, seemed so monumentally important and yet, in the end, wasn’t worth the price for all that trouble.  And, to add a twist into this emotion it usually rears its ugliness when one least expects it.  And….. to top off the icing of this very melodramatic emotion it clogs one’s thinking and inhibits good choices.  We could go on and on, piling up each topping on this ‘green-eyed monster’, jealousy.

The interaction between Sarah, Abraham and Hagar has so many angles one could write on (and several I have, which makes for great introspection into this scenario alone) with its resounding impact not always for the best.  Let’s look at first Sarah and then Hagar as Abraham had to act a co-mediator between these two women.

The lovely Sarah had everything a woman wanted…well almost ….but we’re starting at the beginning here….a man who loved her, adored her and overall happy with their life together.  The only thorn in this relationship was the issue of infertility and in the culture in which this took place, infertility is viewed as a curse and women felt less than a woman if she/they could/can not only not bear a child, but no male child.  The issue of jealously comes in, mixed with the pain of what a woman’s emotions tell her is not normal.  She’s healthy, active, etc….in those days, men were never viewed being ‘impotent’ the way a woman throughout centuries were made to feel.    Jealously led Sarah to make a bad judgment call when she decided that God needed a little help in this issue and circumvented the course by providing a substitute to bear her a child.  According to Nuzi Law, a woman was to provide a source if she could not bear the child herself, and both Abraham and Sarah did live in the land in which Nuzi Law prevailed. As we all now know, mission accomplished.  Now Sarah would have that child so desired and promised, but not yet here.

Hagar now enters the scene, and actually, in the beginning is the innocent pawn in this game to help God out.  She is younger and she is fertile; thus, Abraham’s first child is born and it is a male child. Sarah was cruel and mean to Hagar, mistreating her deeply, as jealousy aroused in her to the point, Hagar is fighting back with taunts and haugtiness arising in her attitude towards Sarah.  War had broken out in the tents of Abraham.

In the meantime, Abraham is caught in the middle of this fiasco, because of his love of Sarah and also his love for the young boy, Ishmael by Hagar and his own son, now arrived, Isaac with Sarah.  And I wouldn’t presume that Abraham did not have some feelings towards Hagar either.  The crescendo of this issue rises to such an unsettling sound that Abraham and Sarah have it out so to speak in today’s vernacular….with Sarah demanding that Abraham put Hagar and Ishmael out of the tents of protection into the wilderness.  To be placed outside the tent of one’s tribe, group, etc., was serious and also public humilitation of Abraham before all who were under his protection, like the workers and their families, relatives, etc.   Abraham cares for both Hagar and Ishamel, providing food and water for their journey.  He also periodically made trips to checks on them as when he does pass away both sons, Isaac and Ishmael, are present to bury him.

Well, Sarah got her wish.  She was free of Hagar and her haughtiness, and the child was banished from her sight.  She now had Isaac so the competition was reduced.  What she didn’t consider was that in the process, she also was left alone as Abraham moved to another spot and they never cohabitated again. The relationship had been damaged.  Hagar received a promise from God that Ishamel and his descendents would be a great people, too and therefore, thrived in the new land that Abraham was told to take them both to.

What many don’t speak on is how was Abraham’s heart at having his family torn apart, separation from both sons, hurting from Sarah’s demands and her own jealousy, and though he believed God’s word never wavering that he would have a son, no father expects to be torn apart from both of his sons. The love for Sarah and to a certain extent concern for Hagar as well must have added to the woes of his heart.   And, in the end, Sarah died alone in her world and Abraham sees her for the last many years later to bury her.  In a sense, the Bible portrays a dysfunctional family unit and the effects on everyone involved, which we have seen this similar type dysfunction in families today; may be dressed differently, but still the same.  Abraham was a changed man forever.

But lets also look at how we all can be Sarahs, Abrahams and Hagars as there will be times in one’s life that we find ourselves fueled by this green-eyed monster call jealousy and just like Sarah, envy, jealousy, and host of cousin-emotions, moved by our own emotional pains and hurts, leads us to make poor choices, and not only do we treat others unfairly, indirectly, we are also being unfair to ourselves. The spirit of jealousy makes us dissatisfied with our own lives.  Jealousy also leads us to not only not appreciate our own good fortune, but we want what the other has.  The long-term effects of the decision that Sarah made to help God along in His plan, not displaying trust and faith in the course of life, has led to consequences between the descendents of Isaac and Ishmael to be at odds with each even to today.

So, lets’ all step back and examine those little, really itty-bitty pricks of jealousy (and ALL of its cousins) and check our own ‘green eyed monster’ within ourselves, no matter the reason or cause or issue causing it to arise.  Acknowledge it, ask for help from God to give us direction to not be led by emotion no matter how justified it appears so that our lives have less damage as well as not being unfair to others in the process, too.

Some questions to self reflect on to jump start the process :

  • Have you been jealous of others?  When and why?
  • Would you think that someone could be jealous of you?  When? Why?
  • Think about your own enviousness/jealousy over some one else.
  • Can you remember your own good fortune and feel blessed?
  • What makes you jealous/envious of some one else?
  • Has jealousy hurt those you loved so deeply?
  • Create your own list, be honest ….no one but you sees the list.
  • Was the cost worth the price to pay?

Pray……jealousy is not a bad thing in and of itself.  God is jealous when we chase after others and not seek Him, but He still loves us in the weak moment we exhibit.  Jealousy becomes bad when we exhibit it negatively that causes harm to all.   Recognize the emotion that has hurt you, too, and ask God to help you and forgive yourself so that you can go forward to forgive others.  We are an imperfect people, living in an imperfect world and we’re okay.  The first step changes all.  I am blessed even when I have made a mess…….I have another chance to change it and do better.