These four words describing attitudes are all found in the Bible. But today their usage can be quite different. In fact the word “jealous” in scripture is not sin – God is described as a jealous God so we need to know what He is upset about and why.
The other four words are descriptions of sin. Covet means to desire something. It can be a simple toy for a child, or wanting a college degree. And God can give you a desire for something. Psalm 37:4 says if you delight yourself in the ways of God He can give you some Godly desires.
That explains why some people want to go to desperately poor mission areas to deal with egregious social problems. It is unexplained behavior as far as others are concerned, coming straight from God Himself.
But then there is just the “I wants” which can deteriorate into acquisitiveness. How often a child wants a toy and then after a few minutes pays it no more attention. And that becomes greed which is the continuing desire for anything and everything way beyond your own ability to manage or your personal need.
Greed is never satisfied which is how the Bible describes hell – Proverbs 27:20 Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.
When we describe hell as being a place of torment we need to include never being satisfied as a condition. And that would depend on what the person wanted so very badly in life – sex, money, power, food, companionship? Picture hell as an eternity without it.
Envy is the worst of these sins. James 3:16 “For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.” That identifies four unhappy conditions – envy, strife, confusion and evil work all at the same time. Envy comes in at tops because it desires what others have. This is the covert world of the adulterer. It is not enough to want someone else’s spouse – you want THAT one. Of course after you have it you throw it away and go on the next person, property of another. That is why adulterous marriages so often break down. The glue that held it together was not love but some other sin and sin eventually collapses under its own weight.
There is also righteous anger and hate. We are to be angry and sin not. That means to be angry at what God is angry about, not our own personal animus. We can hate what he hates as well. I have a list in the back of my mind of what he hates – child abuse, sex trafficking, lying, fear. anything that shows He is not first in your heart and life.
Exodus 20:5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.
God considers the souls he creates His personal property and does not treat lightly those who abuse their power over human beings.
And that brings us to jealousy. God can be jealous because jealousy means that someone wants something you properly own. God is jealous over His people simply because they are His People. We don’t think about this when we pray but we should. If someone that we know was once a Christian and has now strayed, you can ask God to go get His property back.
Your child may be neck-deep in drugs, but he/she is not your property – but God’s. Pray to God and ask Him to return His property to Himself.