on by allowing the “green-eyed monster” to reign in your marriage.
When envy invades a marriage relationship, the results
are particularly tragic. Husband and wife, once a union of love and
partnership, now compete for recognition and spiritual “one-upmanship.”
Typically, jealousy among spouses masks itself in
legalism—creating discord and suspicion. It effectively destroys the
potential for teamwork by fostering individual kingdom building rather
than cooperation. Jealousy is commonly rooted in insecurity and is
defined as that “peculiar uneasiness” we experience when we see others
receive the attention we desire for ourselves.
When a spouse’s insecurity is left undealt with, he or
she will demand increasing measures of satisfaction from the other.
Take for instance, the story of Sheila and her husband, Bob*.
Sheila became increasingly threatened by the influence of
her seemingly unspiritual husband in their circle of religious friends.
She’d had a long history of being “the spiritual one” of the couple.
In any social gathering, Sheila assumed the role of
directing the conversation around her own spiritual experiences. Her
friends would inwardly cringe at the thought of spending a long evening
with her. At the same time, Bob’s company was refreshing and regularly
Sheila began to complain that she was being ignored and rejected. She continually prodded Bob to be more “spiritual.”
In effect, Sheila was jealous of the fact that her
husband held more influence in the lives of their Christian friends
than she did. This cycle left her open to seek fellowship in intensely
religious circles, where she was the primary relational link instead of
the two of them together.
Alienation and conflict between the spouses grew. Bob
became less and less excited to participate in church activities, and
Sheila became more desperate to be at every meeting.
Her jealousy of her husband burned like the fire Psalms
describes (see Ps. 79:5). Before long she began suspecting him of being
“emotionally unfaithful” and preferring the company of other women “in
his heart.” When Bob refused to respond to Sheila’s manipulation, she
fell into a series of illnesses that required him to stay close to home.
Her sickness exacerbated her imaginings and drove a wedge
of resentment between the couple. Bob could never do enough to
cooperate with or care for her.
Though she appeared outwardly to be the weaker of the
two, in reality, Sheila was locked in a power struggle with her husband
for control of her world and the people in it. She was driven by her
own inadequacy and insecurity. In demanding to be of primary importance
to her husband, she was smothering any flame of true affection between
them and becoming the bane of his existence.
Solomon wrote: “Jealousy [is] as cruel as the grave; its
flames are flames of fire, a most vehement flame” (Song 8:6, NKJV). In
Proverbs, he described “three things that are never satisfied, four
[that] never say, ‘Enough!’: the grave, the barren womb, the earth that
is not satisfied with water—and the fire” (30:15-16).
Jealousy is the fire that never says “enough.” If left to
burn, it will consume love, trust, fellowship and truth, leaving a wide
swath of destruction in the same way that Satan’s envy of God became a
fire of deception, rebellion and ultimate evil.
Envy Begets Suspicion
Jealousy has a close-knit fraternity of emotions that
includes vain imagination, paranoia, anger, hatred and murder. The
spirit of jealousy is impossible to appease, for it will “accept no
recompense” (Prov. 6:35).
The spouse of a jealous person will be continually
suspected or accused of wrongdoing. He will be required to give more
and more frequent proofs of his devotion until the spirit of jealousy
manipulates every aspect of the relationship’s dynamics.
Unfortunately, the following example is all too common in
church circles. It concerns a pastor’s wife I’ve known, who was
convinced her husband was being sought after by females in their
Any expressed concern for the other women in the church
was always suspect to her. It made the pastor reluctant to share the
details of his schedule with his wife, knowing that they would probably
lead to draining discussions and confrontations.
The wife should have been a co-laborer with her husband,
especially with regard to the other women in the church. However, due
to her suspicions, he preferred to have her occupied elsewhere.
The requirements of this pastor’s duties would always put
him in situations his wife perceived to be threatening. He dismissed
her nagging and fits of rage as unjustified, but this only made her
feel and appear more foolish.
Eventually, not even counseling could assuage his
coldness. Nor could it reassure his spouse, who was convinced of her
failure as a woman and a wife.
A relationship ruled by jealousy exists in a continual
cycle of suspicion, accusation and rejection. Ultimately, constant
discord destroys any real intimacy between the two partners, who have
Competition, Legalism and Confusion
Spiritual jealousy between spouses quickly leads to competition. It carries confusion and masks itself in religious legalism.
For example, a husband who envies his wife’s spirituality
might insist that a woman cannot practice certain spiritual gifts
because they are “reserved only for men.” Threatened by her influence,
he may accuse his wife of being a “Jezebel” who is attempting to rule
when she should submit.
Such was the case with a leader’s wife I had occasion to
meet. This woman spent a number of miserable years in confusion and
depression under the burden of her husband’s volatile insecurities and
jealousy. Sadly, the stringent gender roles of their denomination
served as a deceitful vehicle of unrighteousness in their personal
At one time, this couple was certain that God had
ordained them to share their spiritual calling in marriage. In public,
she was the joyful, supportive, submissive, wife; inwardly, she felt
completely stifled and used.
At church, the husband took the helm as the charismatic
center of every event. At home, he was a self-consumed tyrant who used
doctrinal laws of submission and obedience on his wife to his own
He required that her every ounce of energy be consumed with· him. If she was unwilling to comply with his every whim, he would accuse her of rebellion.
This cycle continued, hidden behind the facade of
religious piety. The wife’s zeal for her husband and his vision cooled.
In response, he began to suspect her of lusting after other men in
their circle of acquaintances.
The alienation in their marriage made way for open conflict. He would become angry, accusing and threatening her.
Meanwhile, the dynamics of their situation were further
affected by the fact that God began using her spiritual gifts in a way
that gave her increasing public approval and influence. It became
difficult to see where her husband’s jealousy of her ended and his
appreciation of her anointing began.
He made sure to exercise tight reign over her schedule
and engagements in order to limit her interaction with others,
especially if he wasn’t going to be present. Ultimately, it took a
miraculous visitation for the woman’s husband to see himself in the
mirror of the Word of God.
Slowly, the man began to relinquish his insecurities and
enjoy the fact that God had given him a capable wife. The regrettable
part of this story is that the couple spent many miserable years in
captivity to the husband’s jealousy, which he masked behind their
When the anointing of God falls on someone, Satan takes
opportunity through jealousy. This spirit makes the person who is
afflicted by it its captive, then victimizes the people to whom he
relates. But there is a way out.
Breaking Free of Envy
Jealousy can have power over you only when you give it a
place in your life. If you are trapped in this vicious snare,
practicing the following principles will help you to find freedom:
• Love. Love is not jealous; it seeks the welfare of others (see 1 Cor. 13:4-5).
• Do not think more highly of yourself than you should. See yourself and your spouse circumspectly (see Rom. 12:3).
• Dethrone yourself. Jealousy provokes vain
imagining (see Ezek. 8:3). If having to be the center of attention puts
you in competition with your mate, you have given way to a spirit of
idolatry! You have become your own object of worship.
You will be subject to resenting, accusing and alienating
your mate. Put Christ as supreme in your thoughts and behavior. Then
your spouse’s success and influence will cause you to rejoice.
• Be aligned with the Word of God above your emotions.
A jealous spirit will cause you to misinterpret the actions and motives
of your mate, as in the case of Michal, David’s wife (see 2 Sam.
Guard the truth in your heart, and discern your real
image and that of your spouse. Do not give the accuser a foothold
either by charging your spouse with evil or by receiving his or her
• Ask for more anointing from the Holy Spirit.
Although the spirit of jealousy hates it, the anointing is your power
against these attacks. Take the stance David did when he replied to
Michal rather than retreating into a cave as Elijah did (see 2 Sam.
6:21-22; 1 Kin. 19:9).
• Know when to speak. Submit to a spirit of jealousy, and it will demand more and more. But speaking the truth at the right time brings liberty.
A great antidote is a good sense of humor. Do not take
yourself or your spouse so seriously that it immobilizes you or puts
you in bondage through manipulation and fear.
• Do not withdraw. Bring jealousy to the light (see Prov. 18:1). Seek out a third party whose prayers and counsel you both can honor and receive.
Do not gossip about your mate under the guise of sharing
this burden with a prayer partner, especially if you have not
confronted the problem or taken it to someone with pastoral authority
• Run after what the Lord has for you. Then jealousy will run away from you (see Jer. 29:11).
• Bring an offering to the Lord. Whether you are
innocent or guilty, Scripture indicates that an offering, made in
faith, will break the stronghold of jealousy and set you both free (see
There are serious consequences for harboring a jealous
spirit. So unrestrained is this evil that often God must supernaturally
intervene to rescue its victims.
Avail yourself of His power and wisdom. Then love can
flourish in your marriage again, and you can find the joy and peace
that our selfless First Love, Christ, freely gives.
*Not their real names
Bonnie Chavda is a dynamic Bible teacher, she and her husband, evangelist Mahesh Chavda,
conduct training seminars and crusades around the world. They are the
pastors of All Nations Church in Charlotte, N.C.