the shape of leadership

A Christmas Lesson in Jealousy

Guard your heart against this pitfall

Stephen Blandino on December 18, 2020


Whether you’re a pastor or business executive, you will encounter moments when jealousy threatens to undermine your leadership. Jealousy can rear its ugly head and sow seeds of discord and discouragement when you least expect it.

Interestingly, amid the joy and celebration of Christmas, we find the sinister work of jealousy at play.

King Herod, also known as Herod the Great, was king over Judea. He is remembered for his lavish construction projects and expansion of the second temple in Jerusalem. More than anything, Herod is remembered as a brutal leader. From his life, we learn three important truths about jealousy and leadership.

1. Jealousy views others as threats. When Herod learned about the birth of the Messiah, “he was disturbed” (Matthew 2:3). Why? Because Herod viewed the newborn King as a threat to his kingdom.

This wasn’t the only time Herod reacted this way. He also ordered the deaths of others — even his own family members — because Herod suspected them to be rivals to his power and position. The Roman Emperor Augustus once said, “It is better to be Herod’s pig than his son.”

When Herod learned that a newborn King had arrived on the scene, he was bent on getting rid of Him. Angels rejoiced and shepherds celebrated Jesus’ birth, but Herod plotted His death. To Herod, the gift of God was a threat from God.

Too often, leaders feel threatened by the success of other leaders. Too often, churches feel threatened by the growth of other churches. Rather than seeing others as partners in the work of the Kingdom, some churches see them as threats to their own kingdoms.

Jealousy is like a cancer that kills contentment and ultimately leads to ruin.

That’s the danger of jealousy in leadership. It turns people into enemies and adversaries.

2. Jealousy breeds resentment. As a child, did you ever compare your Christmas gifts to those of your siblings? Perhaps you sat by the Christmas tree counting the size and number of packages. If your brother appeared to have more, you were secretly resentful. If it looked like you had more, you secretly rejoiced.

Jealousy is a two-sided coin. When I’m jealous, I resent what you have, and I rejoice in what you lose.

Unfortunately, these attitudes can follow us into leadership. It’s easy to feel resentful when another church is growing while our attendance seems stuck. And we may secretly rejoice when we overtake another pastor’s numbers.

Jealousy has a way of turning everything into a competition. It causes us to focus on what we don’t have rather than rejoicing in what we do have. We may be tempted to look at our brothers and sisters in Christ as opposing team members rather than co-laborers in the Kingdom.

For Herod, jealousy made him focus on what he might lose rather than celebrating what God freely gave. If we’re not careful, jealousy will do the same to us.

3. Jealousy poisons the heart. In the end, Herod’s jealousy drove him to take drastic measures. He issued an order to murder every male child two years of age or younger in Bethlehem. Based on the population of Bethlehem at the time, Herod’s order likely resulted in the deaths of 20-30 children.

Jealousy has a way of poisoning the heart. Its influence is deceptive and destructive. James captured the devastating nature of jealousy when he said, “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice” (James 3:16).

Jealousy is like a cancer that kills contentment and ultimately leads to ruin. As you lead, guard your heart, and watch out for jealousy. View people as gifts, not threats. Be the first to rejoice in the success of others, and steer clear of jealousy’s poison.
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