This article is just one in a long series addressing questions posed by agnostic blogger Larry Simons in his article entitled, 31 Questions Christians Can’t Answer. For the rest of series click here. Enjoy!
31. Why is it that God is allowed to possess a characteristic [jealousy, in Deut. 4:24 and Exodus 20:5] that the Bible itself denounces in Proverbs 27:4 and 14:30?
Deuteronomy 4:24 (NIV) For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.
Exodus 20:5 (NIV) You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me
Proverbs 27:4 (NIV) Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?
Proverbs 14:30 (NIV) A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.
Once again we have a series of disparate verses plucked out of context and juxtaposed to create the basis for a question. One thing that is present in both questions is the interchange of the words jealousy and envy. Dictionary.com defines jealousy as an adjective meaning “intolerant of unfaithfulness or rivalry” but envy is defined as a noun meaning, “a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another’s advantages, success, possessions, etc.” So what the Deuteronomy passage is actually saying is, “For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a [God who is intolerant of unfaithfulness].”, and the Exodus and Proverbs passages could be reinterpreted similarly. The other Proverbs passage, on the other hand, could be restated this way,”A heart at peace gives life to the body, but [discontent or covetousness with regard to another’s advantages, success, possessions] rots the bones.”
To put an even finer point on it, the Proverbs 27 verse doesn’t even say that jealousy is sinful, as the questioner would have you believe, it’s only saying that jealousy is more difficult to withstand that anger or fury. That tracks in line with what the previous verses are saying. “Don’t worship other God’s, I won’t just be angry, I won’t just be furious, I’ll be so jealous I’ll even punish the next three or four generations of your family”, God says if we harmonize the three verses. Envy is a totally different thing. Who would God envy?
So take everything I said in the last post and apply it here as well. Also take everything I said here and apply it back there. (h/t Isaiah Izzy Paul, Christian Apologetics Alliance member for point out the jealousy/ envy difference)
Since this is the last of the Questions Christians Can’t Answer posts I think it’s safe to say that, although some of these questions were somewhat challenging, too many of them just weren’t very well thought out. Many were circular, self defeating, or borderline incoherent. You might ask why I would take them on and give them legitimacy then. The answer is twofold, one reason is that, despite their obvious flaws, these are the kinds of questions that stump otherwise well meaning and faithful Christians all the time, and the other reason is that in seeing me answer them one or two at a time , boldly, confidently, and maybe even irreverently at times you might see a way to think about these issues and gain a measure of confidence in answering them yourself.
What questions do you have that you’ve struggled with or that you think Christians can’t answer? Have an idea for the next series of issues/ questions/ subjects I should address? Comment below and let me know.