Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?
— James 4:5
Imagine the emotions of a young man who discovers someone else has captured the heart of his sweetheart. That’s the same feeling James was describing when he wrote, “The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy.” In the last two Sparkling Gems, we’ve seen how the Holy Spirit dwells in us and passionately yearns for us. But today, let’s look further at the word “envy” to see what it means in this particular verse.
This word “envy” comes from the Greek word phthonos, which was frequently used in literature from the New Testament period, thus enabling us to know precisely what it means. The word phthonos means jealousy — an emotion so strong that it tends toward taking vengeance upon someone. The young man who lost his lover feels jealous and has a deep desire for his former relationship to be restored. He also most likely bears some malice toward the romantic thief. He is envious of the relationship that has replaced the one he used to have with the one whom he loves and desires to have again.
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This should make James 4:5 clear to us. The Holy Spirit is a Lover. He is preoccupied with us. He wants to possess us totally, and He passionately desires our affection to also be set on Him. When we walk and talk like unbelievers and give our lives to natural pursuits, the Holy Spirit feels like a lover who has been robbed. He feels jealous for His relationship with us to be restored. He has divine malice for the worldliness that has usurped His role in our lives. And He is filled with a godly envy to see things put back the way they should be.
When you put all three words together — dwelleth, lusteth, and envy — this paints quite a picture. The Holy Spirit is not a passive partner. He aggressively and actively pursues us. When we give a piece of ourselves to something or someone else’s control, He wants to seize it and bring it back under His divine control. He even has godly malice toward our preoccupation with other things.
With all of this in mind, James 4:5 could be read this way:
“The Spirit who has come to settle down, make His home, and permanently dwell in us is moved by an all-consuming, ever-growing, passionate desire to possess us — and He is envious and filled with malice toward anything or anyone who tries to take His place in our lives.”
We live in the world, work in the world, and function as human beings in the world. There is no way to get around that. Jesus didn’t pray that we would be removed from the world, but that we would be kept from the world (see John 17:15). There is nothing wrong with going to work, buying a house, purchasing a new car, or enjoying beautiful clothes. Those things are part of living an abundant life on this earth. They are not wrong unless they consume and preoccupy our thoughts.
Let’s not forget that all kinds of things can preoccupy our thinking. If we’re called to the ministry, even our ministerial responsibilities can so occupy our thoughts that we seldom think of the Holy Spirit or focus on cultivating our relationship with Him. Yes, that seems like a contradiction. However, it’s very possible to be so involved in good works that we hardly ever slow down long enough to spend time with the Lord, read His Word, and listen to what His Spirit wants to say to our hearts. Sometimes it’s just the cares of this life that pull us away from the Holy Spirit. We can get so busy and so committed to doing so many things, even good things, that our continual busyness deteriorates our spiritual life.
Amazing as it is, even good things, if taken to an extreme, become adulterous in the eyes of the Lord. Only He knows how to balance us, but we have to open our hearts and our spiritual ears to listen to His counsel. That’s why it’s so crucial to set aside time to spend with Him every day.
So don’t tell yourself that you have too much to do to spend time with the Lord each day. When it comes right down to it, you basically do what you want to do. If having communion with the Holy Spirit is a priority, you’ll make time for Him. If it’s not a priority, you won’t make that time. It’s that simple.
Perhaps you’re reading this today and thinking, I have so much to learn about the Holy Spirit. I didn’t know I was supposed to intentionally have communion with Him. I didn’t know I could depend on Him as my Comforter. I didn’t know I could grieve Him with my attitudes. I didn’t realize how important it is for me to develop a closer fellowship with the Holy Spirit!
If that is you, you’re in a great position today — standing at the threshold of a whole new realm of God in your life! His Word promises that if you draw closer to Him, He will draw closer to you (see James 4:8). I can’t help but wonder how many Christians die and go to Heaven — and then find out how much they missed because they never experience a real partnership with the Holy Spirit. Don’t let that be your story!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Holy Spirit, there is so much for me to learn about You I never knew before. Today I open my heart — as wide as I know how — and I ask You to teach me about You and Your ministry to my life. I want to be a vessel You work through, so please help me become that vessel. Jesus sent You to be with me and to indwell me. You are preoccupied with me, and You passionately and rightfully desire my affection to also be set on You. I repent for the times I allowed the cares of life or desire for other things to steal my attention and affection away from You. For each and every time I’ve violated my relationship with You in any way, please forgive me and know that from this day forward, I am turning toward You with my whole heart and soul.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I boldly confess that I am going to pursue a deep, intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit, and I will not stop until I’ve attained it. He already lives inside me, but I want to know Him and the power He continually makes available to me. I’ve lived my Christian life largely in my own power, but from this point forward, I want to live it fully in the power of the Holy Spirit.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Before you read today’s Sparkling Gem, did you know the Holy Spirit is envious and jealous over His relationship with you? How does that realization affect your understanding of His ministry to your life? In what ways will it change how You respond to the Holy Spirit in the future?
- Is there an area of your life to which you’re more committed than to your relationship with the Holy Spirit? If so, just know He is going to go after that area and bring it back into balance. So why don’t you get started by making a list of those areas that fit in that category, and then invite the Holy Spirit to help you get those areas realigned according to His priorities?
- Godly jealousy is a good thing — but have you ever considered that there is such a thing as godly malice that the Holy Spirit feels? What “reasons” have you used to justify giving more of your attention to those other things at the expense of your communion with Him? How will you begin to eliminate those excuses, starting today?