How Should We Respond to Jealousy in Ministry?

Have you ever been a little jealous of another believer’s role? Maybe you find yourself eternally on nursery duty at church and envy those on stage on Sunday mornings. Or maybe you wish your ministry was booming like the megachurches you see on TV, but only six people join you for your at-home Bible study each week. If so, you’re not alone. The apostle Peter experienced that same kind of jealousy too. Kevin Groves of Hope in the Morning shares Jesus’ reaction to Peter’s attitude and a fresh, freeing mindset.


Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them. He was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper to ask, “Lord, who is going to betray You?” When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain until I return, what is that to you? You follow Me.”

The great Theologian and country singer Toby Keith has a funny song titled “I Wanna Talk About Me!” The song rings true in a lot of ways. By the way, pray for Toby, he’s battling stomach cancer.

Peter, who was Jesus’ number one ministry apprentice, was all about ‘himself’ when it came to being personally exalted in power and influence.  In those early days of the disciples, Peter was not only Jesus’ loudest follower he was often Jesus’ biggest liability within the group. Zeal and wisdom aren’t always closely related. I can relate to Peter because we both have a lot of rough edges to smooth out. 

In the passage above you can almost see the wheels turning in Peter’s mind as he asks Jesus what’s going to happen to John in the future. Peter wants Jesus to say “don’t worry Peter, you’re gonna be in charge and you’ll outlive John.” But Jesus doesn’t say that. Not even close.


Jesus on jealousy

Jesus promptly puts Peter in his rightful place, asking “If I want him to remain until I return, what is that to you? You follow Me.” It sounds a lot like God put Job in his place back in Job 38.

It appears Peter had been paying attention to John (the disciple whom Jesus loved) and his close proximity to Jesus when they were resting earlier. This apparently made Peter struggle with jealousy and Jesus knew it. Now, Peter wants reassurance from Jesus that he is the favorite of all the disciples. He wants his ego propped up and his future as “Peter, Jesus’ favorite” secured once and for all. Peter wasn’t asking “what about John?” for John’s welfare. He was asking for himself. 


Ultimately Jesus’ response to Peter is the right one for us as well. When we find ourselves wanting someone else’s spiritual giftedness or ministry position in God’s work we’ve got to remember it’s God who determines our gifts and our roles for Himself, not us. Jesus said to Peter “it’s not your business what I do with John, you follow me.”

When we search out where we serve God best and have the greatest impact, we should serve in those areas and not look to our left or right at what Jesus is doing with His other servants. There’s no room for jealousy when our eyes are on our own mission. When we know our places of service to Him, our answer is simply “Yes, Lord.” 

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