From A Jane Austen Devotional
Emma was sorry;—to have to pay civilities to a person she did not like through three long months!—to be always doing more than she wished, and less than she ought! Why she did not like Jane Fairfax might be a difficult question to answer; Mr. Knightley had once told her it was because she saw in her the really accomplished young woman, which she wanted to be thought herself; and though the accusation had been eagerly refuted at the time, there were moments of self-examination in which her conscience could not quite acquit her. But “she could never get acquainted with her: she did not know how it was, but there was such coldness and reserve—such apparent indifference whether she pleased or not—and then, her aunt was such an eternal talker!—and she was made such a fuss with by every body!—and it had been always imagined that they were to be so intimate—because their ages were the same, every body had supposed they must be so fond of each other.” These were her reasons—she had no better.
It was a dislike so little just—every imputed fault was so magnified by fancy, that she never saw Jane Fairfax the first time after any considerable absence, without feeling that she had injured her.
Jealousy—often referred to as the “green-eyed monster”—has its hold on even Emma Woodhouse. We see this in her narrowed-eye assessment of Jane Fairfax, possibly the only Highbury resident ever to threaten Emma’s standing. Mr. Knightley correctly surmises that Emma sees in Jane that “which she wanted to be thought herself.” But Emma would rather list the things she doesn’t care for in Jane: she is too reserved, too fussed over, has too chatty an aunt. The greatest insult, however, seems to be that everyone assumes a friendship merely from their likeness in age. The nerve! Unfortunately, Emma displays a spiritual immaturity that many of us may relate to. Paul referred to it in 1 Corinthians 3:1–3 when he said, “Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly?” (niv, emphasis added).
The kind of “jealousy and quarreling” on display by these early Christians is not unlike what we see in Emma: it is childish, self-centered, impatient, and insecure—the willful actions of a defiant child who wants her way. Worse, it creates a mind-set that distances us from being in right relationship with God; a line of thinking that cannot be changed until we surrender it to Him.
Does jealousy sometimes rise up in you, unbidden? Do you need God to reshape your heart? Focus on who God created you to be—not your neighbor, or your friend, or your competition. He gave you a glorious identity in Him; let Him transform your thinking with this knowledge! One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. --Philippians 3:13–14
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