Today’s Reading from the First Book of Samuel (18:6-9), follows upon David’s victory over the Philistine. It describes King Saul’s entry into the city and how women came to meet him singing of the victory.
“Saul has slain his thousands,
and David his ten thousands.”
This victory song did not set well with the King:
“They give David ten thousands, but only thousands to me.
All that remains for him is the kingship.”
The narrative goes on to tell us, “And from that day on, Saul was jealous of David.”
Jealousy is a cousin of envy (wishes the good in the other diminishes). It is a fear of losing what one possesses – in Saul’s case, the kingdom – to another.
Is there a corner in our inner-lives where we fear losing a best friend to another, or a job, or status?
A good rule for us is found in the Book of James:
For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity.
When we find disorder (that can manifest itself as deceit, ill will for another, etc), it is an indicator that our hearts need an adjustment. If not, we might find ourselves causing harm to the innocent, just as Saul had threatened to do to David.
What might have been the right attitude for Saul towards David? How could he tame his jealousy? How can we tame ours?
Saint Thomas Aquinas would recommend applying the opposing virtue to overcome vice. In this instance, since jealousy is a cousin of envy, we might want to work on the opposing virtue of kindness towards the one who brings out the fear in us.
What might have happened in the story of King Saul, if, instead of harboring his fear of David as a threat to his power, he exercised benevolence upon David? He would have had an open heart to discover David’s sincerity and faithfulness. Perhaps he would have found a true friend, rather than forcing David to become the enemy he most feared.
For a look at the “green-eyed monster”, Fr Jon Hansen, C.Ss.R. wrote about it at Redemptorist Preacher.