The Danger of Jealousy and Selfish Ambition in Ministry

It’s a bit of a long winded title this evening, but I can’t think of a pithy way of saying this: a lot of pastors are jealous of other pastors.  They struggle with jealous and envy towards other pastors they perceive to be more successful than themselves.  Then other pastors struggle because people that they want to befriend are jealous of them and will not befriend them.

I know that it is a strange way for those of us called into ministry to act, but it happens and it has happened for a long time.  As far back as the times of King David it happened.

It happened as they were coming, when David returned from killing the Philistine, that the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with joy and with musical instruments. The women sang as they played, and said, “Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands.”Then Saul became very angry, for this saying displeased him; and he said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, but to me they have ascribed thousands. Now what more can he have but the kingdom?”  (1 Samuel 18.6-8)

David had raw passion, faith, a confidence in the Lord and it got great results.  Saul had a position of leadership but had grown hard to the things of God through the ministry – it happens today too!

When Saul first met David he told him he was just a boy.  Then Saul offered his armour to David.  Not out of love or mercy, certainly not out of any conviction that David might actually defeat Goliath.  So why did Saul do it?

I think it was to patronize David, to make him look stupid.  To put a young teenager in the armour of a man head and shoulders taller than your average man is going to make him look more stupid than Mickey Mouse in the Sorceror’s Apprentice or a toddler wearing daddy’s slippers.  Ambitious, jealous leaders don’t try and raise up the young men and women of faith in their care, they try and embarrass them and condemn them.

There is David wearing armour ridiculously too big for him, Saul and his courtesans laughing their heads off, teasing the young man for his faith and drive.  David would be walking around like Robocop, taking a minute or two to turn his head and move in the heavy armour.

Saul wasn’t trying to help David – we know his character well enough to know that.  He was trying to make him look stupid and kill his faith.

Jealousy makes you do that.  Envy makes you attack what you need to help you.  When the courage of another exposes that you are a coward, you want to snuff out that light of courage and keep the world in the dark about your fear.

There is a lot of deep truth in this encounter between God’s anointed and the ex-anointed.  But what is obvious and surface is important too: older ministers are threatened by younger ministers, the passionate threaten the passive, the courageous threaten the cowards, the dreamers threaten the daydreamers.

And it hasn’t changed.  Today in the church there are leaders who are not secure in their position, who have lost their passion and they are threatened by the Davids.  Their passion makes them embarrassed, their confidence makes them uneasy, their willingness to go kick Goliath where it hurts makes them feel old and ashamed.

I have seen jealousy kill people the same way it killed Saul.  As soon as David’s song was louder than Saul’s, Saul wanted to kill the young man.

Jealousy will stop you from hearing from heaven.  Jealousy will stop you enjoying your ministry.

So, today I want to give you a couple of practical lessons.  Things that I needed to know and wish you had taught me but I learned the hard way and now I am teaching you!

Firstly, don’t ever let the jealous talk you out of killing your Goliath.  This isn’t a battle to go for, it’s a battle to ignore.  Don’t waste your time fighting Saul, move on and kill Goliath.  Don’t waste your time arguing with other ministers.  Get on and change the world.  Don’t waste your time trying on the armour and being the source of their jokes.  Get on and change the world.  Don’t waste your time trying to prove yourself to people whose day is over.  Get on and change the world.  Stop wasting time to get these people on side.  Go and change the world.

You might be the one trying to change the world and you have already encountered Saul.  Some jealous person attacking your dream, throwing you in a pit, bullying you because they know you might one day exceed them or show them up.  Don’t be tempted to live for them and try and prove yourself to them – don’t do it – go and change the world!

Don’t lower yourself to their level to stop them being jealous of you.  I’ve been a school teacher for a number of years, and I saw many children stoop intellectually to avoid being bullied by the jealous.  I’ve seen people do drugs or lose their virginity and suddenly want everyone to do the same and make the same mistakes.  People without passion for God and character want you to lose yours.  Don’t give up on your big dreams because of the jealous!

Instead find people who dream big like you and want to change the world like you.  That’s what I have done, I have given up on pastors who want me to dream like them, who want me to dot my i’s and cross my t’s before stepping out and obeying God and who want me to box in God and His plan the same way they do.  I am surrounding myself with the fellowship of the improbable dreamers, the imagineers of the impossible and the hopers of far-flung hopes.  Get around people like that!

Don’t lower yourself to be the same, raise yourself to be different.  Don’t try and fit in, you were designed to stand out!

If people are jealous of your success, keep doing what you are doing.  If people are jealous of your talent, get trained and get more talented.  If people are jealous of your church, love and build your church.  If people are jealous of how much you love the Lord, tell them the truth: I will become more undignified than this.

Dream big, dream out loud, and don’t let the small voices stop your big dreams.

Published by Tree of Life Church

We are a growing network of growing churches, with services weekly in Dagenham, Guildford, Watford, Croydon, Brentwood and Dorset. We are also planting churches in Cambridge, Suffolk, West Midlands and Hemel. Find out more at, and

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