Jealousy and the Orphan Spirit

by Daniel Goddard

Matthew 20:1-16

Jesus is teaching His disciples the values of His Father’s Kingdom.

In this text He reveals the heart of the Father and His generous nature as a Father.

There is however; something much deeper being addressed in this text that is rarely taught: the association between jealousy, and the orphan spirit.

In both this parable and the previous one (Matthew 19:16-30) Jesus makes a very direct statement: “The first shall be last, and the last shall be first”!

Question: What does Jesus mean?

Answer: Jesus is clearly referring to the order of influence in the Kingdom of God; versus the values and hierarchy of the world.

In other words: in His Father’s Kingdom; sacrifice, humility and generosity of heart are of the greatest value. Those who share the heart and values of the Kingdom, then have the place of greatest influence with the Father!


In the parable; the laborers, the vineyard, and the owner represent Christians, the ministry, and the Father. The length of service in the vineyard represents the years of service to God as a Christian.

The equal pay at the end of the day represents our equality as His children, the day that we all will stand before Him, Fathers equal love and generosity to all those who serve Him, and most of all: the fact that he does not bless and receive us on the basis of how hard we work.

Salvation, and all its benefits are a gift to us by Grace; not a reward, or due, based upon our hard work.

Those who had worked the longest and hardest in the vineyard were jealous of those who had only labored a short time.

The reason for their jealousy was that the newcomers were treated as equals at the end of the day.

Let’s bring this into the context of the Church.

Question: Does jealousy exist over the place of honor, blessing and equal rights given to those who are new members in the Body?

Answer: Yes! This is one of the greatest causes of division in the Body of Christ.

Example: You have served as a deacon and your wife as worship leader for 30 years. Jane and John arrive on the scene as young Christians. John is 27 years old, saved for 2 years, and has worked as an electronics technician and foreman in a large company for 6 years. His experience and joyful attitude get him elected by a huge majority at the annual meeting, and the young wiper snapper replaces you.

Jane, John’s wife, is a talented musician and vocalist. She formerly sang and played in bars across the Nation. Her passion to worship and obvious intimacy with God are soon noticed by the leadership and worship team. This combined with the fact that Sally, your wife is not open to change, as well as being quite a gossip leads the elders to ask Jane to be the key worship leader.

Suddenly, something rises up in you and your wife’s heart; and it ain’t pretty. You go to speak with your closest friends about what’s happening; just to protect the church from deception and evil influence. Need I continue?


What I have just described is a manifestation of the orphan spirit in the form of destructive jealousy.

The older couple in the scenario should have rejoiced to see some new blood, and blessed John and Jane publicly, throwing their support fully behind them as spiritual parents. Instead, they threw a jealous fit; bringing pain and division to the whole Body.

The older couple lived off the praise and recognition of people.

They saw their position as a reward for their service, not as an opportunity to serve others as well as mentor sons and daughters.

Rather than joyfully support John and Jane, they were threatened by the loss of position and influence.

 Luke 15: 11-32

* Jealousy is the enemy of generosity!

 ** Orphans do not see all children as equals in the family, but rather see the Kingdom of God as a place of competition for acceptance and position. In their imaginary kingdom, Father God is a master/boss who has a ranking system of rewards and punishments based on hard work and obedience.

 *** The elder brother syndrome and the orphan spirit are synonymous!

**** Father loves all His children equally! Those who most share His heart and values will be given the first positions of influence in His Kingdom.

 ***** The Church must begin to place people in positions of influence based upon Father’s Kingdom values; not upon gifting or hard work ethics.