“If you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” (James 3:14-16)
One of the reasons I like to read articles in World Magazine online is the calm, rational, Christian worldview it offers on current events and trends that are compelling without being abusive. No matter what your political stance or religion, I think you would agree that many media sources and social networking sites are negative, insensitively critical, and combative. James warns us about wisdom that “does not come down from above.” In verse 15, he exposes it as earthly, unspiritual and demonic “wisdom” is certainly not from God. While it is not pleasant to call out sin, it is necessary, especially when teaching God’s Word accurately. I implore you not to be put off by the negativity of our passage but embrace the opportunity to logically consider the danger of human thinking that is opposed to biblical truth.
In verse 14, James identifies bitter jealousy and selfish ambition as two primary characteristics of worldly falsehood. If these issues remind you of Tenth Commandment, “Thou shall not covet,” good for you! After all, what makes us envious or ambitious but the things, people, or positions we want but do not have. It is possible to be tempted to jealousy but repentant, and it is possible to be ambitious for the good of others or a community. Some politicians are ambitious to win seats for the good of the constituents while others are self-serving, seeking power, fame, or influence for personal benefit. We are encouraged to ask God for wisdom to know the difference (James 1:5). For example, is this a true statement: “It has been said that for evil men to accomplish their purpose it is only necessary that good men should do nothing?” (Charles Frederic Aked, preacher and lecturer, 1920)
In verse 16, James reminds us that jealousy unmanaged and ambition that is selfish will lead to chaos and instability with even more evil practices-actually “every” wicked behavior. Apparently, there were problems in the churches or Christian communities that had come to James’s attention. Like an Old Testament prophet, the apostle warned them, and now us, to seek meekness and good conduct (v. 13), rather than fight, argue, and demand our rights in an atmosphere of restless entitlement. This is a very helpful warning for our Christian communities today, which can be transformed by Scripture and a biblical worldview.
How are you influencing others to adopt a biblical worldview? People do not abandon their beliefs and habits without first seeing that they are just plain wrong or ineffective. Will you speak God’s wisdom today, out loud, rather than do nothing?