“But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.” James 3:14-15, NIV.
We can all think of examples of how the world encourages envy and selfish ambition, as well as things in our own lives, if we’re being honest, that come between decisions informed by heavenly wisdom and humble deeds.
I believe that in this verse, James is challenging us to be honest with ourselves about our own motivations, their sources and, ultimately, their effects. Let’s not tell ourselves lies that justify acting out into something that we know isn’t healthy for us or edifying to the world around us.
Check out how AW Tozer explains the incompatibility of worldly motivations and heavenly outcomes in his book “The Root of Righteousness”:
“As water cannot rise higher than its source, so the moral quality in an act can never be higher than the motive that inspires it. For this reason, no act that arises from an evil motive can be good, even though some good may appear to come out of it. Every deed done out of anger or spite, for instance, will be found at last to have been done for the enemy and against the Kingdom of God.”
So, if we are holding up this mirror in the light of James 3:14-15 and we don’t like what we see, let’s remember 3:17,
“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”
If we can honestly acknowledge when and/ or if our motivations fall short of James 3:17 we can pray for God’s help to change our hearts.
Don’t be discouraged – every letter in the New Testament ends with a prayer that encourages the challenged. Like this one from Paul to the Thessalonians:
“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, NIV
Father God, I pray that You would show me the areas where selfishness and envy may be holding me back from wise decisions in my life. I pray that Your Holy Spirit will flow through me, heal me, and show me how to be a blessing to those I come into contact with this week. I pray that like Paul said, You would sanctify me through and through. In Jesus’ name, amen.