By what WE do, as well? (part 13)
According to James 3:13, the “good deeds” we do, that truly show “the righteous life God desires,” are displayed at their best when “done in the humility that comes from God’s wisdom.”
To make it clear what James means by that, he compares it to the “earthly, unspiritual ‘wisdom’ of the devil,” verse 15, the driving forces of which are “envy and selfish ambition” – the obvious fruits of which are “disorder and every evil practice,” verse 16.
There are two wisdoms in operation, therefore, both with clearly visible characteristics and results. On the one hand humility and goodness, and on the other selfish ambition and evil; two clear opposites.
So James is boiling things down to basics, and he’s aiming right at Christians too, because in James 4:1 he asks a rather piercing question: “What causes fights and quarrels among you?” – “you” meaning his readers, and in particular Christians who considered themselves “religious” (1:26). Because word had got back to James that there were fights and quarrels going on in their Christian communities. So rather than being shining lights in a dark world riddled with envy and selfish ambition, they were bringing the devil’s darkness into the light.
So why would they do that?
Well, James, the ever practical, has a clear answer in verses 1-2: The reason you’ve got fights and quarrels is “what’s going on inside your own heads. You want something you can’t get, or you want what someone else has so desperately that you’d be willing to kill to get it.” Like kill a reputation, or kill someone’s chances for promotion, or kill friendships others have out of jealousy. Or put down anyone who gets in the way of our own personal ambitions in church – to sing the solo, for instance, or lead the Bible study, arrange the flowers, be on the Council making the decisions, etc., etc. How much wreckage in churches has been caused by “envy and selfish ambition” (3:14) and personal desires thwarted?
And with so much experience of that all through church history, why on earth would Christians choose that over what God’s wisdom provides in James 3:17-18?…(more on this tomorrow)