The Grass Is Always Greener . . .
But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.
Do Christians compete with one another? Do they compare business cards and job titles? Do they notice neighborhoods and automobiles and the designer labels of others on Sunday morning? Are they tempted to share their child’s latest accomplishments given the slightest opportunity? Do they ever posture themselves for positions in the church?
James warns us that jealousy, self-centered ambition, and bitterness will hinder our testimony and may even destroy the effectiveness of our lives.
History, both secular and scriptural, is replete with those who harbored envy within and ultimately were destroyed by it. Perhaps one of the most prominent examples was King Saul. He disobeyed God’s orders given through the prophet Samuel for the battle at the city of Amalek, then set up a monument to himself. Ultimately, Saul was rebuked by Samuel and told that the Lord regretted that He had made him king over Israel (1 Samuel 15). His jealousy of David’s popularity with the people of Israel led him to plot David’s death (1 Samuel 19), even though David had married one of his daughters and was his son’s best friend. Saul died by his own sword as the end of his life dwindled to that of an undistinguished man.
James is telling us that we, like Saul, will destroy ourselves with envy and bitterness. James is encouraging us to grow up in wisdom and understanding—to apply and focus God’s truth in our lives.
While James describes the “normal” practice of everyone around you, he wants you to know that acceptability of the majority’s actions is a far cry from the desired response.
Never confuse the wisdom of the majority with the wisdom of God. The wisdom of the world might sound good and seem right but remember that Solomon wrote: There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death (Proverbs 14:12).
D.L. Moody once said that if someone had a business that was able to photograph the spiritual condition of people’s hearts, he’d go bankrupt. No one would hire him!
James begins this text by writing, If you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition. Frankly, every Christian would have to admit to the same verdict: Guilty! However, the verb for “to have” (echete) actually means “to harbor or foster.”
This means the person whose growth in wisdom is stunted doesn’t just struggle with self-centeredness . . . he welcomes it. He isn’t confessing it—he’s nursing it. Like a pot boiling with ambition and jealous thoughts, he keeps it simmering.
Do you want disorder in your family? Keep envying your neighbor’s possessions. Do you want disorder in your church? Keep seeking ministry opportunities that will allow you to be recognized. Do you want disorder on your job? Keep complaining when others around you are praised or promoted.
It comes down to this: are you content in Christ? The cure for jealousy and selfish ambition is thanksgiving and humility. Begin thanking God today for all that you have . . . and are.
Who are you envious of today? Confess your envy to God, and then pray for Him to give you contentment as you focus, not on what you don’t have, but on what you have.
Read Psalm 9–10
, where David wrestles with the fact that ungodly men seem to “have it made.”
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