At the end of chapter 3 of his book, James, the brother of Jesus, contrasts what is wise living and what is foolish living. Today, we focus on “foolish living.” In verses 14-16, the comments are blunt, “But if you harbor bitter envy (or jealousy) and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” “Bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts” lead you to foolishness. These verses take us from a walk of wisdom to stumbling in foolishness. According to James, once you “harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your heart,” wisdom is sucked out of your spiritual walk. Your life becomes “earthly, unspiritual, and demonic” leading to “boastfulness (or pride) and denial of truth.” Lives and families end up in “disorder and your lifestyle has become evil.” I have observed this often. Beautiful couples start out meaning well yet end up living a nightmare often no longer together with pieces of their family strewn all over the place.
So, let’s ask ourselves some questions:
- Do you harbor bitter envy (or jealousy)?
- If so, is there a person you harbor bitter envy against?
- Why are you jealous?
- Is harboring bitter jealousy worth it?
- A good indicator of foolish living is boastfulness. Are you boastful?
- Another indicator is “denial (or stretching) of the truth.” Are you truthful?
- Is your family in disorder?
- Has your family become ungodly?
Harboring bitterness is ugly for you much more than anyone else. Many times, the target of your bitterness is not even aware and would be shocked if they knew. Hebrews 12:15 states, “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Get rid of “bitter envy”! If not, it will cause trouble most likely for your family and closest relationships and will likely defile the most tender of folks around you namely your children.
Do you harbor “selfish ambition”? This means that your life is caught up focused on this world and not the next. You may drive the “baddest” car, live in the biggest house, professionally at the very top of the pyramid, hang out with a beautiful woman or dynamic man, raise physically beautiful and talented kids; yet, without God first in your life. I got one word for you, “I am sorry.” You are focused on a finite number of years and your treasures are based on finite investments. Eternal good news is for those folks who place God first, live their lives prioritizing the service of others especially their family, and rejoice in the things of God. This doesn’t meant these folks are not successful. Many are but that’s not their focus. James warns if this world is your oyster with your eco-system based on your kingdom, “you’re boastful and denying the truth.”
Time to re-focus! James 3:17-18 characterizes wise living, “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. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” Amen!