Main Verse: James 3:17
by Brian Phillips
When I’m reading my Bible and I run across a phrase or a particular order of words that is repeated, I sit up and take notice. James (who, by the way, is generally believed to be Jesus’ brother), is writing to the entire Jewish race, contrasting the wisdom of the world with the wisdom that comes from God. And like Paul’s letter to the believers in Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:20-25), James doesn’t waste words slamming the wisdom of the world: He says it is of the Devil!
But, he seems especially concerned about one issue: That of jealousy and selfish ambition (the Greek word for “selfish ambition” is also translated “strife”). He repeats his concern, using the same word order—jealousy before strife—twice. Why is that?
It’s because that is the natural order of things. Strife always follows jealousy. In other words, when we let our jealousy fester inside of us, it results in acts of selfishness and strife.
How did you feel when you got beat out for the number one singles spot on the varsity tennis team? Or, the last spot on the cheerleading squad? Or, for that part in the play that you really wanted? Or, for the highest grade in the class? Or, for the hostess position at work?
Did you feel a knot in your stomach? That may have been jealousy taking root. And, if you’re not careful, you may find yourself spreading gossip, or talking trash about that person who got your spot, in order to undermine him or her. That, my friend, is jealousy. And it could lead to terrible consequences.
Food for Thought
Remember the conflict prior to the 1994 Winter Olympics between Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan? Harding hired a “hit man” to take a lead pipe to the knees of Kerrigan. She hoped to eliminate Nancy from the Nationals in order to have a better chance of qualifying for the Olympics.
Tonya wasn’t thinking, “Wow! Nancy is so talented. I sure hope she does well in the Nationals!” No. What resulted in selfish ambition and strife, didn’t begin as admiration. It began as jealousy! And the result was a lesson to us all. Nancy Kerrigan went on to fame by winning the silver medal in the Winter Games. Tonya Harding was stripped of her national title and banned from the sport for life.
So What Now?
When you see someone excel in something you enjoy success in, don’t be jealous. Instead, appreciate God’s gift He has given the other person, and admire them for using that gift to its fullest. Ask yourself, “Am I causing strife, or am I trying to make peace? Am I being gentle? Humble? Am I trying to get ahead by talking behind their back, or am I sincere when I tell them how great they are?”
Answer those questions correctly, and you will know what it’s like to possess godly wisdom . . . and “reap a harvest of goodness.”