“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)
James teaches us that there are two different sources of wisdom. There is wisdom that comes down from above, and wisdom that has its source here on earth.
These two different sources of wisdom make them very different from each other…in fact almost opposite. James tells us that earthly wisdom is characterized by envy and selfish ambition. Envy and selfish ambition arise when we see ourselves in competition with those around us. We may see ourselves in competition to achieve professionally, or to be the most popular…the most gifted, the most ______… you can fill in the blank.
The most common reason we see ourselves in competition with others is because we are deriving our sense of worth from some aspect of ourselves such as our achievement. I’ve written about this previously. Briefly, basing our sense of worth on what we do forces us to achieve in order to feel worthwhile. And achievement is always measured against those around us or in the same profession.
In our striving to achieve, we perceive ourselves in competition with others and begin to experience envy of others and selfish ambition.
We demand to be the one who achieves.
James tells us that this is unspiritual… even demonic.
In other words, it is not just wrong…it opposes our efforts to draw close to Christ.
We must abandon this view of the world and of the means to feel worthwhile if we want to grow closer to Christ. And most importantly, we must be careful that we have not compartmentalized our life in such a way that on Sunday, we attempt to draw close to the Lord through our attendance at church, while through the rest of the week, we compete with others.
It is a dead end street…filled with the potholes of envy, disappointment, empty strivings and defeat.
It leads nowhere…and fails to bring peace and shalom.
Peace and shalom come from heavenly wisdom…which we will address next week.
Prayer: Lord, help me recognize when I am looking at the world through eyes of competition and achievement…and help me turn my face back to You.