Overcoming envy and selfish ambition
But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind. James 3:14-16 NLT
Harboring bitter envy and selfish ambition do not come from God. They are “earthly, unspiritual, and demonic.” James uses strong language to describe the absolute contrast between wisdom that originates in man and that which comes from God. The believer who is truly wise prays continually to God in the name of Jesus. In prayer he is in communion with the source of wisdom, for God himself will give generously to anyone who asks Him (see James 1:5). The opposite is equally true. Without faith and prayer, a person can never obtain true wisdom. Without true wisdom, words spoken will come out from envious and selfish heart. Such “wisdom’ will be masked to appear like real but it is a show and a make-believe wisdom. James also refers to it as “demonic” for the purpose is to promote a lie. When the devil speaks the lie, it is bad. When he uses the world to perpetrate the lie, it is worse. But when the members of the church become his instruments to spread demonic wisdom, it is the worst of all situations. The letter of James leaves the impression that the people to whom he is writing to are susceptible to promoting such wisdom.
James proves this point by observing a common truth: “For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind” (James 3:16). One thing will lead inevitably to the next in a sequence of cause and effect. Envy destroys mutual trust and once trust is demolished, it will lead to disunity and disorder. This is devilish in design perpetrated by the father of lies. Also, selfish ambition consistently leads to evil practices because egotistic motives dominate and eventually eliminate love for God and one’s neighbor. Selfish ambition is self-centered and when not checked and allowed to continue, it will degenerate to evil practices. This is why Paul rebuked the church at Corinth when they were manifesting such attitudes. “For you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world?” (1 Corinthians 3:3). Believers ought to be God’s fellow workers. When one forcefully insists upon being first, this will result to serious conflicts. When we permit envy and selfishness to enter the family circle in our homes and in our churches, we soon find that the stability of such institutions is seriously threatened. Relationship will be filled with tension. Everyone becomes uneasy and it will diminish their witness for Christ and weakens their spiritual well-being. To find peace in the family and in the church, we must bring about reconciliation by confessing sin, by giving up selfish ambition, and by praying for God’s wisdom to prevail so that there will be spirit of mercy, love, and peace.