Who is wise and has understanding among you?
He should show his works by good conduct
with wisdom's gentleness.
But if you have bitter envy and
selfish ambition in your heart
don't brag and deny the truth.
Such wisdom does not come from above
but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.
For where envy and selfish ambition exist,
there is disorder and evil of every kind.
But the wisdom from above is first pure,
then peace-loving, gentle, compliant,
full of mercy and good fruits,
without favoritism or hypocrisy.
And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace
by those who cultivate peace.
At the time, there were quite a few flare-ups on social media, and it made me so sad to see people posting Bible verses and memes about Jesus one minute, followed almost immediately by a vitriolic rant about politics, parenting methods, etc.
I though, these people NEED to hear this message.
Nevertheless, the post sat, lodged in the back of my brain, never feeling like the right time. The Holy Spirit within me was waiting...but for what?
He was waiting until I saw these people as this person. He knew MY lesson was coming.
Just recently, a situation spurred me to spew straight venom on my husband...repeatedly. It wasn't anything HE had done. I wasn't angry with him. However, because of the nature of the situation, he became a sounding board for my rage.
It wasn't fair. It wasn't nice. It certainly wasn't pretty.
But now is the time to write this post. To break this scripture down and reveal the nature of true, godly wisdom...and it doesn't look anything like spewing venom.
First James asks who among you is wise? This is kind of a trick question, right? We're all pretty solid in our opinions and what we consider "common sense."
Ask any person on either side of the political divide which position has more wisdom, and I assure you, it will probably be his.
Then, he says, well, if you're wise, then prove it by exhibiting gentleness in your wisdom. That part is almost easy to overlook, right? What does that even mean?
Well...he goes on. Ready to be convicted?
The next part is where I've always felt above the Scripture. When I go on my rants, it's not because I'm envious or have selfish ambition. Often, I'm defending someone or angry because I feel like someone is being wronged or taken advantage of. My indignation is RIGHTEOUS.
I'm going to break some of the Greek down here for you, and I'm really hoping you'll stick with me here because the outcome is pretty convicting.
When James uses the term bitter envy, the Greek is actually pikros zelos.
Pikros does mean bitter, but metaphorically it means harsh. So...let's keep that in mind.
The next term zelos looks familiar right? In a lot of the new testament it is translated as envy or jealousy, but in many others, the translation means zeal, and it's NOT a bad thing in the right context.
When Jesus purged the temple of evil just before his crucifixion, his disciples remembered a passage from Psalms that said, "Zeal for your house will consume me": zelos. (John 2:17)
In Romans 10:2, Paul references the Jews misguided zeal: zelos.
To the Corinthians, he speaks of godly sorrow leading to a long list of wonderful attributes, including zeal and justice: zelos.Add harsh or bitter in front of that, and you basically get righteous indignation.
If you're ranting because you're envious of someone, that's bad...but your "harsh zeal," or RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION isn't good either.
And that's where I failed...miserably.
Furthermore, remember how I said I wasn't raving out of selfish ambition? I was wrong about that, too.
If you'll allow me to continue to nerd out on you, the Greek word there is eritheia: putting yourself forward, fractiousness, or partisanship.
Here's another verse where this word appears:
Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit,
but in humility consider others
as more important than yourselves.
The word rivalry there...that's eritheia. It's putting yourself before and above others...like when you rant online (or to your husband) about other people or people groups.
Are you getting uncomfortable yet? If not, then maybe it's time to stop denying the truth, like James says, and get real. Because once you get uncomfortable...it gets worse. He goes on to say THAT kind of wisdom is DEMONIC.
I want to make sure you caught that: earthly, unspiritual, and DEMONIC.
I don't know about you, but I'd sincerely like to be NOT demonic, so I'd like to move on to what godly wisdom looks like:
It's pure, without blemish or vanity.
It's peace-loving, seeking to bring unity, not divisiveness.
It's gentle and compliant, not harsh and defiant.
It's full of mercy.
I stopped right there because I really want to focus on that. When you are upset about something, and you just know you're right, are you FULL OF MERCY?
Are you bestowing mercy and grace upon others that has been so lavishly and extravagantly poured out on you by our Heavenly Father through the blood of Christ?
Um...no. I know I haven't been.
So, I pray.
I wish I could tell you this conviction I've felt has led to immediate repentance, that I was instantly humble, but that would be a LIE.
Instead, I'm really wrestling in prayer because I keep coming back to, "BUT I'M RIGHT," and then I have to pray all over again because despite whether my position is right or wrong, my heart is in the wrong place...and that just makes me WRONG.
All glory to God; He is faithful. I have every confidence that He will work in my weakness to get my heart to the right place. I pray in my weakness His strength will shine, because I certainly cannot defeat this on my own.
I invite you to wrestle in prayer with me...heck, FOR me.
And maybe, just maybe, before you hit the paste or share button next time, take a few seconds to consider whether your post is peace-loving, gentle, and full of mercy.
If not, try praying for the people you're about to insult.
Pray for the fruits of the Spirit to shine through you.
Pray for the mercy and grace of God to flow through you.
And just don't hit the button.
I assure you, I'll be doing the same thing.