Yes, the title is a bit of a mouthful. I was also considering: “The wisdom that saves us from our destructive tendencies in human relationships.” Admittedly that is a tad too long, but this is the very essence of James 3:16. “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.”
Continuing the Three Sixteen series we see here in James how our relationships suffer apart from Christ. Our fallen nature pits us against one another as natural enemies. We hold each other with suspicion, trying to ensure someone else is not better than us, or better off than us, with better stuff, or people, in their life).
You see this attitude play out clearly when two toddlers meet and cautiously approach each other for the first time. Can I really trust you? As adults we try to veil our suspicion, and often do it quite well, but the bent of envy and selfish ambition runs deep in our hearts. We can trace this way back to the vulnerability Adam and Eve felt once they recognized their nakedness. There was a need to cover up, to be on the defensive against the ambitions of others. Our relationships suffer as a result. Yet this is the wisdom of the world we live in.
James shows us another way, the way of wisdom from above. Let’s read the verse in context below:
“But if you harbour 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. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. 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. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” (James 3:14-18 NIV)
These are such challenging things to actually live out, but when the peace of Christ comes to rule in our hearts we can have true peace with each other. We can rejoice with those who rejoice and express genuine love and care for others. This is what makes the Christian community so unique, so attractive to the world. Sure, we are not perfect, but if Christ is in us he cannot but shine through our relationships, which (to some extent) lack envy and selfish ambition. In Christ we can know some measure of sincere love, due to the measure of humility in our brothers and sisters, who are also being transformed into the likeness of Christ.
Let’s work to heed the warning of James’ 3:16 and yet also rejoice! The indwelling Saviour has sweetened our human existence beyond measure. Praise be to Him!