For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. James 3, verse 16.
Envy and selfish ambition: that sounds like Washington DC. But if you think about it, it also sounds like a church council meeting, a high school reunion, family gathering for Thanksgiving, and people watching at Starbucks. Not to paint things in too cynical a picture, but it sounds like you and me talking here. It sounds, too, like we’re biting off more than we can chew.
According to James, where you and I feel envy or selfish ambition, we’re also susceptible to (and culpable in) adultery, murder, slander, hatred, and a rash of other vile sins. They are closely linked and intertwined. Envy breeds more and more sin. Ambition usually stems from envy.
Mind you, there are healthy kinds of ambition, namely being ambitious to build one’s talents for God, or being ambitious in setting goals that better the situation of others, perhaps even yours. That’s not what James is talking about. You know the kind of selfish ambition he’s talking about. It’s the kind of ambition that makes us think “that lousy so and so. They don’t deserve to win.” Or it’s the jealousy with which you and I look at other people who have things we want or live lives we wished we lived. When we think like that, we’re guilty of sowing the seeds of murder, hatred, adultery, idolatry and every other kind of possible sin. Is this so hard to believe when, just in the previous verse, James counsels that our ways are demonic when they’re apart from Jesus. Demonic and full of every evil practice.
Notice something, though: James couples ‘evil practice’ with ‘disorder.’ That’s not a coincidence. Personally, I think that sin comes from a condition of disorder. Our hearts or minds are out of synch with where God wants us to be. We take our eyes off of Jesus and whammo! Disorder, then sin. Pick your sin, your pet transgression. When you do it or are in the middle of it, you’re disorganized, off kilter from the norm. It isn’t a random thing that James links evil practices with disorder.
Where are you in disorder today? What things make you feel envy, or tempt you into evil? They’re out there, I know. And I know that I resist evil every day. The evil I resist may not be the evil you resist, but it’s just as real and just as disorderly. What do we do to resist? You know the answer. Jesus. Focus on Jesus and resisting evil becomes possible, feasible, real. Focus on Him and the disorderly assumes order again. The cure for the common sin is Jesus: today, tomorrow, and forever. That’s why James says what he says.
Saving Jesus, save me from the disorder of sin. Forgive me again and teach me to follow You.
Where do you have disorder?
What things tempt you into evil practce?
What are you prepared to do about that?