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(Part 140)


May 21, 2018
Today’s reading: James 3:13-18

Why are there conflicts among top leaders and splits in Christian communities? There are a number of reasons, but among the top reasons are selfish ambition and jealousy. “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice.” (v.16).

How does selfish ambition happen among servant leaders?

  • When one looks to power, not for the sake of service, but for its own sake.
  • When one looks to position, and the pride that this brings.
  • When one looks to prestige, exulting in the acclaim of men.
  • When one looks to perquisites of the position.
  • When one acts in competition with other leaders or groups within the community.
  • When one thinks himself better that his peers or even those over him, often resulting in critical thought and speech.
  • When one does not have the spirit of humble subordination to those over him.
  • When one looks to gaining influence among brethren, at times for the purpose of personal financial gain.
  • When one will go to any length in order to put himself up or to bring others down. This includes distortions of truth (lies, half-truths, gossip, innuendos), fomenting discontent, and forming factions.

What are manifestations of jealousy?

  • When one is envious of the position, influence or accomplishments of other leaders.
  • When one allows brethren to malign a leader behind his back and may even participate in such negative talk.
  • When one makes negative judgments about another leader, oftentimes without really knowing the reality of the situation.
  • When one does not rejoice whenever a fellow leader is acclaimed for his work.
  • When one does not pass on his wisdom and experience to his subordinates, looking on them as threats to his position.

Ambition and jealousy lead to speaking falsehood, whether deliberately or inadvertently. It leads to lying about and maligning fellow leaders, in order to advance one’s own interest. Some, in their blindness, even boast of what they can do better. “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.” (v.14).

Now you can see how all this, with such attitudes, can lead to strife and disunity. Whenever we take on the wisdom of the fallen world, justifying to ourselves why we think and act in these ways, we will fail, and worse, cause failure in the body. “Wisdom of this kind does not come down from above but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.” (v.15). Heed this warning. Such thinking and posturing are not from God but from the world. They are unspiritual and should have no part in spiritual people who do spiritual works. And worse they are demonic, because they result in division in the body, negatively impacting on its mission. You become the enemy within.

What is the antidote? It is holiness and humility, which leads to godly wisdom, which is essential for servant leaders. “Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show his works by a good life in the humility that comes from wisdom.” (v.13). In turn, what is wisdom? It is knowing who are are and who God is, and living our lives accordingly, in holiness and humility.

What are the essential elements of godly wisdom? “But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity.” (v.17). See how such attributes negate ambition, jealousy, competition and strife.

  • Pure – one must not have negative thoughts about others, but keep one’s mind and heart free of any kind of negativity.
  • Peaceable – the peace of Christ (shalom) is being in right relationship with brethren, not doing any wrong to them and always acting rightly, with the interest of others at heart.
  • Gentle – there can be disagreements but these are to be resolved gently and peaceably.
  • Compliant – one must follow good order and pastoral discipline within the community, able to disagree but never being disagreeable.
  • Full of mercy – one must be tolerant, considerate, loving and forgiving, ever mindful of the shortcomings of people (including one’s own) and able to give allowance to human foibles.
  • Full of good fruits – one must look to simply serving to the best of one’s ability, knowing that in doing so, God will produce good fruit. It is also recognizing the bad fruit that comes from negativity, envy and ambition, and desiring never to be an instrument for these to prevail.
  • Without inconstancy – one must be consistent in upholding the vision, principles and core values of the community, living them to a high degree, and never surrendering principle for any worldly benefit.
  • Without insincerity – one must have no pretense or deceit, never dishonest or hypocritical, always acting in integrity.

All the above is about holiness. All the above will prevent strife and division, and will bring unity and peace to the community. “And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace.” (v.18).

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