James 3:13-18 (ESV)
Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
One of my biggest personal frustrations is my selfishness, and my self-centeredness. I am constantly thinking of myself.
So often I look and see my motivation – self. Self glory. Self satisfaction. Selfish gain. My way.
You could easily excuse these feelings, and I know at times I do. You can easily say that they are natural – it’s just the way I am. But no! The only reason I am this way is that I am born in sin, and have become good at it through constant practice and training.
Even in our world today everything is about ‘self’. How to be successful. How to get what you want. How to get your own way with others. How to earn more. How to be happy. These are all worldly measures of self and success that are sold to us as the norm for society – there is nothing wrong with it, it is normal! This is the way you are, learn to make the most of it!
And again –No! I have read the Bible often enough to know that selfishness is not Godliness – but quite the opposite. I know that in many ways my life is significantly less self centered than it was 20 years ago, and yet, I still see so much of it! So, what does the Bible say?
Well, we could probably go for months looking at passages and examples, so I will just look at this one in James for now. So where selfishness exists, which is ‘wisdom from below’, earthly, unspiritual and even demonic, you will also find jealousy, disorder and ‘every vile practice’. Selfishness leads us far, far away from God.
So what is the answer? I think the key is the first item – purity – but let’s look at them all.
Purity. We need to remain pure before God, forgiven of our past sin, doing our best in Him to avoid any other sin. We need to keep our mind and thoughts on Jesus, and remain pure. I think if we do this, the rest will follow in due course!
Peaceable. This one is a tough one to define, but the way I see it is mostly staying off our personal ‘soap boxes’. We need to be honest and truthful, and call out error when we see it (and are called to – there are times to remain silent), but we need to do in an honest, sincere, loving way. Not a divisive, ‘I am right’ (see the selfish ‘I’ there?) way.
Gentle. Gentle with ourselves and others. Not condemning, but gentle and graceful in the love of Christ. Not divisive, but peaceable. This one goes hand in hand with the one before!
Open to reason. We all do things wrong from time to time. We can’t be right all of the time! We need to be open to reason from others, open to teaching from others, and open to correction from others. Obviously, we need to be wise to who we take these things from, but we all need to be open to others that they might be the vessel God uses to bring us closer to Him, through teaching or correction, counseling and guidance.
Full of mercy. Just as God has been merciful to us, we need to be merciful to others. It is terribly easy to see ourselves as right and just, and then judge and condemn others. But God has called us to a higher standard – to show mercy just as we have been shown mercy.
Full of good fruits. An outflow of our salvation and purity should be fruits of the spirit! We all have hopefully heard them many times, spoken, shared and maybe even sung if you went to Sunday school. love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal 5:22-23).
Impartial. Not judging someone differently from another – for any reason. Maybe you judge because of color, or maybe you judge because of hair, or clothes, or the car they drive, or the house they live in. Or maybe you are more discerning, and you judge because of the church they go to, or the doctrines they preach. But God has called us not to judge one another – because we will be judged in return using the same measure! So instead of that, we need to leave our own opinions out of it, and be impartial to all.
Sincere. Genuine, Free from pretense and deceit. That is what it means to be sincere. Not ‘peddling religion’, or selling your own viewpoint (see the ‘your own’ in there?). But being honest and open, honest and sincere about God and what He has done for you.
So how do you measure up? If you are anything like me, sometimes, not so bad. The rest of the time, not so good at all! But know that there is hope. God hasn’t called us because He wants us to live under condemnation for eternity, but that we will be right and whole before Him once again. So as you go about your day today, keep these things in mind. Look at your actions with others, your actions when driving, your actions when racing down the supermarket aisles, your comments on Facebook, and measure them up to the above. And if possible, measure them before you act, and try to be less selfish!
Philippians 1:6 (ESV)
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.