Envy and strife are such ugly things when they manifest themselves openly, yet all too often they are the order of the day within the church. Several years ago, I witnessed it up close and personal, much to my chagrin. A female minister who had been working with the young people became envious over a couple who recently joined the church when the pastor placed them over the youth ministry. Unfortunately, I got caught in the crossfire when I helped with a project for the youth ministry. Before that, I was involved in other ministries within that church and in each one I witnessed envy and strife. I got involved in the youth ministry thinking that it would be the one place envy and strife would be minimal or non-existent, but I got a rude awakening.
The apostle James addressed envy and strife centuries ago to show how it was the exact opposite of godly wisdom–
13Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. 14But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. 15This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. 16For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. [James 3]
Those with godly wisdom and godly knowledge should exhibit a character and lifestyle of meekness as they work for the Lord. That meekness is not sheepishness or weakness as many mistakenly think, but it is the person realizing they are who they are only by the grace of God. They have a sober view of themselves and don’t think so highly of themselves that they expect to be at the center of everyone’s universe.
If someone has a heart full of bitterness against others that sparks envy and strife against the successes they see in others, it is nothing to be proud of or boast about. By not admitting this fault within themselves, they lie against God’s truth, attempting to portray themselves as perfectly fine spiritually. Their envy leads them to stir up strife against sound doctrine and raises unnecessary quarrels within the church and in doing so they lie against the truth.
What is the source of this false wisdom? Firstly, it is of the world and concerns itself with the fleeting, temporary things of this earth. It is focused on narcissistic self-exaltation, a desire for popularity, a desire for collecting lots of material things, a desire to impress others or make them envious through the pride of life. Secondly, it is sensual in that it is all about doing what feels good to the senses. It feeds the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes. Thirdly, it is devilish in that it gives place to the devil, allowing Satan to have his influence in their thinking and in their actions so that they spiritually resemble the prince of this world.
What is the result of envy and strife? Confusion and every evil work. When envy and strife has its way, churches get confused about who they are in the Lord. They get confused about which doctrines are true and which ones aren’t. They get confused about God’s nature and Jesus’ identity. They get confused about how Christians are commanded to conduct themselves publicly and privately. And all of this leads to the evil works of facilitating and promoting lustful addictions like adultery, pornography, and homosexuality. It leads to the evil work of stealing from the church treasury or from other individuals to keep up with the Joneses. It leads to the evil works of slander and libel to make others look bad so they can look good. It leads to the evil works of idolatry and witchcraft, thinking that these practices bring more power.
All of this is in contrast to the godly wisdom we should exhibit–
17But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. 18And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace. [James 3]
Godly wisdom starts off with purity. Its motives and actions are pure with the focus of pleasing God. That purity brings about peace because it is not intent on running other people over to glorify itself. It is gentle and easy to be reasoned with out of concern for the well-being of others so they too can focus on pleasing God. It is merciful and bears the fruit of the Spirit so individual believers and the whole body of Christ can be encouraged and strengthened spiritually. It shuns favoritism to promote the fact we are all equally special to God and to his works. It is not hypocritical because that person is preoccupied with making sure that their actions do not cause someone else to stumble. It seeks and promotes peace in God and the peace of God, which is a peace that does not get worked up over minor trivial things as Martha did when Jesus came to visit, and is not a wimpy type of worldly peace that backs down when evil bullies try to pressure others to kowtow to their evil deeds.
Churches that push for this godly wisdom will find themselves more spiritually mature than the churches who let envy and strife have their way.
–posted by Harry A. Gaylord–