But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. (Jas 3:14)
It may not be that a person has wisdom at all. It may be that instead of wanting to be a wise teacher, he really is a bitter, envious, self-seeking individual. James’ advice is that this person face the truth as opposed to trying to deny it.
Looking back on chapter one, James talks about the person who looks intently into the perfect law of liberty. That person looks into it, sees hows he is and by continuing in that law, he will improve more and more. James also talks about the person who says he is religious and yet, he deceives himself. Don’t be that guy. His religion is useless.
There are many sources of envy and while I might be a little hard pressed to explain the difference between envy and envy which can be considered ‘bitter”, I am pretty sure that I do not want either of them to be among my possessions. Envy is a word that is very close to covet or jealous and none of these emotions are good things. I think of envy as something you feel when you do not possess something which someone else has. That something, be it a possession, a position, or a prize is something which you also wish (lust) to have and because someone else has it, you resent or despise the person for what they have.
James ties in “self-seeking” with this because truly what we are talking about is an attitude of “me first’ and not just first, but second and last also. If you look at the beginning verse in this chapter, perhaps one of the reasons that James does not want many to become teachers is because so many times, it goes to our heads. There is always another teacher who is better, there is always another one who receives this or that honor, there is always another blogger with more subscribers (Hey now!) and so it goes.
Jesus warned against having honor among men, actually he warned against doing things so that you would have honor among men. James seems to be warning about the same thing. If you have these things, then admit that you do. Don’t sit there and lie against the truth.
As a person looks intently into the law of liberty, as they work on being a doer and not a forgetful hearer, as they see those things that they need to correct, they need to admit that it is so. Only by admitting the problem can you begin to correct the problem. Peter had that problem. He didn’t know his own weakness and when Jesus (the Word) told him plainly, he boasted all the more “I will not deny you” yet, in the end, he did.
I have often wondered, who do the teachers confess to? You never see a preacher respond to his own invitation to come forward and confess sins. No, that would be bad, people would lose confidence in him and that can’t be allowed to happen. It may not be that you see it but a teacher does need to have his own person(s) with whom he can be honest. Otherwise, he may get caught up with sins that he will not admit.
When that happens, he stumbles as we all do and yet it is worse for the teacher than the one who is not a teacher.