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3 ways to Discern good and evil

heb 5-14In our quest to mature and become conformed the image of God’s Son (Romans 8:29), it is essential that we can distinguish between good and evil.

Hebrews 5:12-14 ESV  For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food,  (13)  for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.  (14)  But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

In our lesson from Sunday, November 26th, we looked at the growth process that this requires. In the sermon which you can hear here, we also noted that Satan is trying to get us to shortcut the path God has in mind for us. Obedience brings to our lives the things that will bless our life. Adam and Eve choose a shortcut and it was a disaster.  In an abbreviated blog post here are the main points.

Discernment can and should be achieved over time.

It is expected that we will grow to be able to discern good from evil. The Hebrew writer says that his audience OUGHT to already be teachers but have continued in a state of immaturity and perhaps even regressed a little.

Growth is expected. If you are not growing, you are dying. In our walk with God, stopping or turning back are not options for the Christian. We need to develop an ability to see good and evil for what they are. This comes from practice.

There are no skills which we learned that we did not need to practice. Everything learned from using a fork, tying our shoes, dressing ourselves, riding a bike, learning to speak, learning another language and YES….learning God’s Word takes time and practice to become competent at.

I believe that we have some discernment built into us by God.

Romans 2:14-15 ESV  For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.  (15)  They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them…

However, beyond murder and stealing there may not be as much agreement. Sexual immorality is one of those sins that gets clouded and even many professing Christians have little or no problem living together before getting married or approving of many different variations of this in their life, the lives of those they know, or in their entertainment.

What follows are three things that will help us discern Good from Evil.

#1 Is it clearly condemned?

The easiest way to know if something is good or evil is to see if it makes the list!

Galatians 5:19-21 ESV  Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,  (20)  idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions,  (21)  envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

If it is on that list, don’t do it. Discernment is easy in such cases. Perhaps we might need to check with a dictionary for proper definitions but for many people this will settle the question when we ask “Is it evil?” This isn’t the only list of “evil” things. But it is a start.

Sometimes, knowing the opposite of something helps. So the other list is good to know too.

Galatians 5:22-23 ESV  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  (23)  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

If it is on this list, go for it! These are good things.

But what if it is not on either list?

#2 Your conscience and wisdom from another may help.

The conscience when properly trained is a wonderful tool. We should never violate it. However, even Paul, who persecuted the church in good conscience was not doing good! At the very least, if your conscience calls into question what you are doing, you should stop and consider it carefully and perhaps….

Get help from another.

Philippians 3:17 ESV  Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.

After all, the Hebrew writer wanted his audience to reach a level of maturity where they would be able to discern right and wrong. Find someone who can do so and get their help.

#3 As always consider ALL of God’s word.

This is the ultimate source for knowing right from wrong.

Gambling is NOT specifically forbidden but a search of the Scriptures will show that the principle of putting your money up for chance is not a good activity.  So let’s ask the questions.

Does it violate my conscience? If yes, then don’t do it. If no, well, you are still not done asking questions.

Ask a mature Christian. Again, not a definitive source but I venture most mature Christians are going to discourage gambling.

Ask the Bible. Though not specifically condemned (and this is not a full study on gambling) here are two passages to consider.

Proverbs 13:11 ESV  Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.

1 Timothy 6:10 ESV  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

While small increases in your income which come over time from salary increases and savings allow a person to adjust to wealth. The rapid and sudden endowment of it can be a problem. (It also can happen in inheritances but more so in gambling winnings.)

Many will say that I play the Lotto in order to help the schools out. It would be much better to  give the school the whole dollar because they only get 19 to 29 cents of that money.  “What?!”, you say, “But why waste that money when you might win?” Yep…and now we see the “love of money”; helping the schools then becomes a justification and not the real reason.

The best way to grow to maturity and being able to discern good from evil is by learning and knowing God’s word. Then, of course, you have to put it into practice to become better at it.

What are some things that you understand better NOW which you were a bit unsure of as a new Christian?


What hinders me….?

To Hinder someone is to cause them some amount of difficulty in what they are trying to accomplish. If I wish to take a trip across the country in my car and have $10 in my wallet, the hindrance is a lack of money. Once, while traveling across the country while in college, my dad had sent me a credit card for Shell. My hindrance along the trip was that Shell wasn’t in Colorado…that and no money! My desire to travel back to Oregon was not in question, but there was a obsticle in my way.

When the Eunuch asked Phillip, “What hinders me from being baptized?” The answer really was nothing provided that he believed.

Yesterday, I said that I would discuss “What hinders us from giving 10%” and the answer is usually a simple: Too much outgo. Now, I realize that there are other possible reasons and not enough income to feed and clothe yourself might be a big factor in that. However, if you are in that situation, I trust that you will be able to see that I am not talking about you.

To keep it simple, I will ask about a person who makes $20,000 a year ($1,666/month) and decides that he needs to have his own apartment and stuff. It is so easy with credit now a days to go buy a couch/tv/stereo/PlayStation, etc. Let’s suppose that our young adventurer runs up a bill on various things totaling $15,000. Not a difficult feat to accomplish really. How much will he be paying? A single credit card at 15% (and the furniture he bought on no interest till 2014 will convert to a 29% interest rate if he doesn’t pay the last penny on time.) would be about $350 a month. So while the amount might be a little more than that since he bought at different places, let’s assume ONE credit card bill handles it.

This represents 21% of his before tax income. After taxes, it is likely to be closer to 25% of his income. By the time he pays the rent and utilities, insurance, etc. he is not going to have a lot left. If he has been putting food and gas on that credit card (living on 110% of his take home) then he will be in more hurt once his credit line is maxed out.

  • Rent $600
  • Utilities $100
  • Phone (full web and texting) $85
  • Insurance ($150)
  • Credit card $350
  • Gas $100
  • Food $300

oops! I ran out of money and haven’t even paid TAXES.

The idea is not that you have to (HAVE TO) give 10%, the idea is that even if you wanted to, you couldn’t. Why not? Because you bought things on credit instead of at a garage sale. Now, you have an obligation to take care of and the cash that you would put in the collection plate, you don’t have because you are paying bills.

The thorny soil in the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4) was the person who let the cares of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desire for other things, choke it out. It became unfruitful.  So many of us are able to choke the ability we have to bear fruit by tying ourselves to the world’s pleasures. We need to free ourselves from that and then we will have money to give. Yes, even more than 10% if we are so moved.

Be at peace

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (Rom 12:18)

These words have always been important to me. They speak of our duty beyond the Christian family as we interact with other people. There are two types of people in the world. Christians and Non-Christians.

However, let it not be said that among Non Christians, you find only worldly, prideful people. I mean, we all are to some extent but I know those who are as nice as a warm summer’s day, who will go an extra mile to help out and yet they are not of the faith.

Still, it must be said that in the world, those who wish to live godly, will experience difficulties because of the Non Christians and sometimes those difficulties will cross boundaries that we don’t think should be crossed. Take, for example, the person who cuts you off in traffic or speeds around you while you, yourself, are already doing the speed limit and maybe a tad more. Maybe you think of your boss who is in a foul mood most of the time but wants you to be happy-happy with your customers, or maybe even your cell phone carrier who takes to much of your time trying to fix a problem that should be fixable (or now that it is fixed 1 1/2 years later should have been fixed sooner). There is a story in that last one but it will wait.

The point is not that you cannot point out the issues and try to resolve them. Most people will be reasonable.  But in some cases, you can only do so much. You can’t fix every wrong that happens to you or someone you love. Some people will not listen and it occurs to me that I feel like I am rambling in this blog.

Let me restate the verse this way. “If there is to be no peace between you and someone else, it should be their fault, not yours.”  Sometimes that means we will need to go an extra mile;  sometimes, we will have done all that and it still does not work. In such cases, we are not under obligation to stress over it. Nor are we free to start causing problems.

Isaac dug many wells and moved away to avoid conflict. Sometimes that is possible, sometimes not but I know that many of us wonder if we would have that ability to do so.

Do what you know that you need to do. That too can be virtue.

Virtue and the procrastinator

A lesson like this is hard to preach because it too often applies to me. It affects almost all of us in some way or another and so when I present a lesson like this, there is always a disclaimer: This lesson is one I need too.

In studying virtue, it seems that wisdom must play a part and one of the people who seem to have the least amount of wisdom is the procrastinator.  Sloth is one of those things we are encouraged to leave behind in childhood yet it can persist among adults nonetheless. Peter, in encouraging his audience to add good qualities to their faith, did not mention wisdom and yet, it is hard to imagine an a virtuous person who did not have wisdom. Even in the first chapter Wisdom cries out and tries to teach. She says in effect that the calamity that come upon you for lack of wisdom is your own doing. Those who suffer from calamity the most are the sluggards and lazy procrastinators, who will not do what they should be doing.

To procrastinate can be as simple as putting something off but implied in the word (and the reason why we are warned against laziness) is because the procrastinator puts it off to the point of missing an opportunity or causing distress in his life or the lives of others. We are not discussing  the problem of procrastinating laundry folding in favor of reading a book (unless the laundry has been piling up for three weeks and you need clean socks), it is more the procrastinating of important things like book reports, Dr. visits, exercising, apologizing or even preaching the Gospel until the opportunity passes.

To help understand the causes of procrastination, we might look at a chart that I first saw in Steven Covey’s book “the 7 habits of highly effective people”.  Here is a picture of it:

from Google images

What we can see from this is that each task of your life can fit into one of those four quadrants. The urgent, important things are usually immediate needs like phone calls, a fire, a heart attack. Whereas the important non urgent items are things like spending time with family, exercising, visiting the doctor for a check-up and things we put off more easily than a ringing phone.  Of course, the spiritual applications are many which will be made in further lessons.

The causes then of procrastinating could be from pure laziness. Spending our time on non important and non urgent things because we want to, or because we are afraid to venture out into the other aspects of our life. Sluggards can always find a reason (“There’s a lion in the street” they cry.) Or perhaps it just doesn’t seem the right time. I will plant seed and do a lot of watering to catch up. I want to have fun now!

Sometimes the procrastination is from being too busy. We have put what we perceive to be important things (and they are) so high above other important things that we are out of balance. We spend 80 hours at work and none with our kids, we spend so much time teaching others, we don’t teach our families. We give so much to God, we have none to help the poor or parents with. (Mt 15)

And then sometimes, we just do not see the urgency. There will be another opportunity to do this or that. We, of course, do not even know our own life’s length, much less the length of another’s. The Thorny soil in Mark 4 represented those who were busy. Once I have my fortune made, then I will serve the Lord may will have been their thinking.

The solutions to procrastination may be more involved then this advice, but it is a good place to start: Go to the ant!

Consider how the ant works and gathers and needs no prompting. She gathers for the now and for the winter. Also, you might consider how different the Bible would have read had Abraham procrastinated when God told him to offer up his son Isaac. Yet, the scriptures say that Abraham arose early in the morning for their trip. Gen 22. He didn’t say ” plenty of time, wait for me to enjoy him a few years.”  Or even more dramatic, we wouldn’t be reading this blog had Noah decided to procrastinate on the Ark. 120 years goes by fast! What if he had waited a couple of decades?

We should remember that Time is not a savable commodity and while our life may be full of  “non urgent” things, the important ones need to be attended too. Bible reading and Bible study (two different concepts), prayer, preaching, and visiting others are all things we can “put off” and perhaps we don’t see the danger now but eventually we will.

A man of virtue will not procrastinate. The sermon is here.

Arrogant Christians

As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. (Jas 4:16)

 James has touched on pride before but here he puts it in a different light. Those who believe that they will be able to accomplish the things they set out to do, and do not include God in those plans, are boasters of an arrogant kind. We know people like that but such a characteristic should never be named among Christians.

David serves as a good example of the good boasting. When told by Saul that he would not be able to beat Goliath, David responded:

And David said, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”  (1Sa 17:37)

There was not an arrogance about that but there was an anger that God’s name was being sullied by the Philistine and that no one else was doing anything about it.  Boasting in the Lord and His power is one thing, boasting in our own abilities is another. David’s experience had led him to conclude that God would be with him and I don’t think he was being arrogant though his brothers seem to think so.

James is not through talking to the rich either but as we move through the text, we need to ask ourselves a question. Could I be among the rich that James is talking to? Do I plan out a future and not include God in it?  Do I make plans that I think I can carry out?

I am sure that we know those people who show off a new car and then add “we prayed about it and then bought it.” Have you ever wondered if they would have bought it regardless of if they had prayed? I know I have. Still, there are those who have prayed without any idea how God would answer their prayer and found a good deal on a car.  Here is a suggestion: Instead of going car shopping and finding one you like and then praying about it, try praying before you even get ready to go car shopping. Do this long before the desire and car fever hits you because I have been there. I have walked off a car lot before (I have no idea how I had the strength to do that)and it was a good 60 seconds before my pulse started to calm down. But it did, the urge passed and a when I did buy a car afterwards, it was a better deal.

Part of that prayer then would be for wisdom to choose the best car for you, your budget, your needs and perhaps to ask “Do I even need a new car?”  Sure, mine doesn’t look that great but it still runs. Am I ashamed of it, does it affect my perceived status?  Let me tell you, not having a car payment is a powerful reason to NOT go get another car. On the other hand, we all know that cars do break down and eventually will need to be replaced (but I dare say that it doesn’t have to be as soon as everyone else thinks) so planning for one would be wise, perhaps setting aside some monthly amount.  

I can afford the car payments we boast. We lose our job the next week. Now where did that boasting get you?

If we boast in the Lord, we also boast in what he has given us.  Contentment in what God as given is an antidote to boasting in ourselves. The poor man should boast in his exaltation, the rich man in his humiliation, nothing is said about his abilities, what is spoken of is that “all are equal”. All have a home in Heaven and if that is not worth boasting about, nothing is.

Harvesting in peace

And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.  James 3:18

When I was about 13 or so, we had a garden. I learned two things in the couple of years that we had that garden. The first thing I learned was that, sometimes gardening is fun but mostly, it is hard work.

The hard work is not in the planting of the seeds, although it does take some effort to do that. Some seeds you can just place on the top of the soil and it works out ok, several, like corn you have to bury a little ways down.  No, the hard part in gardening is not the sowing; it is the preparing of and the tending to the garden.  Anyone can scatter seed and some of the seed will grow but not generally enough to outpace the weeds, animals, and what little you have that grows will not be that great, that tasty, that worth it.

peas from Google images

The second thing I learned was that no matter how much I might want peas, if I planted carrots, I would get carrots. I would not get peas. You reap what you sow, and depending on how you tend to that garden, you may not reap much.

In life, we are always sowing and reaping. If we sleep late, we miss the interview and the job. If we study hard, we get a good grade. If we don’t save money, we have none in retirement. If we sow to the flesh, we shall reap the flesh; if we sow to the Spirit we shall reap the Spirit. God is not mocked (Gal 6:7-9)

James says that a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace.  If you sow righteousness, you will reap righteousness. We should go about our business. We should tend to our garden. By preparing and weeding and watering it, the harvest will result. A man busy in the responsibilities of his own life will not have so much time to get involved in the affairs of another. He will neither take the time to judge him, nor meddle, nor gossip, nor quarrel. In other words, there is peace not war. Righteousness can be sown and harvested.

Since James did not write in chapters, verses, or paragraphs, I would ask the question: Which chapter does this verse go with? Let’s have it work double duty and go with both. Perhaps it is a transition between the thoughts of chapter 3 and 4.

First, if a person wants to be a teacher so badly, let him control his tongue, which also means his heart, the garden of his life in which his fruit (good or bad) grows.  Gossip, slander, anger will not promote peace and without peace, righteousness cannot be sown, nor will it be harvested.  Such incorrect uses of the tongue show that a person truly is not wise because, if a person can’t see those weeds in his own garden, how can he see clearly to pull the weeds in a brother’s garden.  Besides, if you are so busy tending to your own garden, preparing, weeding, watering, you will be too busy to even notice when people are admiring your abilities and wanting to learn from you.

Second, the next chapter is going to show the problems this group of Christians had. There was fighting and jealously and overall, just a basic misunderstanding of the way God will work in their life. There was no peace. Certainly, no peace with God; they still wanted to be friends with the world. Their prayers were not answered.  If you want to be righteous people, and more importantly, if you want people in the world to be able to see your good works (and glorify God), you need to learn how to get along. Not just with each other, but with God.

The qualities of Wisdom

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. (Jas 3:17)

Contrasting the wisdom of the world, James turns to the wisdom that one could consider from God. Wisdom is something a person has which allows knowledge to be used to bring about a blessing. I would suggest wisdom from below will not result in a blessing but at most, a short term gain.

Wisdom from above comes from God and should be a blessing in the life of the one who receives it and those in that person’s life.  It is has several characteristics which he mentions that are worth looking into.

It is pure. Wisdom that is tainted with envy and self seeking is not of the quality that God would provide. He does not tempt us; he gives us good and perfect gifts and wants his children to imitate His qualities.

It is peaceable. While it does seem that debates and tumults come, Paul advises that if there is to be a lack of peace that it be the other guys fault not yours. Let’s not be coy about this. As children we sometimes antagonized a sibling or friend to the letter of the law (e.g. “I’m not touching you” I would say as I tormented my sister by placing my finger ever so close to her arm.) Paul really means, “As much as lies within you be at peace with all men.” (Romans 12:18) Looking for fights or picking fights will not help the cause of Christ. Much history has been written about those who ‘in the name of Christ’ did great wrongs for their own reasons but it wasn’t based on wisdom from above.

Wisdom makes it appeal in a gentle way. It exhorts and implores, it does not get angry but it can be persistent. Sometimes it doesn’t even use words as Peter suggests to Christian wives married to unbelievers. (1 Peter 3:1-4)

Wisdom must be open to reason:  to be able to appeal to a person or even to have someone appeal to you. The Scriptures teach that we should be able to give a reason for our hope (1 Peter 3:15) God appeals “let us reason together “in Isaiah 1:18.  Our faith is not a faith that is blind but is reasonable.

Full of mercy….God in His wisdom through Christ’s sacrifice showed us so much mercy.  We should show that mercy to others and especially in the church (Mt 18). James has recently said “Mercy triumphs over judgment” so show mercy.

Good fruits will proceed from the life of person directed by wisdom from above.  By their fruit you will know them.

God is not a respecter of persons. James has made this point in chapter 2. Being partial shows your lack of wisdom.

Sincere: As opposed to feigning or pretending. The Pharisees came to Jesus often with insincerity in order to trap Him in His words. When offering wisdom it is in the interest of the other person. When I think of sincere, I am reminded of the first word in the list, “pure.”

Two thoughts about this wisdom:

1. In contrasting these two types of wisdom, I am reminded of what James says to teachers in verse 1 and then the conflicts he is going to describe starting in chapter 4.   Look at Proverbs 28:2: “When a land transgresses, it has many rulers, but with a man of understanding and knowledge, its stability will long continue.” There are two concepts in this verse that we recently looked at from James. “Many rulers” (or teachers if you will allow me to suggest a substitute) vs. a single man, and the implied instability that comes with many vs.  the wise man and the stability brought by his wisdom.     

2. This wisdom is not a wisdom that comes to very many youth. There are exceptions but just in the fact that James has to explain what wisdom from God looks like suggests that not only do most youth not get it, many older ones do not either.  We need to be patience and grow in our maturity.  I have often suggested that perhaps in the family of God, if we are all children of our Father, that the new born are those needing to grow but that the mature are little more than obedient teen-agers, still under the Father’s rule but, babysitting the younger siblings. It may not be the most correct analogy but we all need to realize wisdom comes with age and experience, through God’s providence and even seeing the mistakes of others. It is not something that we can post on the wall like a diploma and say “See, I have wisdom.”

Wisdom to stay away from

This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. (Jas 3:15-16)

What kind of wisdom does not descend from above? “this wisdom” refers to verse 14 which we looked at in the last post. Wisdom that has bitter envy and self-seeking in it is a wisdom that does not come from above.

What does come from above? James will tell us the type of wisdom that comes from above in vs 17-18 but do you also recall James 1:17? He says “every good and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…” What a contrast! Remember that James told the one lacking wisdom to ask of God? (1:5) Wisdom is a gift of God and wisdom that is from God is not full of bitter envy nor is it self-seeking.

 This wisdom, that is full of envy and self-seeking, is earthly, sensual, and demonic. For me, in this context, demonic brings to mind anything that is rebellious against the laws and desires of God. When you have envy and self-seeking you wind up with confusion and every evil thing. As I said in the last post, these are not two characteristics that you want to possess.

When I put this into application, I first think about teachers. James started off chapter three talking about teachers and Paul warned the Ephesians elders that from among themselves, their own ranks, some would rise up to draw followers after themselves. (Act 20:28ff)

The second thing I think about this type of wisdom is the absurdities it brings out in people. Wisdom that says “it is better to live together before you get married” or “little white lies are no problem” or “taking equipment from the office is ok because my employer can afford it” or “we need to set aside all religious differences-everyone is ok in God’s sight” and many other examples of wisdom like it are self-seeking or envy driven. When a person is interested in promoting their self or tearing down others, it is easy to find or create a justification. Just think of all the laws David broke in his sin with Bathsheba. Wisdom from above says premarital sex is sin, lying is a sin, stealing is a sin, and the wide gate of ecumenicalism will lead to destruction.

Confusion and evil things reign in the realm of the self seekers and envious. The evil part is easy to understand. All of the problems in this world can be traced back to ego and lack of love and when you think about it; ego and “not love” are almost synonymous. However, “confusion” is a word that I had never associated with bad things but a quick search in with a concordance will reveal that confusion is not a good thing. (I have just found a good word to preach on.) Confusion includes the idea of instability, disorder, riots but if that is not enough, consider this: “God is not the author of confusion” (I cor 14:33)

Sometimes when we use the word “confusion”, we overlook the “instability” aspect of it. If a person can be thrown into a state of instability by attack or temptations, sin can result. It also brings to mind the idea of building on the rock. “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. (Mat 7:24)  Talk about stability!

When Satan was tempting Jesus, can you imagine Jesus saying “Oh, I am hungry, mmm… I could turn the stones to bread. Oh what do I do, I am so confused!” Well, he didn’t have to. “it is written” he responded. No confusion, no instability. He resisted the temptation. Why? Because not only did he want to serve God but He knew God’s word.

Now that we understand what the earthly wisdom is, James will go on to explain the wisdom that comes from God.


Don’t boast against the truth

 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.

If you are truly wise…

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. (Jas 3:13)

“I am, I am, listen to me!” So many want to toot our own horns and have people listen to us.

The truly wise are not those who SAY they are wise but those who show that they are wise. Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; When he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive. (Pro 17:28) My favorite way of saying the same thing is this:

It is better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

There is one way to show that you are wise and understanding. By your works! Oh, I know, we are back to that again, not just from chapter one (verse 23) but also chapter two (verse 14 to 26) but James is going to point out time and time again that works are an important part of our Christian lives.

It isn’t just the good conduct but that the good conduct is done in meekness. Here, meekness would carry with it an implied humility. Meekness is strength controlled. It does not mean weak but that, while you have to power to do a thing, that you don’t do an act out of control or in your own name/will.

Jesus said that we should do our good works privately, not for public consumption or praise. We are to do our good works so that God gets the glory. It is by our works that people can see if we are wise or not! When Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, needed wisdom on how to deal with the people’s request for lower taxes and leniency, he first consulted with the older counselors and then his young friends. he took the advice of his young friends…and the Kingdom was divided.

A business advisor giving you advice on money who does not have years of experience behind him (his own or working with those that guide him) is just as likely to give bad advice. Dave Ramsey, however, I would listen to!

Don’t try to be a teacher before your time. Take the time to let your works praise you and then others can listen to you.

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