Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth.” (James 3: 13 – 14)

The writer of the letter from James is continuing on his theme of being good teachers and educators of the Christian life. It surprises me that the writer would countenance people who have bitter envy and selfish ambition to be teachers. It makes me wonder if the writer of the letter from James has a specific church, faith circle or individual in mind as the focus of this letter. It also reminds me of an experience some years back when I went to a prayer room because I felt I was in a dry experience in my faith life. What I found instead of a supportive praying team was a group of individuals who lifted themselves up by “ministering” to people that they could look down upon and feel superior too. They fitted exactly the warning words that the writer of the letter from James has for his audience

“Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind.” (Verses 15 – 16)

I certainly felt the “earthly” and “unspiritual” aspects; and if I am honest, the devilish as well. I literally, beloved reader, prayed myself out of there! I lifted up a prayer for them – which they chastised me for, saying only they were allowed to pray – and then just left!

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.” (Verses 17 – 18)

A short time later I read that the church that hosted this prayer group had gotten itself into some trouble – misconduct within the church body or in the church leadership, I think. I was not at all surprised.

“Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.” (Chapter 4, Verses 1 – 3)

That has been my only such “close brush” with such a purported “unfaithful” faith group. There have been some individuals I have known who have not shown forth the best of Christianity. One trait I have found that symbolize a good, authentic, Christian faith group is mutual submission. Each member allows themselves to be accountable to the group – with grace, mercy, and forgiveness. And they submit themselves to the Lordship of the Divine and espouse faith in Jesus Christ as the sent Messiah from the Lord God.

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (Verses 7 – 8)

I wish I could tell you, beloved reader, that such authentic faith groups are in abundance; ill-conceived and ill-planted faith groups are rare to the extreme. We live in perilous times. And it would be good if we would heed and cleave to the wisdom that is found in scripture, letting the Word of God guide our lives and our relationships with others. Shalom & Selah!