We’re often waiting for God to do something super while God is waiting for us to do something natural.
The spectacular happens when we act in faithful obedience to God.
James identifies three areas of personal responsibility:
The Problem of Jealousy and Selfishness
Don’t claim you are wise when you are full of bitter jealousy and selfish ambition.
The History of Jealousy and Selfishness
Avoiding bitter jealousy and selfish ambition is difficult because of a long-standing human condition:
- The constant conflict between the powerful and the powerless.
- This conflict surfaced once we left Eden, transitioning from a context of abundance to a context of scarcity.
Abundance and scarcity are not just about material conditions, but also about conditions.
The scarcity mentality is based on three interrelated lies:
- God is not to be trusted (Idolatry)
- God is withholding something from you. (Bitter Jealousy)
- You are responsible for supplying your needs. (Selfish Ambition)
People who believe these lies are willing to steal things from God and from people.
However, they don’t think they’re stealing.
They think they are merely securing what they deserve.
They don’t realize that God gives them everything to richly enjoy. (1 Timothy 6:17)
A Contrast of Two Kingdoms and the Origins of Poverty
In the kingdom, abundance is the norm.
Outside of the kingdom, poverty is the norm. (Genesis 3:17–19)
Because of the Fall, the earth no longer generously offers its goods.
Unless you actively wrestle with the earth and its conditions, you will be poor.
Conditions on the earth after the Fall are also inherently competitive.
Everyone on the planet is trying to avoid poverty and secure prosperity.
The attitude originally adopted toward God at the Fall is extended to all other humans.
People take things from other people with updated versions of the lies from the Fall:
- God is made in my image (Idolatry)
- I’m taking this from you because I deserve it. (Bitter Jealousy)
- I’m taking this from you because I can. (Selfish Ambition)
The Origins of Contemporary Conflict
These conflicts happen not only on an individual level, but also on a collective level.
Nations are motivated by versions of the same three lies:
- God thinks like us (Spirituality)
- We must steal to avoid scarcity (Economics)
- We must steal to create the security that comes from abundance (Politics)
When nations plunder other nations, they don’t think they’re stealing.
They just think they’re working in harmony with the way the world works.
Survival of the Fittest
What do nations take from each other?
Land, people, and natural resources.
This is the reason slavery exists.
Two things to note about slavery:
Slavery is not particular.
Slavery is not personal
Satan is not a racist. Satan is an opportunist.
There should be limits on how personally you take racial aggression
This does not mean that you should not express emotion around racial offenses.
This does mean that you should not take actions to respond to racial offenses.
What this does mean is that you should not adopt the spirit of the offender to respond to the offense.
The biblical principle:
- No matter how noble your intentions, once you become a of strife, you become a tool of the devil.
- Satan evil through strife feeders.
Get off Highway “Seems Right”
- When we embrace the spirit of our offender, we will feel that we are right.
- When we view the circumstances through our offense, we will be convinced that justice is on our side.
- When we view our experience through offense, we attribute intelligence to our motives and actions.
- Our offenses will attribute wisdom to the way we respond.
- Scripture insists that we reject this wisdom, not matter how compelling it is.
- Earthly (Physical, Lust, Economics)
- Unspiritual (Mental, Greed, Politics)
- Demonic (Spiritual, Pride, Worship)
1 John 2:15–16
The Three Temptations of Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-12)
So Then How Are We Supposed to Act?
17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
People who take on this attitude hold the following things in mind:
- Racial strife is not fundamentally personal or particular—even though that’s how we experience it.
- We must limit how personally we take offense and privilege our role as referee.
- You can have personal rooting interests as long as you don’t undermine your role as referee.
We are God’s essential workers. We must play an active role in mitigating strife.
Our presence and participation in anything should render the situation more peaceful than it already was.
Find Your Lane
© Joshua D. Smith, Ph.D., 2022