Today my Bible reading took me to James 3:13-4:12. Reading the NLT, I was struck with a number of thoughts about wisdom, relationship to God and relationship to others.
Wisdom does not include bitter jealousy or selfish ambition. In fact, these things come from the devil and lead to disorder and evil. Instead, wisdom is pure, peace-loving, gentle, willing to yield to others, full of mercy, full of good deeds, not partial and always sincere. Wow! With a definition like that, how many of us can even pretend to be wise? Willing to yield to others? Some would say that's a sign of foolishness and weakness, not wisdom.
As Christians, we often hear the advice to not be friends with this world. What do you think of when you hear that admonition? What does "friends with this world," mean to you? James says that friendship with the world is revealed by quarrelling, fighting, jealousy, scheming and killing to meet desires, looking only for pleasure and not going to God with our needs. We don't have a problem with the killing aspect of this list but what about scheming? Jealousy? Quarrelling? Not going to God with our needs? These are markers of spiritual adultery and such people are not friends with God despite their theology.
A friend of God is humble. How does that differ from the behaviours of the list above? Can't a humble person quarrel, fight, be jealous, scheme, look for her own desires and not go to God with her needs? If one of these people is a friend of God and one is not, they must be mutually exclusive. But how? I recently read a good definition of humility: It is not thinking less of oneself but thinking of oneself less. If we're quarrelling, fighting, jealous, scheming, looking for pleasure and not taking our needs to God, in truth, our focus is on ourselves and what we want or think. We are thinking about ourselves more, rather than less.
James goes further and tells us to not speak evil against each other; to not criticise or condemn each other because doing so is criticising and condemning God's law. How? When a person criticises and condemns, she is taking on the role of a judge but James says that only God, the Maker of the law, can determine if someone is breaking or keeping the law. We can't. So we have no right to condemn others.
A wise person is a friend of God. The wise and the friends of God are dependent on God instead of on themselves, their ideas of right and wrong, their personal views of other people and their desires for what life could give them. Are you wise? Are you a friend of God?