Published on
December 1, 2023

James 3

“Who is wise and understanding among you? He should show his works by good conduct with gentleness. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition...”

Author Photo
Steve Wiggins
Author Photo
Steve Wiggins
Read Time
4 minutes
James 3
“Who is wise and has understanding among you? He should show his works by good conduct with wisdom’s gentleness. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your heart, don’t brag and deny the truth. Such wisdom does not come from above but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where envy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every kind of evil.”  James 3:13-16 (HCSB)

I have been in the music business all my adult life, singing songs about Jesus. While many great songs of praise come out of Nashville, Tennessee’s “Christian” music industry, it also has its share of ENVY and SELF-AMBITION. Those two negative attributes are fueled by money, notoriety, and an over-anxious need for God’s acceptance. They pretty much define all human competition. A friend once said, “When you take God’s business and mix it with the music business, you get monkey business!”

While self-ambition is somewhat self-explanatory, what is envy? Envy is pride wounded in competition. Think about it. When have you been envious? Has it not been when you felt someone else was succeeding despite your efforts?

The classic Biblical case of envy (while there are many) is Cain and Abel. Two brothers make offerings to the Lord.  Cain’s offering is from the field, and Abel’s is from the animals. The Lord looked more favorably upon Abel’s offering for reasons we won’t get into now. The point is that Cain’s reaction was bitter envy, which, left unchecked, led Cain to murder his brother. Think about it: At that time, Cain slaughtered 1/4th of the world’s population!

In business, especially business that deals with the ministry, this happens all the time—envy, not murder. Hundreds of artists write songs to the Lord and record them for distribution in the marketplace. When one record becomes more successful than another, envy creeps in. Competition can be healthy, but unchecked competition incubates envy.

Here’s another saying: If it were that easy to grab, there wouldn’t be any left. Given the rules of economics, supply, and demand, very few artists can succeed in the competitive market. It is lonely at the top, and often, it is vicious. After the “big grab,” most artists are left feeling underpaid, underappreciated, and, sadly, they often feel rejected by God.

Who among you is wise? Reject the tendency to be envious and self-ambitious. Find your identity in the Lord. Rest in His plan and provision, and show your works as one who has already received God’s blessing of abundant and eternal life through Messiah Jesus.

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