My sister and I were great at sibling rivalry when we were kids. We fought over everything. We had the standard, “She’s touching me!” or “She’s on my side!” in the back seat of the car frequently. We fought over the passenger seat when we got older. We fought over toys and the bathroom and TV and videos and who-knows-what else. We never reached a point of physically pulling each other’s hair out, but we picked on each other most of the time.
In his letter, James calls his readers, “My dear brothers and sisters.” (James 2:5). And here in chapter 4 we see that there was some fighting going on among the siblings, fighting that was not limited to James initial readers but happens in our church too.
James says that the cause of all this fighting is selfish ambition, bitter envy, desiring things that you can’t have, and praying with wrong motives, or literally praying “sickly” prayers. Matt said this on Sunday during his sermon (listen online here):
Selfish ambition and bitter envy make you delusional. You think you are better than others.Matt Bruce
James’s brothers and sisters apparently were not practicing the wisdom from heaven that is pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere (James 3:17), Their deeds were not being done with humility either (James 3:13).
So how do we fix this problem? Matt said in one of his last two sermons that we can’t just deal with the symptoms, but we need to go to the root of the problem. If the root is that we think we are better than others, we need to address the attitude. Paul says it well in Philippians 2:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.Philippians 2:3-7
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant…
That’s quite a challenge that Paul gives. And I don’t know about you, but it sometimes seems impossible to think about others before myself all the time. Thankfully, we do not have to do it ourselves. God has given us a helper, the Holy Spirit. And as James says, He gives us grace upon grace for when we mess up.
So I want to challenge you to ask God to help you put others before yourself. Before you start your day, before you back out of the driveway, before you walk into that meeting, before you walk into the classroom, before you walk into the patient’s room, before every customer that comes to your counter, before you step into your house after work, before you get on social media, simply ask God to give you the ability to see others as better than yourself. Ask Him to help you put their needs before your own desires. Ask Him to give you the attitude of Jesus in every situation.
I’m excited to see how God changes my attitude this week, and I would love to hear how you see Him work in your life as well.