I got an email yesterday from a friend asking for help. I actually like those kind of emails. It makes me feel good to know I have something to offer, something a friend finds valuable. But that wasn’t really the kind of help my friend needs. His challenge is he has more opportunity than he knows what to do with. National organizations are playing tug-o-war over him and the group he started is exploding at a rate he can’t even track. What he needs from me is advice on how to handle all of this opportunity. As I read the email I discovered something very ominous rising from inside. My first thoughts, “Well, isn’t that wonderful for him? Isn’t he just Mr. Special? He is already winning the recognition game and now doesn’t know where to store the trophies. So he wants my help. I’ll tell him where he can store his trophies.”
You have to understand a couple of things. First, this is one of my closest friends. This is a guy I would gladly take a bullet for. (I thought until yesterday) Second, this is an extremely humble man. Jesus would describe him as a man in whom there is no guile. The thoughts I felt coming up like vomit in my mouth came entirely from deep inside of me. My friend would be stunned (he is stunned if he’s reading this post) that anything he said led to this kind of reaction. That makes it even more vile.
Ashamed of my thoughts I mumbled a prayer for forgiveness and headed off to a staff meeting at the church where I work. There the pastor asked me to read aloud a passage from James 3, ask the group to meditate on the passage for 2-3 minutes and then read the passage aloud again. Here is the “random” passage I was assigned:
Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.
I do not serve a subtle God.
There in black and white are my twin sins da jour: bitter jealousy and selfish ambition. I might as well have them tattooed on my arms so everyone can see the truth. James describes my little pity party as earthly, unspiritual, demonic. That’s some pretty deep doo doo. And James says bitter jealousy and selfish ambition are gateway sins. Every other vile practice, the stuff I pretend I’d never do, are the natural next steps.
I am incredibly thankful my friend reached out to me for help. I hope I can help him sort through his opportunities, but the greater good for me is that his email revealed something so vile inside of me it will destroy everything I am and love if I do not deal with it. I am reminded again that every thought, every motivation, every desire must be filtered for jealousy and ambition, and where I find the twins growing I have to ask God to do immediate and radical surgery.
If you battle what I battle here are a couple of excellent posts to wrestle with.