James argues that when we experience envy and self-centeredness in our hearts, we should not be boastful by lying to ourselves about it. James seems to assume that there will be times when we envy others and seek our own well-being at the expense of other people. It’s part of the human experience. Our call is not to be shocked when we see these qualities in ourselves or even to eliminate these states altogether but to avoid an arrogant mentality that refuses to acknowledge and take ownership of those parts of ourselves that are tough to face. I’ve seen many clients experience relief as they find words to name the parts of themselves that they fear will be rejected and unloved. I feel honored by their vulnerability and connected to them in a common understanding of what it means to be human. As we realize that our feelings are normal and common, they lose the power to isolate and separate us from the love of God and those around us.
We benefit from being as honest with our Christian friends as we are with a therapist or spiritual director. We are wise to share with trusted companions that which comes up in our private journaling and vulnerable prayers, in our deepest and most honest selves. We will experience envy and selfish ambition, and it is best acknowledged. Left unattended, these harmful spiritual states lead to disorder and chaos in our lives. The antidote is first to be honest with ourselves and others and then to be open to the radical intervention of the Holy Spirit, who guides us into wisdom that is pure, peace-loving, gentle, and willing to yield. When we make space for all of our selves to enter God’s healing light, God brings peace.
Holy Spirit, show me the parts of myself that tend toward envy and self-centeredness. Help me to experience relief that comes with honestly naming these qualities, connecting with others in our common struggle, knowing I am loved, and making space for your peace and wisdom. Amen.
Proverbs describes the noble wife and sets a standard that can seem impossible. This woman is capable and respected but also generous and wise. She serves but is not weak. Is she a “superwoman,” and do all women need to be “superwomen”? No, she is noble because she follows the counsel of the psalmist and is deeply rooted in the teachings of God. Therefore, she represents a standard for everyone to emulate, not just women. James, another teacher of wisdom, encourages believers to show these same characteristics by following the wisdom given by God. In Mark’s Gospel, the disciples display a lack of wisdom by arguing over who is the greatest. Jesus reminds them that greatness in God’s eyes comes through service, not through seeking recognition.
Read Proverbs 31:10-31. How have societal expectations shaped your life? How do you allow them to shape the ways you interact with others?
Read Psalm 1. What fruit are you yielding in this season?
Read James 3:13–4:3, 7-8a. In what ways does your life reflect “gentleness born of wisdom”? How are you gentle with yourself and with others?
Read Mark 9:30-37. How do you seek to serve others in your daily life?
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