Arguments! There is nothing that corrodes relationships like arguments and James jumps from discussing how an undisciplined tongue (not unsimilar to the man driven and tossed by the wind like a wave in chapter one) destroys and undermines wisdom. Faith is what we believe but arguments is the works that reveal the condition of the heart. James talks about the “desires that battle within” us. That throws us back to chapter one where he says temptation comes from our desires that battle within us and give birth to sin that leads to death. Here he specifically names the death of relationships and fellowship in our groups. Again our eyes shift from God’s desires in a situation to our wants. Perhaps our famous saying is, “my way or the highway!”
The patriarch Jacob who had twelve sons by two wives, gave a beautiful coat to his favorite son, Joseph, by the second wife. The other brothers are jealous, envious, and hurt. Favoritism has led to actions that hurt. The brothers plot against Joseph, sell him into slavery, and Joseph’s life goes into turmoil. As far as I can tell, the story is about family conflict, desires for parental love, and sibling rivalry. Many of us can identify with those kind of family dynamics. The church is a similar microcosm of people struggling for recognition, affirmation, and power. We are people.
The beautiful part of all this is that even in the midst of all our fights and quarrels, God does not abandon us but continues to walk with us. Joseph eventually rises to power in Egypt and saves his family but the brothers carry guilt for much of their life. It took decades to heal that wound. Some families never recover
James points out our duplicity. We think we are praying and asking for God’s help but in reality we are asking God to give us what we want for our advancement. For sure, some time today there will be that irritating encounter that rubs us the wrong way. May we stop and think about our motives, how our faith is being challenged by the trial, and what response we give would glorify God. So easy to say and yet so hard to do. Keep my tongue in check, look for favoritism in my heart, and acknowledge that all good gifts come from God! Blessings as you walk through your day!