It used to be said in London, that you could wait a long time for a bus, and then three would come together. Likewise, one evil rarely comes without the company of others. The previous verses tell us that all evil has its origin in the devil, who seeds the world with it (James 3:14-15). The most dangerous seeds may look innocuous but are small enough to penetrate the human heart and foment a desire for evil. The discontent that comes from envying others and the greed to get more, fuelled by selfish ambition - these are a dangerously heady cocktail. Today's verse says that every social disruption and personal wicked action have their source in the inflamed human heart.
James agrees with Jesus (Matthew 15:19) and Paul (Galatians 5:19-21) - the heart which is not satisfied in the love of God will seek its own satisfaction at the expense of personal dignity, self-control, shared immorality and public disorder. The world manages to call such things 'adult' and 'mature' - useful for business or essential for relaxation: such descriptions are untrue, but they fool most people. Indeed, some can hardly imagine a working life without intrigue, backstabbing, half-truths and the relentless pursuit of career advantage. But mercifully, God's way is so different. It leads to peace and productivity, instead of sin and spin.
We must not be surprised when we work alongside people whose values are so different from the pattern set by Jesus, but we are called to follow Jesus. We are called to build a godly character which is formed as we practise our faith. 2 Peter 2:5-8 says, "… make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is short-sighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins."
It is a battle. We are all conditioned by our appetites and ambitions, and without Christ we have only a limited ability to resist the tidal wave of inner desires. That is why the Christian must not be naive, somehow assuming that everything in the world will make way for righteousness ... it will not. We are in a struggle against external spiritual forces of wickedness (Ephesians 6:10-13); but perhaps the biggest fight is to master our inner desires that are in opposition to the Spirit of God (Galatians 5:17). So, before we contribute further to the instability of our working environment and slip into wicked ways, let us review our inner desires and ask God's help to deal with those that are in competition with His Spirit for the right to have first place in our lives. If we do so, everybody will benefit - and God will be glorified.
© Dr Paul Adams