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Infected with Evil

James 3:14-15
But if you harbour bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such 'wisdom' does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. (NIVUK)

People who are wise will prepare to live a godly life (James 3:13): any other lifestyle is a preparation to do evil, because there is no morally neutral place for our thoughts and ambitions. Every day, not only brings its own rewards, but also sets us up for future success or failure. In the same way that germs may incubate before producing the disease, so covetous discontent fuelled by envy of a colleague or friend becomes a breeding ground for tomorrow's evil. Unsatisfied and unthankful with what we have, we do everything we can to get more; and our hearts become a seed-bed for evil as we wander away from trusting the Lord for everything (1 Timothy 6:6-10).

This lust for more might have worldly commendation through over-ambitious targets, but Christians should think differently. At a practical level, greed cannot be sustained indefinitely; it will eventually produce bitter relationships and a collapse of business, along with national and global economies. Whether that obsessive desire for more is an individual or corporate fixation, it is important to see where it comes from. It is an endemic disease in the world (1 John 2:16) which originates from the devil. Satan has always been trying to stir up discontent: wherever you see that happening, his fingerprints are all over it. Of course, he hides behind those he has manipulated into doing his dirty work for him, as he did in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-19).

But greed is not just about what we have but also our perception of who we are. Selfish ambition, the desire to put one's self forward, making influential friends at the expense of other relationships, is part of global trade, professional and political cultures. However, it is not the culture of Christ's kingdom. Philippians 3:3-4 says, "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." That is a hard lesson for many of us to learn, especially for those who are successful in the world’s eyes, and those who dream of following them. But if we do not seek His kingdom first, we will be left with nothing of value (Matthew 6:28-34).

Detecting the source of an outbreak of infection is the first step in any public health investigation. Too often our own hearts have become the primary or secondary hosts for spiritual germs, from which we and many others are already being infected. We must not delude ourselves. Apart from a clear understanding of God's Word in this matter, and submission to the power of the Holy Spirit, our own sinful desires will propel us to bitter envy and selfish ambition. Then we will become toxic with an infection of greedy lust, until it overcomes our conscience and corrodes our faith. So, stop and think. Today, take a check on potentially infected parts of your heart-desires, and deny the devil by submitting them to the Lord while you seek His help in learning how to truly follow Jesus.

Merciful Lord. Thank You for reminding me that I need a spiritual health check, to see where evil infections may be lurking ... waiting until they find opportunity to ruin my life, and others' too. Forgive my smug justification for harbouring the bitterness that resents the blessings I see in others: I am sorry for being responsible for the calculated thought-steps to securing my own desires. Please work with me to unmask the spiritual infections that I have already contracted, and deal with them as I willingly offer them to You. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams