When I graduated from college, I was unemployed with no certainty of employment. I had no golden ticket, and I found some solace in the fact that very few people did have one. So I spent two months looking for a job. One day, I logged in to Facebook and saw that one of my best friends had found a job after much searching as well.
I adore this girl. We’ve been through everything from college to losing loved ones together. No one understands me or encourages me or loves me quite the way she does. She’s one of my favorite human beings.
And when I saw her employment status, I was somewhat mad and jealous.
Fast forward about a month or a month and a half. The two of us met up with a third amigo for lunch. The reasons for this lunch were that we missed each other and that we were celebrating my newfound job. They asked me about the job, and I told them. They asked me how much I got paid (which honestly isn’t a remarkable amount), and I told them. My aforementioned friend glared at me from across the table. Her salary at the time was lower than mine. She told me, “I kind of hate you right now.”
I replied, “That’s okay. I kind of hated you when you found a job first.”
What’s wrong with this scenario? Two people who love each other very much admitting to hating each other, however little and however temporarily. Shouldn’t they be happy for each other?
In truth, of all the emotions we were feeling at the time in regards to the other, happiness was the primary one. We love to see the other succeed. Our bad feelings came from places that really had nothing to do with each other. I felt inadequate and afraid. She felt underappreciated and underpaid (and rightfully so).
Here’s what James says about jealousy. “You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:2-3, NRSV).
We often want what others have because we see that it makes them happy, and we think it’ll be what makes us happy. We try to take their blessing from them, but we’ll settle for taking their happiness at least.
All of this because we want someone else’s blessing instead of considering our own. What makes someone else happy might make me miserable. God made me different from that person, so He has different gifts for me. We want what’ll make us feel good, but we forget that what God wants for each of us is often tailored specifically to each of us.
James goes on to say in the next verse of that same chapter, “Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (NRSV).
James isn’t talking about fraternizing with unbelievers or befriending those in lives of sin who don’t seek repentance. The friendship I believe he’s talking about is one that is bonded over shared qualities. We’re called as Christians to love everyone and to go out into the world, but we’re also told that we’re peculiar, different, set apart. So the enemy of God is one who conforms to the world and doesn’t reform to the ways of God.
What, then, are qualities and ways of the world? Hate. Jealousy. Bitterness. Judgement. Things that tear people apart instead of uniting them, that hurt instead of heal, that breed loneliness instead of lovingness.
And so James says in verses 11 and 12 (NRSV), “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers and sisters. Whoever speaks evil against another or judges another, speaks evil against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. So who, then, are you to judge your neighbor?”
As someone who’s been both a judge and the one being judged, I love this scripture. It’s blunt, yes, but it’s also a little defensive, and it’s a similar defensiveness towards those being judged that Jesus had in the scriptures.
We all sin. That’s a fact. My inclinations may be different than yours. Your brand of sin may differ from the next person’s, but in God’s eyes, it’s all sin. It hurts Him equally even if it doesn’t destroy us equally.
Judgment of others is a quality of the world. A contest to see who’s better than who simply to make someone have a fleeting sense of superiority. All it does is hurt and divide.
No one is better than anyone else. The scent of sin rests on all of us. I’m every bit as unworthy of God’s mercy as you are, and you’re every bit as loved by God as I am.
James warns us of jealousy, judgment, and other habits of the world. They do us no favors, and they separate us from God. To improve our quality of life, we must turn entirely to God and leave our harmful ways behind. Just think of what God would give us and what He would take from us.
By Carrie Prevette