This text from James presents startling contrasts. Gentleness and wisdom are the virtues we ought to embody (or at least strive to attain), but what comes of us is boasting, bitter envy and selfish ambition. Pastors, along with people of every calling and career, are guilty of these characteristics.
As I write these words, Israelis and Palestinians are sending rockets at each other in a rain of terror and death. These children of God, who dwell in the land Jesus walked, are a sad testimony to the One who gave all of them life. We, their sisters and brothers, are certainly no better.
Recognizing our failures, we celebrate the birth of Jesus, who has come to bring God's mercy and forgiveness and the promise of life and peace to all.
Lord God, we are neither wise nor faithful. Our earthy nature fails to reflect your divinity. By the power of your Spirit, re-form us in the image of your Son, so that wherever we are, we might mirror your heart. Amen.
James 3:13-19 (NRSV)
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.
14 But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth.
15 Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish.
16 For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind.
17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.
18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.