“For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.”
You’ve probably heard the famous bible verse from 1 Timothy 6:10 that says “money is the root of all evil.” Well, that’s almost it, but not quite. It actually says “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” So maybe Paul doesn’t go so far as to say it is the root of all evil, but James takes it a step deeper to find out what really is the root.
James says that envy and selfish ambition are the cause of disorder and every evil practice. It’s a little bit different wording than “the root of all evil,” but it’s just as significant. James says that, more or less, selfishness is the cause of sin. And if you think about it, that really makes sense. Take a moment to reflect on the last 24 hours of your life. Where did you fall short? What temptations led you to sin? This isn’t an exercise in condemnation, just self-refection. Chances are, there’s not a single sin you can think of from your day that wasn’t in some way or another rooted in selfishness. Everything from drunkenness to sexual immorality to fraud to gossip have roots in selfishness or envy or both.
It’s no wonder that Jesus said over and over in the gospels that we must deny ourselves. When we focus too much on ourselves, give the desires of our flesh control over our lives, we give in to sin. We rationalize it in a great many ways, but the root of all of it is selfishness. And the fact of the matter is that Jesus called us to the opposite: selflessness. In fact, he exemplified it himself. He spent his whole life serving others, even though he alone was worthy to be served by everyone that he met. In the last days leading up to his death, he spent time washing the feet of his disciples and imploring them to serve as he has served them. Finally, his life ended in an act of sacrifice to a world of sinners that didn’t deserve his mercy and love, but desperately needed it.
The essence of holiness and righteousness is selflessness. The root of sin and evil is selfishness and envy. Remember that Jesus spent his life looking out for the best interest of others rather than himself. He desired not to be served but to serve. His heart was focused outwardly, not inwardly. Let your life be a reflection of this mindset, leave behind the selfish ambition that leads to evil, and instead take up your cross and live with Christ.
Help me to forget about myself and focus on you. Help me to look first to those around me rather than myself. Humble me and help me to live in service rather than in selfishness.
In Jesus’ Name,