“For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.”
This verse gives the outcome of operating by the human wisdom of envy and strife.
For where envy
James takes up the ideas of “envy” and “self-seeking” again (3:14). These sins are the source of “confusion” and conceit. Envy is a selfish motivational sin.
2 Co 12:20 “For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish, and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish; lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumult…”
and self-seeking exist,
Self-seeking is a party spirit sin, a sin that divides people. It is the spirit of rivalry.
The word “confusion” means instability. This word comes from 3 Greek words: no, down, standing, and means a state of disorder, disarray, disturbance, rebellion, and tumult. “Envy” and “self-seeking” create unruliness and insurrection. These people rise up to openly defy authority. They violently oppose authority in the church. This disorder comes from the man-centered values of “envy” and “self-seeking.”
Lu 21:9, “But when you hear of wars and commotions, do not be terrified; for these things must come to pass first, but the end will not come immediately.”
Ac 19:40, “For we are in danger of being called in question for today’s uproar, there being no reason which we may give to account for this disorderly gathering.”
Ac 24:12, “And they neither found me in the temple disputing with anyone nor inciting the crowd, either in the synagogues or in the city.”
and every evil thing are there
The word “evil” here connotes the ideas of slight, trivial, blown about by every wind. It came to mean unworthy, paltry, and contemptible carrying the idea of a lower order of things – of no account, trivial, petty, sorry, worthless, ordinary. The idea is not moral evil but practical worthlessness.
The word “thing” denotes something done – a matter, an event, a deed, something accomplished. We get the English word “pragmatic” from the Greek word. The use of the word “thing” involves the broadest category of paltry pragmatics of envy and self-seeking.
It is possible to be a religious zealot but be a troublemaker and a good-for-nothing.
Tumultuous Christianity takes place when there is envy and self-seeking in the camp, but biblical wisdom brings us to love, peace, and joy. Envy and self-seeking are polar opposites of inwrought grace (meekness) in the soul.
Envy motivates self-seeking. Strife excuses itself by distorting the truth. It lives in malice, confusion, and contention. This makes it vulnerable to conflict and broken relationships.
God’s evaluation of wisdom is vastly different from man’s standards of conduct. If we judge ourselves by man’s standards, we look good. If we judge ourselves by God’s standards, we see ourselves for what we truly are. God’s norms for life defuse self-seeking and rivalry among Christians.
When churches enter into conflict, they reveal to everyone that they operate on human wisdom. They become a conglomeration of people who put themselves first. They cause great tumult to fellow Christians around them. They could care less if they ruin the testimony of their church. Their desire to be right takes precedence over the testimony of Jesus Christ to the community. After their church splits, they leave missionaries to languish on a foreign field without support.
1 Co. 14:33, “For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.”