“For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” (James 3:16, ESV)
Years ago, I worked for a company that printed paper in Savannah, Georgia. I started as the Plant Engineer since they had major equipment issues. It took a year to redesign the machine and get it into fair working order, and put a plan together for the rest of the work needed. The only problem was that the improvement was only marginal. The plant still did not achieve the desired level of production.
So, I looked into the processes of the manufacturing area and discovered that there were no standard practices. As I sat down with the Plant General Manager, I explained that the equipment was only 50% of the problem and that the manufacturing system was the other 50%. The next week he took me to lunch and I thought that he might terminate my employment since the machine upgrade project was on the road to completion. Instead, he made me the Plant Manager.
In this new position, I made a huge discovery. Since there was no Plant Manager in place before I was given the job, I discovered that several people were posturing for the position. One of them, a Shift Supervisor, had made the statement, “I don’t care if I have to do something to make the other shifts look bad, my shift is always going to look better.” There was evidence that when his crew had to do a machine set up, that he would ensure certain things were not done so the next shift had a more difficult time. This attitude permeated the entire plant and made everything difficult and confusing.
This is the picture that James paints of jealousy and selfish ambition. The supervisor that made the statement did have better production numbers than the other shifts. However, they still fell far below what was necessary. The other shift supervisors were jealous of his meagerly superior numbers. So, they complained about him and others. There was a lot of finger pointing going on in the plant. Production blamed the maintenance and production planning departments. These departments were blaming the production shifts. It was quite a disorderly and counterproductive situation.
Jealousy and selfish ambition are not from heavenly wisdom. They are worldly and demonic. They absolutely will create disharmony, disorder, and confusion. They begin a downward spiral of practices that will eventually result in ruin. This was so in the manufacturing environment. Yet, other environments are not immune to this.
In the ministry jealousy and its associated selfish ambition is a dangerous and deceptive trap. It can happen when church leaders look at other ministries and see them experiencing numerical growth. This can spark a form of jealousy in the hearts of church leaders and parishioners. As a result, they may begin copying methods used by the growing churches and miss the point. For they may begin to trust a method or program to build the church rather than the Lord who is the head of the church. Thus, they begin worshipping the program or method, which is a form of idolatry. They also cease to be led by the Spirit and begin being led by the program. Thus, they may take a road that is contrary to the one the Lord desires them to take in the specific context of their church congregation and local community.
We as believers need to seek to be filled with the Spirit and thus, led by the Spirit so that we can rise above this evil of jealousy and selfish ambition. This is true in all areas of life. It is true in business, homes, outside activities, and the church. We must seek the wisdom that is from above.