Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? 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. 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. Or do you suppose that it is for nothing that the scripture says,
“God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?
But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says,
“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
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 neighbour?
Like many people, when I watch The Apprentice on BBC1, I cringe when the candidates return to the Boardroom to face Lord Sugar. In every episode, people, who have agreed with and supported one other throughout their work in that episode, suddenly rewrite the history of what happened and tell a story of how wonderfully they, alone, performed. Often they also share a very biased tale of how it is solely their colleague’s personality failings and incompetence which caused their team to fail so dramatically.
As much as I enjoy watching programmes like The Apprentice, there is something very uncomfortable about watching people highlight the faults and weaknesses of their former colleagues and trample on the others in a futile attempt to get ahead.
How often do we hear similar stories in the life of the Church?Surely this is a same problem that James was writing about. If we are serious about submitting ourselves to God, shouldn’t the Church be more willing to put the needs of other people in the community first? Maybe we really could be working in harmony and supporting one another? Maybe we could even highlight the wonderful things the other members of our community do and not pick on the things which they maybe don’t do so well at?
What would the Church look like if we prioritised supporting the rest of the Church community? How very different would our own church look if we humbled ourselves and accepted the grace of God to be more alive in all we do?
Grace-giving God, So often we find ourselves consumed by pride. Help us to be less proud, let us be more supportive of those we work with. Open us to a fresh sense of humility and lift us with your mercy. We offer ourselves to you afresh: ready for you to use us to serve your people. Amen
John Grundy is an ordinand at Northern College in Manchester.