Daily Reading: James 3:3-4:6*
What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.
Do you want the orange spoon or the blue spoon?
Would you ever think that such a simple question could cause a major problem at the dinner table? If you have kids, or if you have ever met a kid you know what I’m talking about. Some of the biggest meltdowns our kids have happen when one kid has something the other one wants. Often it isn’t even so much about what the other one has as it is the fact that the other one has it. Orange spoon vs. Blue spoon. Stuffed monkey vs. stuffed kitty. Pirate action figure vs. Lalaloopsy. You get the idea. When one sets his/her mind on having and taking what the other one has all bets are off. There is no talking with them. No reasoning with them. It’s a mess. This probably just happens in my family, right? Sure.
The thing is, this kind of selfish, self centered behavior is pretty blatant in young children. It is almost a caricature because it is so exagggerated. Unfortunately, while sometimes the way we express it becomes suppressed, selfish ambition often remains a problem even for adults. As parents, we are always encouraging and challenging our kids to be thankful for what they have. We also teach them that what they have is a blessing to be shared. I wonder how many wars could have been prevented by simply following these early-childhood lessons? I wonder how many lawsuits? HOA grievances? Office conflicts? Some disagreements certainly aren’t over petty things, but honestly so many things we fight over and fixate on are just adult versions of, “do you want the orange spoon or the blue one?”
Jesus, in what ways does my selfish ambition stand in the way of the gifts you are prepared to give me? What am I missing out on because I am so focused what someone else has? Teach me, dear Jesus, to lay down my self-serving, self-centered ways.
But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.
Do I want the orange spoon or the blue one? What I want is to know Jesus more fully and to join with what he is doing in this world.
*As part of my regular, daily rhythm I follow a pattern for reading scripture produced by the Moravian Church called, “The Moravian Daily Texts.” I often share my personal journal reflections on this site. They are raw, in the moment reflections, not theological treatises. If they are helpful to you… great! If not, you know where to file them!