Two Wisdoms: Success = Envy and Ambition?

“But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.” (James 3:14)

How do you define success in life? That’s the giant question James is trying to get his readers to wrestle with. Yesterday, he set up one version of success: wisdom and understanding. Not many people reach it, but it is obvious in those that do from their good lives, from their humility, from their great choices.

twowisdoms_350His other definition of success is the one we’re all more familiar with. It goes like this: “Look around. Notice what you really want out of life. Get hungry for it. Then make a plan and go out there and get what you want!” Wow, that sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

The problem is that what sounds good to us is just a nice way of saying “bitter envy” (decide what you want by looking at what other people have) and “selfish ambition” (making a plan to make yourself happy by getting what you want).

James said that if you’re defining success by getting all the money, fame, and power you can – don’t pretend you’re not doing that and don’t brag about it like it’s a good thing. Admit it – and then be willing to hear why that version of success fails. Every time.

Think: Why do you think it sounds almost healthy to us to make a plan to try to work to get everything we really want out of life? Do you believe that version of success is flawed? Why or why not?

Pray: Ask God to help you to be willing to understand what his version of success would mean for your life.

Do: Make a quick list of 3 people you know who seem to have been successful at deciding what they wanted out of life in terms of money, fame, or power – and getting it. Notice whether it seems to have made them happy or not.