“And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:18 [NASB])
Consider great things guided by small things. A ship goes how the rudder is pushed or pulled. A horse goes how the bit is guided. A person guides them both. Our lives, too, go in the way by whom we allow to direct it. When we get behind the steering wheel of a car, we can direct it where we want, assuming no disaster or health matter interferes with the steering of the car. We can decide for ourselves where the car will go. Our thoughts lead our words and actions.
James said in James 3 that though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts of great things (3:5). Our tongues may boast of our educational degrees. It may boast of our work status. Our tongue may boast of what we own, where we are going, or what we have done. Yet, none of these things or this boasting gives us the unattainable by humankind. Nothing of what we’ve done, said, or thought can make us righteous.
Paul explained in Galatians 1 that, of all men at that time, he had more reason to boast than any Jew. In Galatians 1:13-14, he told the church at Galatia he advanced in Judaism beyond many of his contemporaries among his countrymen and was more extremely zealous for his ancestral traditions. Each of us understands Paul’s great goals of being the best at what we do and of wanting recognition for being the best. Still, once Paul met Jesus on that road, he realized his best would never be good enough. He persecuted people just to advance in his job. God does not condone persecution or selfish ambition and jealousy.
We may not physically persecute people. Instead we might “put people in their place.” By doing that, we strive to make ourselves appear greater in the eyes of people. Isn’t that what seeking to be better is about? We do these things to boast, to build ourselves up higher. This way of life is arrogant. James called this “bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart” in James 3:14. Have we considered it that way? Have we realized this drive to get more, be more, and appear greater than others comes from selfish ambition and bitter jealousy?
James continued with this thought. In James 3: 11-12, he pointed out that good and bad cannot come from the same mouth. What comes from the mouth comes from the heart, and that defiles you, Jesus said in Matthew 15:11. We can say the same about our actions. What we allow to guide our mouth and our body comes from our heart. Just like fresh water and salt water cannot come from the same source, so selfish ambition and acts of righteousness cannot come from the same source. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Jesus in Matthew 5:6 preached on the mountain, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
If we cannot be righteous and do righteousness in word and action on our own while seeking greater things, titles, and praise, how do we succeed in the world and do righteous things? If I can’t do it on my own, what do I do? Jesus explained this in John 14:6. He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” No one can be righteous and do righteous things in their own strength. We each inherited the tendency to sin. Of our own strength, we cannot defeat temptation and sin. If we are honest, we will acknowledge we have sinned because of our own selfish ambition and jealousy. That is sin. Sin is seeking what we want irrespective of what another person wants or what is good for other people. Sin is turning away from God and His purposes to do what we want no matter what the cost.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions (sins), made us alive together with Christ, and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show us the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:4-10 [NASB])
By God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, He imputes (credits) Jesus’ righteousness to each person who believes in Him. This righteousness does not come because we are good or worthy. God gives it to each of us when we believe and because of His grace. From that point in time, the person who believes in Jesus for salvation has imputed righteousness and can do righteousness by the power of the Holy Spirit within him or her. That person can overcome the desire to feel the need to be better than everyone else or own more than anyone else. That person realizes he or she is not better than anyone else, but is a sinner just like all people. The only difference is that person received salvation from sin and eternal death. This power of Christ in us gives us the desire to do God’s will for His purpose, not for our selfish ambition or jealousy. We live a righteous life when our purposes align with God’s and our resultant actions, words, and thoughts agree with God’s.
From the point of a person’s salvation, that person sows the seed of righteousness in peace (James 3:18). People see his or her faith in his or her good behavior and gentle wisdom (James 3:13). This wisdom from God is and brings peace, purity, gentleness, reasonableness, mercy, and good fruits.
Now when you get behind the steering wheel of the car (your life) you recognize God gave you, how will you drive it? Will you drive it with righteousness and its resultant wisdom and peace? Or, will you drive it with bitter jealousy and selfish ambition seeking to get what you want at whatever cost?
Remember, Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6 [NASB]) We can’t have righteousness and be right in all our actions, thoughts, and words without Jesus. Without Him, we sow discord, anger, jealousy, arrogance, hatred, etc. Is that what you want in your life? Or would you rather have the righteousness and wisdom that creates purity, peace, gentleness, love, joy, patience, kindness, humility, goodness, self-control, and faithfulness? (Galatians 5:22-23 and James 3:18)
It’s time we realize what Paul did on the Damascus road. He said in Galatians 1:15 that God set him apart even from his mother’s womb and called him through His grace. God said this to Jeremiah, too, in Jeremiah 1:5. Both of these men heard God’s voice in their hearts, minds, and spirits, and they believed.
God knew each of us before He formed us and before we were born. He calls us to Himself so He can make us righteous and justify us by His Son. Consider Romans 8:28-30.
And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified. [NASB]
Who’s driving your car?
Righteousness is available to you, to each of us.
Will you accept it and let God drive?
Jesus is the Way.
He gives righteousness.
With Him, we need nothing else.
We can be satisfied.
Lord, I try to do good things. I try to be my best and, also, get what I want. I don’t want to assume I need You to give me everything. I can work and get some things for myself. Yet, when I do it my way, I find an emptiness. I find as I get what I want, things around me don’t always work out right. Someone gets hurt. Another person gets left behind and not helped; and I feel guilty. I wonder if I could have done it another way. I have forgotten You are the Way. You are the best way. Lord, forgive me for seeking things and titles and forgetting You. Forgive me for leaving You to get what I want. I am weak and broken; I’m a sinner. Forgive me, please. Teach me contentment in You. Teach me patience and how to wait for You. Lord, take me where You want me to go. Give me what You want me to have. Use me to speak and do good and righteous deeds. Lord, use me to tell of You and Your glory. I am Your vessel; use me for Your will. Amen.