My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
When I think of the connotation I have of the word 'evil', I think of things that are incredibly nefarious and vicious.
And, of course, those things are evil.
But, as always happens, it's James who gets me thinking in a different way.
He does that to me.
While there is a little disagreement as to 'which' James wrote the book of James, most scholars believe he is the brother of Jesus. Matthew 13 records the names of Jesus's brothers, James making the top of the list, which would seem to indicate that he was the second born of Mary. Growing up in a house with the Son of God as your big Brother.
No wonder he may have struggled when Jesus began His ministry. It might have been hard to imagine that the kid you played in the sandbox with was Messiah.
Maybe it's because James observed his brother's ministry with skeptical eyes at first and then came to belief that his letter comes off with passionate belief. Not just to know his Brother's story. But to live it.
Which leads me to my definition of 'evil'.
See that verse up at the top? The one where, at first blush, James is talking about being a good listener and watching your temper and thinking about what you're going to say before you say it? Good advice, right? But it's what he then says about anger that gets me. He goes on to say that human anger interferes with righteousness and then goes on to state that we should get rid of this moral filth and evil.
That is, our anger habit.
I don't really think about my little temper tantrums as 'evil'.
I don't think about my sarcastic tongue as 'moral filth'.
But Jesus's baby brother did. So I'm thinking it's up to me to change my definition.
And as I think about James's words, it dawns on me. So much of moral filth and evil finds its genesis in uncontrolled words and anger. The kid who is the object of continual verbal abuse who then grows up to act out in awful ways. The wife who won't curb her tongue, systematically destroying her marriage. The person who hurts and manipulates, all out of inner rage.
Yeah, James is on to something.
Human anger is an evil thing.
Even when I see mine as just a little hormonal temper tantrum.
That James. He's always challenging me.