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Two Wisdoms: Success = Envy and Ambition?

by in Soul Food

"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.

His 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 if you're like almost everyone else in the world 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 if 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.

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