It’s great to be back on the blog. I really appreciate the feedback and I am working on some future posts to answer your questions and share some resources for pastors. Today, let’s look at a brief passage that I have used in training pastors and elders.
“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” James 3:13-16
James chapter three is an excellent filter for evaluating behavior, and motives, as well as, the origin of abuse by contrasting them with humility and wisdom. While it is impossible to be exhaustive in the simple blog post, notice the detailed contrast between the two ways of living in these three verses.
The wise and understanding man will be known by his good life. That lifestyle will be recognized through good works marked by a humble attitude. According to James this first man is easily identifiable through his humble heart, wise choices, and exceptional life. By contrast the second man is known by the disorder (confusion/misdirection) that accompany him, as well as, the evil he practices (actions). James informs his readers that this fruit of disorder and evil are the results of pride (selfish ambition), entitlement (envy), and anger (bitterness) which are by their very nature unspiritual, and demonic.
Often times pastors struggle with identifying the heart of abuse if they do not see the direct/physical, evidence. Obviously James chapter three calls attention to “the evil he practices” as a means of identification but James also cites disorder as a mark of the demonic and unspiritual man.
It is hard to deny that this man’s behaviors mirror that of disorder or evil practice. It is also true that the man in our story is driven by selfish ambition. As we inquire further as to what he wanted his language is filled with selfish answers.
- “I wanted her to pay!”
- “I wanted her to respect me.”
- “I wanted her family to butt out.”
- “I wanted her to listen.”
- “I wanted her to shut up.”
Again this man uses a variety of tactics to “get his way.” David Powlison states this point well when he speaks of violent men. He says, “Violent people play god and so act like the devil rather than serve God. They must repent of these vertical sins that fuel the horizontal sins. Both the motives and behaviors of hostility must be laid bare.” As we question him we find that it is becoming clearer that this man has more going on than explosive anger, or loving his unborn child too much. In fact it appears that he is concerned with getting what he wants and having things go his way. If Dr. Powlison is correct and this man is in fact playing God he faces a great deal more discomfort than sitting and talking with a Biblical counselor. Again that is why true repentance is so important.
What do you think? Does James 3:13-16 accurately describe your experience with a destructive spouse? Do you see yourself or your own behavior in James 3:13-16? Should pastors and ministry leaders freely equate abusive behavior with the “demonic?”
 Powlsin, Tripp, Welch: Domestic Abuse How to Help. Phillpsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2002.
 Isaiah 14:12-15