Disorder and Wickedness of Every Kind
“Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such ‘wisdom’ as that does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.” (James 3:13-18)
The Latin word honestus, which translates as “honest,” means “full of honor”; in turn, honor means “worthiness to be distinguished and suitable to emulate.” The most basic idea is having one’s words conform to reality, i.e., not lying, and having our actions conform to our duties and obligations. While honesty and honor preclude deliberate distortion or denial of truth, it is possible to be honest and all the same mistaken about matters. But once we are informed of error, duty requires that we submit to it. To not do so is dishonesty at its core.
The Letter of James says that envy and ambition impair our ability to tell the truth and be honest, and bring with them “disorder and wickedness of every kind.” Lying, boastfulness, unkindness and mercilessness result. Opposed to such devilish craftiness is wisdom, whose hallmarks are gentleness, peace, and the ability to yield, that is, give up one’s own desires and opinions in the pursuit of truth, mercy, and good works. Impartiality, that is, applying the same rules and standards to us and ours as we believe should apply to others, is a sine qua non of honesty and decency.
As our country enters the third week of political crisis caused by partiality, dishonesty and lying about the election and its results—lying that seems par for the course, unhappily, for some in our national leadership—I would ask each of us to pray for honesty and honor, and the courage to speak truth, not just for us, but for all our fellow Americans. Decency and honesty are not too much to ask.
Grace and Peace,