For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.
In Greek mythology the story is told of twin giants, named Otus and Ephialtes. Together they were called the “Aloadae”, after their father, Aloeus. These two enormous brothers were ambitious and aggressive. At one point they even tried to storm Mount Olympus – the dwelling place of the gods – by piling three mountains atop one another.
In today’s text, James describes two evil giants who set out to destroy the church of God. Their names are Envy and “Self-Seeking”, and their ambitiousness has lead to the damage or even destruction of many a congregation. Here are some scenarios that show these two giants clearly at work:
Someone in the church demonstrates talent and ability. Someone else in the church, jealous of the attention being given to this person, seeks every opportunity to “take them down a peg”.
The pastor seeks to correct a wrong attitude or action on the part of a church member. The immediate response is “But what did you say to the other person?”
A church member refuses the help of other members for a project, because it would mean that the other person might get some of the credit.
A group of older members block a needed change in church policy, because it would mean doing something different (and perhaps better) than the way they did it.
The member of a committee or work team resigns the moment something does not go the way he or she wants.
A pastor (yes, pastors can be Otus or Ephialtes as well) sidelines someone in the church, for fear that their growth and development in ministry might jeopardize his own position.
This is a partial list. Each of the above situations is one I have witnessed in one form or another over the years. And each had dire consequences for the churches in question. For the sake of the local church they need to be crushed before they have lethal consequences.
For the sake of the local church? Well…yes…but also for the sake of the people in question. You see, the church’s Otus’s and Ephilates’s are not external threats, but internal ones. Their attitudes will destroy not only the church, but themselves as well.
The end of the Aloadae of mythology is instructive. After a number of gods had tried and failed to defeat the two giants, Artemis, goddess of the hunt offered to give it a whirl. While the evil twins were out hunting, she turned herself into a doe and courageously ran between them. So focused on their own gain were they that they lifted their spears and threw at the same time. Artemis nimbly dodged the spears, which in turn lodged themselves in the chests of the opposite giant.
The lesson is clear. Envy and self-seeking kill. They kill the church, and they kill the envious and the seekers of self. The right place to do away with these pernicious giants is, of course, in the heart, before they can get out and wreak havoc on the brethren.
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