It suddenly struck me, the root cause of all the violence, looting and burning we have experienced in Ferguson, Missouri, especially since the Grand Jury’s decision was handed down. It started with the image of the five members of the Rams football team giving the “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” sign this past weekend. But why is this sign and slogan still being used, even after it has been shown that Michael Brown, the young man who was shot, did not have his hands up as a sign of surrender when he was shot and killed? I believe James 3 gives us a clue.
Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.
James 3:5-6 (NKJV)
I remember the repeated statement made by Michael Brown’s friend immediately after the incident in which he stated that Michael Brown was trying to surrender and had his hands up. This statement was later found to be a lie. But by then the idea that an unarmed teen was trying to surrender had taken hold. I believe this one lie is what sparked, as James put it, “a fire, a world of iniquity…it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature, and it is set on fire by hell.”
We see the result of this lie taking hold. Eventually, many people would refuse to even listen to the explanation of the Grand Jury’s decision. Instead they went to a place where they could burn down over two dozen businesses in an already grief stricken community which was just beginning to recover from earlier violence. This time the fire that was set affected many people who have nothing to do with the original incident. James goes on to say this.
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
James 3:13-18 (NKJV)
The more a lie is perpetuated, the worse things get. The “wisdom” of the world has made its effects known in Ferguson, St. Louis in general, and the whole nation. James says it is rooted in the earthly, sensual mind and comes from a demonic spiritual source and is rooted in envy. The result of this kind of wisdom is confusion and every kind of evil.
A wise man will hear and increase learning, And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel,… The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Proverbs 1:5, 7 (NKJV)
The “fear of the Lord” is what is needed to overcome this demonic wisdom. Jesus said, ” And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32 NKJV) He also said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6 NKJV) Any effort to define truth without Jesus is futile. The church of Jesus Christ must be about truth.