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James 3:13-18 ESV

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace..

I know the title today is a bit strange, but do you remember the Popeye cartoon? I grew up watching Popeye, and he had some memorable catchphrases. I guess the number one catchphrase of all time was, “I’m strong to the finich, ‘cause I eats me spinach, I’m Popeye the sailor man!”

Well, another memorable catchphrase was, “I yam what I yam and that’s all what I yam.” I don’t claim to have a complete grasp on his meaning, but it seems as though Popeye was saying, “Hey, I am what I am… what you see is what you get… I may not be the most handsome, or even the best person out there, but I’m honest, hardworking and respectful. I am simply what I am.” Well, Popeye was the good guy, and always prevailed over evil in the end.

The writings of James, in general, reminds me of this sentiment, at least in some ways. Remember, back in chapter two, James told us what a person does is a strong indication of what they actually believe. Our actions, like it or not, speak louder than our words. We are who we are, and that’s who we are. Of course, that’s not the final version of us, because we are supposed to be growing daily in our walk with God, and continually becoming more, and more like Christ.

Today, during Coffee with God, we are deeper into chapter three. Starting in verse 13, James talks about wisdom in a similar manner in which he talked about faith. I like the way one commentator put it: “Wisdom is as wisdom does.” Remember the movie, “Forest Gump?” His catchphrase was, “Stupid is as stupid does.” James’ idea was the opposite of that. James tells us that wise people lead lives full of good works done in the humility of wisdom. Sounds a lot like Solomon’s take on the situation, specifically in Proverbs.

James reminds the Christian that we are to be different than the world. I mean, the world’s view is completely different, but we know how the world operates. Jealousy and selfish ambition contaminates all areas of this sinful world. Wisdom, particularly wisdom practiced in humility, is in short supply on this earth. According to James, this behavior, or this wisdom, is not from above. He actually goes on to call it, “earthly, unspiritual and even demonic.” James said, “Wisdom from above is pure, peaceable, gentle, and humble.”

We are what we are! If we are filled with jealousy, selfish ambition, and wallowing in lies, we are not just living “in” this world, we are living “with” this world. On the other hand, if we are peaceful, patient, open to reason, and practice true wisdom in all humility, then maybe, just maybe, we are who we claim to be in Christ.

We could learn a thing or two from Popeye, but even more so from James.



One response

  1. One wonders if Popeye’s words are an allusion to the Tetragrammaton. One interpretation of it is , “I am that I am.” Popeye is also a mystery. You can’t easily put your finger on an ideology that easily boxes him in. Popeye’s slogan is quite significant for a cartoon creature. Some commentaries cite him as an existentialist in sailor’s clothes. Anyway, just wondering, and I do agree with your thoughtful analysis.

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