Galatians 5:26 :
Let’s not become conceited, provoking one another, and envying one another.
It’s good to perform well for God, but it is very important that we believe that it is God who is making it possible to perform. It’s easy to get confused about this because our world values self-reliance. God says that without faith it is impossible to please Him. The world tells us that you are your own god.
When we value self-reliance over faith it can lead to being prideful. It can also lead to provoking and envying each other. Individual performance creates an atmosphere of competition between individuals. When we focus on our own performance, it is easy for us to notice and flaunt the fact that we are outperforming other people. Life remains very self-focused when we live this way.
Focusing on ourselves can encourage those around us to do it too. This can provoke them to anger. They may become frustrated because they cannot outperform us. They may get angry because they disagree with our assessment of ourselves. If we find ourselves unable to outperform someone as we strive in our own power, it produces envy. Notice how little Jesus means to us when we think this way. It has nothing to do with Him and everything to do with our own performance.
God does expect us to do what is good, but He doesn’t expect us to perform it in our own power. God is pleased when we do what is good, but He is already pleased to start out with because we have been made righteous in Jesus. We start out with God’s favor and can never lose it. He may not like our lack of faith on the other hand. That lack of faith will cause us to behave poorly as we read here today. God still will always favor His children. He may not like their current actions and He may have to discipline them to bring them back to faith. Sometimes the discipline is severe and even involves death, but God still favors His children and because He does, he disciplines them.
This letter is one example of the discipline that God gives to children who start misbehaving. Our performance still matters, we just need to learn that our performance has more to do with our faith in Him than it does with our will and personal abilities. Our faith tells us that it is Jesus in us that makes the difference in our performance because it is His life that is in us.