04 January 2021

A Few Thoughts about James 3:13-18

James 3:13-18 NRSV Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. 15 Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 16 For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. 17 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. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

A problem arises. A solution is needed. A question is raised. An answer is needed.

To solve these, one needs knowledge and wisdom.

Knowledge is knowing the facts about the problem and what caused it, then wisdom is needed to apply experience of previous and similar problems, ideas to what caused it and how to solve it, studies to confirm a solution, and apply them to the problem.

We have problems in life.

Wisdom is needed to solve these problems.

According to the Bible, there are two sources of wisdom—God and other.

Often the solution comes from wisdom that has these factors—envy, selfish ambition, ignoring the truth (conceal it, keep a lid on it, etc.), which leads to greater problems. This wisdom is described at earthly, unspiritual, and devilish. Envy combined with selfish ambition leads to disorder and every kind of wickedness.

The solution that is needed must come from above, which is the opposite of the earthly. This wisdom is described as pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy, full of good fruits (the effects of good wisdom), no partiality, and no hypocrisy.

Earthly wisdom has another facet: 1 Corinthians 1:20-21 NLT So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. 21 Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe.

Earthly wisdom has a warning: Proverbs 28:26 NLT Those who trust their own insight are foolish, but anyone who walks in wisdom is safe.

Godly wisdom has this component which no other wisdom has—God knows the future.

B1 Isaiah 42:9 NLT Everything I prophesied has come true, and now I will prophesy again. I will tell you the future before it happens.

B2 Colossians 2:2-3 NIV My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

B3 Psalm 147:5 NIV Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.

Worldly wisdom is

B1 Earthly—this is worldly. It cares about worldly values and goals. It tends to be selfish and self-promoting.

C1 Worldly and godly are opposites with opposite motives and effects. Titus 2:12 NIV It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.

C2 Christians are instructed—Galatians 5:24 NRSV And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

D1 This doesn’t mean that it is evil to sleep, work, eat, have sex with your spouse, etc.

D2 This does mean that this goal and lifestyle of desire is the me first attitude.

C3 Compare Galatians 5:19-21, Ephesians 2:3, and Romans 8:5-9.

B2 Sensual is finding pleasure in selfish things instead of godly things.

C1 We are to first seek the kingdom of God.

C2 Compare

D1 Ecclesiastes 2:8 AFV I also gathered silver and gold to myself, and the treasure of kings and of the provinces. I got men singers and women singers for myself, even the sensual delights of the sons of men, and many women.

D2 Isaiah 47:8 GNB Listen to this, you lover of pleasure, you that think you are safe and secure. You claim you are as great as God—that there is no one else like you. You thought that you would never be a widow or suffer the loss of your children.

B3 Devilish, that is, demoniacally.

C1 This is the wisdom that the devil has and uses. He hates God or pretends to be God with God’s wisdom to deceive or presenting wisdom that is the opposite of God’s character and wisdom.

C2 Genesis 3:4 NRSV But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not die.

C3 See his wisdom(?) in Job 1:6-12.

C4 Scheming to achieve. James 4:1-2 NLT What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? 2 You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.

Wisdom from above, that is, godly

B1 Pure

C1 Without taint of sin in thoughts, desires, words, and deeds. It is perfect.

C2 1 John 3:3 GNB Everyone who has this hope in Christ keeps himself pure, just as Christ is pure.

B2 Peaceable

C1 Bringing rest and contentment.

C2 Hebrews 12:11 GNB When we are punished, it seems to us at the time something to make us sad, not glad. Later, however, those who have been disciplined by such punishment reap the peaceful reward of a righteous life.

B3 Gentle

C1 Kind, treating people well without abuse.

C2 Titus 3:2 NIV to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.

B4 Willing to yield

C1 rather, persuaded; the reverse of obstinacy, the pride of a false consistency, or a set persistence in one’s own way. [Whedon]

C2 It is used one time. Compare Romans 9:20 and Acts 15:39.

B5 Full of mercy

C1 Willing to examine the circumstances, willing to confess evil, humbling oneself, cooperation, etc. the sentence of the law should not be carried out to its fullest.

C2 This is a good passage to also show the contrast between grace and mercy (Ephesians 2:2-9) Ephesians 2:3-5 NIV All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved.

B6 Full of good fruits (the effects of good wisdom)

C1 Fruits is usually associated with results.

C2 Galatians 5:22-23 MEV But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 meekness, and self-control; against such there is no law.

B7 Without partiality

C1 Apply attitudes, treatment, rules, etc. the same for all people whether people of faith or not, enemies or friends, etc.

C2 Leviticus 19:15 NLT Do not twist justice in legal matters by favoring the poor or being partial to the rich and powerful. Always judge people fairly.

C3 1 Timothy 5:21 Common New Testament I charge you, in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, doing nothing out of favoritism.

B8 Without hypocrisy

C1 We act the same in public and private in what we say, what we do, how we treat people, etc. Our yes is yes, and our no is no.

C2 Romans 12:9 NRSV Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good.

C3 Isaiah 29:13 NRSV The Lord said: Because these people draw near with their mouths and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their worship of me is a human commandment learned by rote.

How to obtain God’s wisdom

B1 Ask. James 1:5 NLT If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. An example would be Daniel in Daniel 2:23.

B2 Having others pray with and for us. Paul is our example. Ephesians 1:16-17 NLT I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, 17 asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.

B3 Psalms 25:4-5 NIV Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths. 5 Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.

C1 God gives wisdom by showing us. These are human examples of success and failure in the Bible.

C2 God gives wisdom by teaching us. This is discipline.

D1 Discipline is not punishment. Discipline is teaching us. Punishment is administered for breaking rules.

D2 God teaches us verbally, illustrations, examples, etc. (Jesus’s ministry on earth).

D3 When we err, we learn a lesson. God will remind us if we try again. If we do not respond, He can punish.

D4 He teaches us through others teaching, experience, counsel. (These things must be done in God’s way).

D5 He teaches us with truth, not lies, errors, or deceptions.

C3 God gives wisdom by guidance. This can come from reminding us of something (it must agree with Scripture and not contrary), others, thinking on Scripture, etc.

C4 God’s ways is His lifestyle. God’s “paths” is His way of life and worldview. God’s guidance is in truth.

C5 God gives us hope, that is, an expectation that He will give us wisdom. We do not know when.

Our prayer: Psalms 86:11 NLT Teach me your ways, O LORD, that I may live according to your truth! Grant me purity of heart, so that I may honor you.

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