By Randy Dillon
James 3:13-18 “Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your heart, glory not, and be not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly,
sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.”
Following his examination of the difficulty of controlling the tongue (see Study to Grow, January 19, 2021) James concludes his third chapter with how wisdom is displayed by those receiving it from above (heaven) and those possessing it only in its earthly form. If we are possessed of heavenly wisdom, our works will be revealed by our meekness in our conversation about our works. This is likely in contrast to the previous verses which alert us to how we are to control our tongue against braggadocious speech when discussing our works. Our voice is to give glory to God for any good thing which we do as the Word directs our lives. We ought not to desire or take credit for that good which we may do in response to the direction of the Holy Spirit. Rather, in meekness, we should glorify God for allowing us the privilege of doing whatever good may have come of our response. This “good conversation” is not simply our speech. It involves our entire response. Our voice may say in false meekness what our actions show as a desire to be seen by others for their praise. This is to be avoided as much as prideful words.
And where, we may ask, does such prideful conversation emanate? From a heart which is set against Truth because it is full of envy and strife. The Tenth Commandment is a broad and encompassing law which condemns covetous behavior. Covetousness is the result of envy; wanting what another has and
being angry that we do not have the same; believing that we are more deserving than someone who has more or better than we do. When this occurs in our heart we will arrive short of the higher and nobler aspect of our good works by desiring what we lack and creating strife or controversy because of our
earthly desires. This kind of earthly “wisdom” is deceptive because it is based on Satanic objectives, not those of God. The result will be confusion and evil works: jealousy, selfishness, worldly concerns, pride, disorder and evil thoughts and deeds. This kind of earthly “wisdom” is not of God. It is self-centered,
sensual and Satanic.
On the other hand, heavenly wisdom stands in stark contrast to earthly “wisdom.” Heavenly wisdom is pure. It lacks nothing and it is always in concert with the Word of God. It is therefore peaceable, desiring a right relationship with God. It is gentle, not violent in its speech or conduct. It is courteous, not rude even in the face of vile and contemptuous behavior. Instead it is merciful when mercy is not to be expected. What this kind of speech and conduct results in can be truly called “good fruits” since it meets the standard of God’s Word as signified in the oft named “Fruits of the Spirit” noted in Galatians 5:22-23. Heavenly wisdom is based on the purity of God’s love and reveals itself in the sincerity of our hearts towards others. It does not act with partiality as James condemns in chapter two of this epistle.
Rather is avoids looking on the external (clothes, adornments, wealth, home, belongings) by focusing on the internal (the heart.) Where the Christian’s focus is on the heart (their own and that of others) there
will be the fruit of the spirit. The Christian heart which is focused on glorifying God will also not fall into the sin of hypocrisy by saying one thing while acting in direct opposition to that word. When God’s wisdom occupies the heart there will be purity of speech and action which gives glory to God, and him alone.