Wisdom from Above
 

Jas 3:13  Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. 

Jas 3:14  But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. 

Jas 3:15  This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. 

Jas 3:16  For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. 

Jas 3:17  But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. 

Jas 3:18  And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace. 
 

To understand some of what James is saying in these passages, I think we have to realise that James was writing to Messianic Jews. Not that it is not applicable to Gentile believers, or us today but the Jewish Christians would understand some of the language better.
However he does use certain phrases that help the non Jewish believers understand what he is talking about.

James continues from Chapter 3:12 sections asking “who is wise and understanding among you?”
Remember James just finished talking about the tongue and how it is to be used by those who teach. (
James 3:1-12). 
James seems to be continuing this same theme with those who are “wise and understanding” being a reference to teachers. However we know that scripture is relevant to us all and is not limited to those who teach, it can be applied to anyone who is a Christian.

In the last section we saw the way to answer the question “who is wise and understanding among you?” is by your actions. (True faith produces works).
Here James is continuing his theme of
doing. It’s not merely enough to believe that you are wise and understanding, you must show it through what you do  and what you say.
Just as Jesus said:
Matthew 12:24 “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks

And as the old adage says: “To do is to be” and “To be is to do”.
Simply put, “We are what we do” and “We do what we are”.

 

James goes on to say that wisdom is shown in “meekness“. Those who are “wise and understanding” should not appear as if they know everything because they don’t and those that are truly “wise” understand that.

This sentiment leads us into the next passage, where we will see that those teachers that believe themselves to be “wise” certainly aren’t acting in meekness.

James is contrasting two types of wisdom.
In
v13, True wisdom proves itself in good conversation and works born out of meekness.
Jas 3:13  Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. 


This wisdom is contrasted with “Earthly, unspiritual, demonic” wisdom. In Ch3: 14 – 16.

Jas 3:14  But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. 

Jas 3:15  This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. 

Jas 3:16  For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. 
 

The contrast is very obvious. The word “but” and “if” are used in contrast to what has gone before.
You say you have wisdom “but if” where there is strife and envy and bitterness, there is no heavenly wisdom. Your claims are a lie. This is not true wisdom but proceeds from every evil work.

He points out the obvious difference to this false wisdom.

Jas 3:17  But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. 

 James gives a list of what heavenly wisdom is really made of:

“Pure” This wisdom is holy and pure because it has its origin in God.
Contrast this purity with the earthly wisdom that is all about us (“selfish ambition“).

“Peaceable” – “not given to conflict”. God’s word is peaceable to everyone who accepts it. Those who follow earthly wisdom are only in it for themselves and care nothing about God.
“Gentle” – means gracious and has the idea of yielding to another. Again we  see the contrast between this wisdom and the selfish and jealous earthly wisdom.

Easy to be intreated, “Open to reason” The wisdom of God is, obviously, compliant with God and obedient to His will. Earthly wisdom on the other hand is not.
“Full of mercy” – Blessed are the merciful, for they will obtain mercy. The only wisdom we can give ourselves is the earthly wisdom spoken of before. God has given us this greater wisdom from above.

“Full of good fruits” – the wisdom that was not from above resulted only in evil things (as we listed above). God’s wisdom, however, results only in things that are good.

“Impartial” – the same for every person. God won’t direct one person one direction and another person in another direction.

“Sincere” – without hypocrisy would be a better translation here. God’s wisdom is not hypocritical. God’s wisdom doesn’t ask us to do anything God wouldn’t do Himself.
 

Jas 3:18  And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace. 

Those that depend on earthly wisdom are the ones that sow discord and this causes great problems for the hearers.
 James here is urging Christians to abandon earthly wisdom and pursue the wisdom from above. Only then will these Christians truly have “peace”.

 

Warning Against Worldliness

1 Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?
2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.
3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.
4 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
5 Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, "The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously"?
6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble."
7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
9 Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.
10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

 

This next passage is James telling us were the wars and  fightings come from.
It is interesting that James uses two different words here. Wars (Greek – Polemos) (
literal combat) and Fighting’s (Greek – Mache) literal, (controversy, strife).
 

James is not talking about disagreements, the healthy debates and differences that occur in a growing church. He is not talking about heated debate brought about by differences in interpretation of Bible passages.
He is writing about fighting, which is "earthly, unspiritual, of the devil" in origin, and he will call its perpetrators, 
"you adulterous people" (4:4).

Now, I can’t ever remember any actual fisticuffs in any church that I have attended but I have seen violent argument that almost led to physical conflict. Even if it does not lead to physical fighting, it does lead to hatred and guile and physical separation. It can cause long lasting problems and divisions and grudges, that can plague an individual or church for years and stunt the growth of a fellowship. It can even cause splits in church fellowships.

Where does this come from?

1 Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?
2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war.


We may say, “I have never fought with anyone in any fellowship that I have been involved with”.
Well, what about outside the fellowship? Is there one rule for church and another for the world?
Are we to act differently in church and the world? Obviously not.

We represent Christ wherever we go and should never bring reproach on Jesus Christ wherever we are.
The question in
V1 Where do wars and fights come from among you?

James does not specify examples of the desires. What he does say could refer to many different situations.
We can mention a few to see if we recognise ourselves in any of them.

Conflict in group relationships, such as within a church:
Inflexibility about  issues (from a desire to have one's own way).
Maneuvering for position of authority (from a desire for status and admiration within the community).
Criticizing others (from a desire to make oneself look good).

It is equally applicable in individual relationships, such as a marital conflict: constantly exchanging hurtful words (from a desire to get even) or carrying out sexual infidelity (from a desire for selfish pleasure or simply a desire for
another spouse).
All of these happen in Christian churches and Christian marriages; they are all immoral and have their root in selfish desires.
James tells us where this behaviour comes from.

“Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members”?

This reminds us of the Apostle Paul who recognized the warring in his members.

15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.
16 If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good.
17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.
18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.
19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.
20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.
21 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.
22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.
23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

 

It is easy for us sometimes to make excuses for our actions by saying, this is the way I am, I can’t help it.
These things happen because of the warring in our flesh but it is us that submit to these desires and there is no excuse.


We may find ourselves arguing with the Word, saying, “I’m not that bad, surely James isn’t referring to me”.

It was the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus also used murder to express more than actual killing,
but also as an inward condition of heart, shown outwardly by anger (Matthew 5:21-22).

He also spoke of adultery.

Matthew 5:27, "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.'
28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

 

 So we can see, even in just these two verses that sin is a condition of the heart.

2b Yet you do not have because you do not ask.
3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.


Spurgeon quote:
“The whole history of mankind shows the failure of evil lustings to obtain their object”.

ii. This is the tragic irony of the life lived after worldly and fleshly desires; it never reaches the goal it gives everything for. This fundamental dissatisfaction is not because of a lack of effort: “If the lusters fail, it is not because they did not set to work to gain their ends; for according to their nature they used the most practical means within their reach, and used them eagerly, too.”

iii. This helps us to rationally understand the folly of living life after the lusts of the world and our animal appetites. You are tempted to fulfill a sinful
desire because you think (or hope) that it may be satisfied, but it will never be satisfied. Why not accept your lack of such satisfaction now, instead of after much painful and harmful sin? 

End of Quote.


The reason we Christians are plagued with these destructive desires is because we do not seek God for our needs ("you do not ask").
James reminds us here of the great power of prayer, and why one might live in spiritual poverty, simply because we do not pray, or do not ask when they pray.

In verse 3 the word spend, (Greek – Dapanao) (
to waste) is the same word used in the parable of the prodigal son, who spent all his inheritance on silly things, effectively wasting it.

Luk 15:14  And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. 
 

James is warning Christians to spend more time seeking God for the wisdom and power to live our Christian live rather than wasting our time and efforts seeking our own pleasures.

James 4:4 Adulterers and adulteresses!

James is not necessarily meaning this in its literal sense.
James here is using the same term that was used throughout the Old Testament in regards to Israel.
God spoke this way in the Old Testament when His people, who He said was His wife, were attracted to some form of idolatry,  running after false gods. (
Jeremiah 3:8-9Ezekiel 6:9Ezekiel 16:32Ezekiel 23:37, and Hosea 3:1).

8 Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also.
9 So it came to pass, through her casual harlotry, that she defiled the land and committed adultery with stones and trees.

 

When a Christian is seeking anything other than God, he is committing adultery, or playing the harlot.
As James saw it here, their
covetousness was idolatry (Colossians 3:5) and friendship with the world.
Colossians 3:5  Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

The second part of James 4:4 makes it more clear to us. James was an Apostle to the Jews as Paul was Apostle to the Gentiles.
James was speaking in a language that Jewish Christians would have understood but this second part of the text makes it clearer to understand for Gentile believers.

James 4:4b Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

James recognises that we cannot be friends of this world system in rebellion against God, and friends of God at the same time (Matthew 6:24).
24 "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
 

 Even the desire to be a friend (wants to be a friend) of the world makes that one an enemy of God. (Again this is a heart problem).
 

James 4:5 I think is one of the nicest verses in this passage.
"The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously"?

The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit has a jealous yearning for our friendship with God.
When we compromise our spiritual lives with the world and the flesh, the Holy Spirit that dwells in us, strives with us and pricks our hearts and our conscience, convicting us of our sin.

One commentary puts it like this: 
Is it God jealously yearning for the devotion of our spirit which He put within us, or is it the Spirit within us jealously yearning for the full devotion of our heart?
Either way, the sense is much the same.
We can thank God for not abandoning us in times of trouble and temptation.

God is always looking for our acknowledging our waywardness and repenting and turning back to Him.

James 4:6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble."
7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
9 Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.


When we recognise our sin and acknowledge it, God is faithful and just and will cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:8,9  If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 
9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 
If we will humble ourselves He will incline His ear to us. “Yet you do not have because you do not ask”.
James 4:10  Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

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