Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
- Whoever is wise or has an understanding should show it by works.
- Those who are wise are to show their wisdom by works done in meekness.
- If you are jealous or selfish you do not have the truth.
- What you believe, if you are selfish or jealous, is of the demonic.
- Jealousy and selfishness only exist with chaos and evil practices.
- Wisdom from God is pure.
- open to reason
- Righteousness comes from peace and those who know peace.
Earlier James said, don’t just believe the right thing you have to live out those beliefs. If you say you believe in something and you do not act on that belief, that shows you do not actually believe it. He hits that same theme again. He now says, “If you think you are so smart. Show me!” For James going to church on Sunday to fill a religious duty was not godly. If that is all you did, you were demonic. You do not live out a true faith.
Now James takes on the hypercritical pseudo-intellectuals. They claim wisdom. They knew the scriptures. But they did not believe the scriptures. How do we know? They did not do what the scriptures say. There was no action. They were hypocrites. Hypocrites boost about themselves while demeaning others. Wisdom reveals itself with humility and gentleness.
When we are jealous, we are self-centered. The ESV translates the Greek as “selfish ambition”. This an acquiescence to our culture. Selfish ambition is redundant. We think of ambition as a virtue. Ambition by its very nature is sinful. It is and expression self-centeredness. Ambition is trying to get ahead. Ahead of whom? Ahead of others. Ambition is working for yourself.
Do not confuse ambition with initiative and hard work. The world considers ambition to be a virtue. In fact, if you tell someone they have no ambition, it is considered an insult. Not that long ago ambition was recognized as a vice.
Envy and covetousness poison the soul. Ambition is a manifestation of envy and covetousness. They are bound together with self-centeredness. You cannot be self-centered and love God or and your neighbor.
Wisdom from God is in direct opposition to what you think of as common sense. Self-preservation is not service. But self-preservation is instinctive. Divine wisdom calls us to sacrifice ourselves for others. Christ, who had perfect wisdom, sacrificed himself for us. Getting ahead is not service to others.
Christ sacrificed Himself while we were sinners. We were in rebellion against Him. As a Christian, we are to emulate Christ. But instead, our wisdom comes from the world.
Together with the tongue, envy and self-centeredness are destructive powers. From these come all sorts of evil that violate people and create chaos.
But God’s gives us a gift of wisdom. James shows divine wisdom is linked to peace, gentleness, mercy. It is sincere and impartial.