Who is [the one who is] wise and competent among you? It is the person who lets good works speak in the meekness of wisdom. But if in your hearts you have bitter envy and ambitious rivalry, don't give [such wisdom] any respect, and cease lying against the truth [of this]. Such wisdom is not what has been passed down to you from heaven but is from the earth, instinctive and demonic.
     For where envy and selfish ambition reside, there is disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first and foremost purely special, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace. - James 3:13-18/transliteration by Bruce C Wearne

 Open bible2

Seeking Godly wisdom. PICTURE: Kiwihug/Unsplash.

 

IN A NUTSHELL
James makes his purpose plain. Given what God has done, what is "the way", the daily path to follow? 

This is a proclamation about the consequences of the wisdom of the Lord God Almighty in the life of His people. This wisdom is simply the maintenance of His purposes. By creating us humans, He shared with us His own special wisdom - fully, indiscriminately, unreservedly.

Despite the earthly, instinctive and demonic rejection of this wisdom, down to this very day, He will still have His way with us. This wisdom, demonstrated clearly from the outset of creation, will prevail among the sons of men (Proverbs 8:22-31). It prevails when humans desist from lying about what has captured their hearts.

This section of the letter, which I suggest reads like a psalm, relates "lying against the truth" to "bitter envy and ambitious rivalry". These are two sides of the same thing. For true wisdom to prevail, the truth of their inseparable complicity needs to be faced.

The only wisdom that can prevail is a heaven-given wisdom that brings a harvest of righteousness. Those denying their envy and rivalry are remaining beholden to an earth-bound, instinctive and demonic wisdom. They can not examine their hearts. They dare not seek to discern who are the truly wise and competent among them.

We have already suggested that this prevailing wisdom - the wisdom "from above" - has been the motivation for this letter. Whether this James is the Zebedeean brother of John, or the James who became leader of the remnant church in Jerusalem, this letter is all about how the followers of Jesus, despite their instinctive rivalry, have been put on the path of wisdom to lead a life that is "purely special, peaceable, gentle, willing to concede, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy". 

This is a life that is whole, pure and simple - a life that has been put right. God in His wisdom is busy ensuring that His image bearers visibly demonstrate the rich harvest of the tree of life, maintaining the purposes He has had for us all along.

Who is the wise fellow?
Who with understanding can be found among you? Let him flourish
Let his lifestyle blossom with wise humility.

But if what motivates you
is bitter envy and ambitious rivalry, face the fact,
And don't give it any respect at all.

Coming not from above,
Such wisdom of denial,
Is but earth-bound, instinctive, devilish. And don't give it any respect at all.

But the wisdom which comes given down to you
Is specially pure, peaceable and gentle,
Makes concessions which are full of mercy,
With good fruits, without trace of partiality or double-dealing.

This wisdom of a life put right Gives fruit in a peaceful harvest. It is a harvest sown in peace prepared by blessed peace-makers.