We often say that we need the wisdom of God. We quote our favorite verses of Scripture, thinking that they are like proverbs to be used to get anything we think we need or support something that we want to support. We should learn to cease this practice.
There are four areas of wisdom that James discusses. We should be aware of all four.
- There is the wisdom to control one’s tongue: James 3.1-18.
- There is the wisdom to submit to God: James 4.1-10.
- There is the wisdom not to slander one another: James 4.11-12.
- There is the wisdom not to boast: James 4.13-17.
Since you lack wisdom in working through attacks, ask God, he will grant the wisdom you need: James 1.5-8
| The Problem: Believers desired to be teachers without the ability to control their tongue.
| The Treatment: James 3.1-18
James provides six illustrations to demonstrate the need to control the tongue.
- Bits: These are used to make a horse go the direction one wishes (James 3.3).
- Rudder: A rudder was used to direct a ship where the pilot wanted to go (James 3.4).
- Small Spark: From such comes large fires (James 3.5-6).
- Animals…Being Tamed: It is difficult if not impossible, to tame (James 3.7).
- Poison: The product of an untamed tongue (James 3.8).
- Spring: Water can be both bitter and sweet, but it should not be so (James 3.9-10).
The concluding verses ask rhetorical questions, which all summarize the need to master the tongue and how difficult it is to do so.
Explanation Of Four Types Of Wisdom
1 The Wisdom of This Age and The Age To Come
| The Problem: Not Knowing the Difference Between Earthly Wisdom and Age to Come Wisdom.
| The Treatment: James 3.13-18
James begins with a comparison. First, there is earthly wisdom (James 3.13-16). The word earthly only appears six times in the Second Testament. It has the usual meaning of being godless in source and sphere. Earthly wisdom is the wisdom which is played out in the habits of life in this world, i.e., called by Paul, the works of the flesh (Gal. 5.19-21). James clarifies for his readers by telling them that this wisdom is unspiritual. This means that the origin is not from the Spirit. Earthly wisdom is from the devil. This means that it proceeds from or is inspired by demons. Thus, earthly wisdom is natural wisdom, which is bent on things of the world (present evil age). It is not of the Spirit (the age to come), but has its source in demons.
Second, there is the wisdom of the age to come (James 3.17-18). James describes the wisdom of the age to come as:
- Pure: Not being polluted by the values of this evil age.
- Peace-Loving: Freedom from strife with others and personal peace.
- Considerate: Being fair, generous rather than rigid and exacting, i.e., reasonableness.
- Submissive: Yielding To Persuasion: This word only appears here in the Second Testament. It is the opposite of disobedient. As Jesus obeyed the Father and only did what he saw him doing, such should be the attitude and lifestyle of Jesus followers.
- Full Of Mercy-Good Fruit: The Jesus follower should demonstrate mercy rather than venom and thus produce good fruit.
- Impartial: This word appears only here in the Second Testament and means singleminded.
- Sincere: To be sincere is the opposite of being a hypocrite.
2. The Wisdom to Submit To God
| The Problem: Jesus followers were not submitting to God.
| The Treatment: James 4.1-10
One of the worst manifestations of false wisdom is the unloosing of passion, which can be seen in the outbreak of strife and the tendency to compromise with the world. True wisdom will lead to submission to God. Resist the devil, change your actions and thoughts, grieve over your sins. Take God seriously. Humble yourself and God will lift you up.
3. The Wisdom Not To Slander One Another
| The Problem: Jesus followers were slandering their brothers and sisters.
| The Treatment: James 4.11-12
We must all remember that our brother is never our enemy. While the real enemy may use our brother to turn against us and even slander us, it is God’s wisdom, which says not to be involved. Your brothers and sisters are not your enemies. The devil is the enemy!
4. The Wisdom Not To Boast
| The Problem: Jesus followers were boasting without knowing God’s will.
| The Treatment: James 4.13-17
We live life as if we are going to live here forever. We should take note that bragging about our life today is not a part of the wisdom of God.
How The Rich And The Poor Should Live In Harmony In The Church: James 1.9-11
| The Problem: Wealthy Jesus followers were treating poor believers inappropriately, and these believers were not responding with appropriateness.
This is the last part of James’ outline. He uses the landscape of rich and poor to demonstrate another problem within the ecclesia.
James begins by giving a warning to the wealthy oppressors (James 5.1-6). There are two things for the rich to remember: First, their earthly riches are ultimately worthless. Second, their character is detestable. The goal of James is not to repudiate riches, but to have his readers not place all their hope and desire on earthly things. He is not anti-wealth; he is anti the attitudes that produce wrong actions by the rich toward the poor.
James tells the reader four things: First, the rich have gained their wealth by injustice (James 4.1-5). Second, the rich have used their wealth selfishly (James 4.5). Third, the rich have fattened themselves and will be judged. Fourth, The rich have opposed the righteous man because of the reminder of how cruel his riches have made him when he sees the righteous man (James 4.6).
Encourage The Oppressed: James 5.7-11
James begins with an exhortation in James 5.7a, “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming.” He gives the reader three illustrations of being patient: First, the farmer waiting on his crops. He must wait until nature does its work. The reader must learn the lesson that during the wait, he must not blame another for the trouble in which he finds himself.
Second, The prophets suffered for the causes of God. It is somehow comforting to know that others have suffered. We do not take comfort in their suffering but in the knowledge that we are not alone.
Third, Job suffered and survived. He was not just a passive, patient person. He passionately resented what had come on him. He passionately questioned the arguments of his friends. He passionately agonized over the terrible thought that God might have forgotten and forsaken him. In the midst of his attacks, he knew that God had a grip on him and that he had a grip on God.
Oaths: James 5.12
This verse is a repeat of the teaching of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5.33–37). The oath was a binding contract. The Jesus follower’s word should be his bond. S/he should always speak the truth. A simple yes or no should be sufficient.