Home Library Donate

James 3:13-18

Sunday Morning Bible Study

June 30, 2019

Angels baseball

If you are interested in going with us to the Angel Game July 26, we need you to buy your tickets now – we have to give the Angels our final ticket reservation number tomorrow.

You, or someone in your group are also going to need to download the MLB BallPark App for us to distribute the tickets to you.


The book of James is possibly one of the earliest things written in the New Testament.

It’s thought to have been written around AD 40-50

It was written by James, the half-brother of Jesus.

James’ father was Joseph, while Jesus’ father was God.

Though James didn’t believe Jesus was the Messiah until after the resurrection, James would eventually be recognized as the leader of the church in Jerusalem.

James was known in the early church as “James the Just” because of his great devotion to God and purity of life.

Ancient historian Eusebius describes James’ prayer life, that he…

was frequently found upon his knees begging forgiveness for the people, so that his knees became hard like those of a camel, in consequence of his constantly bending them in his worship of God, and asking forgiveness for the people[1]

While the apostle Paul wrote mainly to Gentiles, James is writing to the Jews.

His teachings are going to be very practical (hence our “tools” pic) and will draw much from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, as well as the book of Proverbs.

3:13-18 Wisdom

:13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.

:13 Who is wise and understanding

wisesophos – wise

understandingepistemon – intelligent, experienced, one having the knowledge of an expert

This is the only time this noun is used in the NT
fromepistamai – to put one’s attention on, to be acquainted with, to understand
a knowledge obtained by proximity to the thing known
The verb form is used a little bit more – 14 times in NT.
(1 Timothy 6:3–5 NKJV) —3 If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, 4 he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, 5 useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.


The value of testing

Back in chapter one, James wrote,
(James 1:5 NKJV) If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

The question is, how do I know if the solution I’ve been given is truly from God or not?

Just because you pray for wisdom, and you think you have a solution to the difficult thing you’re facing, doesn’t mean it’s the answer that God has given you.

We have a pool at home, and I have to regularly test the water to make sure the chlorine and pH levels are correct.

When they are off, I have to adjust what’s wrong by adding the appropriate chemicals.

If I don’t respond to the test, I end up with a green pool, or eyes that sting.

James is going to give us some qualities of “real” wisdom that will act as a test for the decisions we are making.

Premed students at Washington University in St. Louis are required to take a difficult class in physics.

One day the professor was discussing a particularly complicated concept. A student rudely interrupted to ask, “Why do we have to learn this stuff?” “To save lives,” the professor responded quickly and continued the lecture. A few minutes later, the same student spoke up again, “So how does physics save lives?” she persisted. “It keeps the ignorant out of medical school,” replied the professor.

The qualities of wisdom we’ll look at can serve as a test, to make sure we keep out “fake” wisdom.

:13 Let him show by good conduct

let him showdeiknuo – expose to the eyes; to give evidence or proof of a thing; to show by words or teach
aorist active imperative
James used this word “show” back in chapter 2:
(James 2:18 NKJV) But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
Faith isn’t the only thing that can be “seen”.
Godly wisdom should also be “seen” by our “good conduct”, how we live our lives.

goodkalos – beautiful, handsome, excellent, eminent, choice, surpassing, precious, useful, suitable, commendable, admirable

conductanastrophe – manner of life, conduct, behavior, deportment

Your “conduct” is how you live your life. It’s what kind of person you show yourself to be.

:13 works are done in the meekness of wisdom

worksergon – business, employment, that which any one is occupied; that which one undertakes to do, enterprise, undertaking; any product whatever, anything accomplished by hand, art, industry, or mind; an act, deed, thing done: the idea of working is emphasized in opp. to that which is less than work

wisdomsophia – wisdom, broad and full of intelligence; used of the knowledge of very diverse matters

This is what people will look at to see whether or not we are truly “wise” according to God’s standards.

meekness πραΰτης prautes – mildness of disposition, friendly, pleasant, gentle, humble

“Meekness” is the opposite of anger and pride.
Meekness toward God is that disposition of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting. In the OT, the meek are those wholly relying on God rather than their own strength to defend them against injustice. Thus, meekness toward evil people means knowing God is permitting the injuries they inflict, that He is using them to purify His elect, and that He will deliver His elect in His time. (#Isa 41:17, Lu 18:1-8) Gentleness or meekness is the opposite to self-assertiveness and self-interest. It stems from trust in God’s goodness and control over the situation. The gentle person is not occupied with self at all. This is a work of the Holy Spirit, not of the human will. (#Ga 5:23)
Jesus said,
(Matthew 5:5 NKJV) Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.
Jesus described Himself when He said,
(Matthew 11:29 NKJV) Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Our first characteristic of godly wisdom is “meekness”

:14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth.

:15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic.

:14 bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts

bitter envy

NLT translates this phrase “bitterly jealous”
envyzelos – excitement of mind, ardor, fervor of spirit; zeal, ardor in embracing, pursuing, defending anything; an envious and contentious rivalry, jealousy
bitterpikros – bitter; metaph. harsh, virulent

self-seekingἐριθεία eritheia – electioneering or intriguing for office; a desire to put one’s self forward

All you have to do is watch any political debate to understand this word.
Other versions (NLT, ESV) translate this as “selfish ambition”
In other words, your life is “all about me”.
Aristotle used this word to describe those pursuing political office by any means, even if it is unfair.
I confess I didn’t watch the Democratic debates this week, but every debate I’ve seen is the same. The whole point is for the candidate to get you to like them and their ideas, even if it means trashing someone else or stretching the truth.

Here is a test for fake wisdom – what’s in your heart?

:14 do not boast and lie against the truth

boastkatakauchaomai – to glory against, to exult over, to boast one’s self to the injury (of a person or thing)

present middle imperative

liepseudomai – to lie, to speak deliberate falsehoods; to deceive one by a lie, to lie to

present middle imperative

In other words, if you have envy or selfishness, don’t claim that your “wisdom” has come from God as an answer to your prayer.

It comes from somewhere else…

:15 This wisdom does not descend from above

descendkaterchomai – to come down, go down

present middle participle

from aboveanothen – from above, from a higher place

This kind of “wisdom” was not the answer to your prayer for wisdom.

:15 but is earthly, sensual, demonic

earthly – in other words, your worldly, unbelieving friends might give you this advice.

earthlyepigeios – existing upon the earth, earthly, terrestrial

sensualψυχικός psuchikos – of the “soul”; the sensuous nature with its appetites and passions

Other versions translate this as “unspiritual” (ESV) or “natural” (NAS)

demonic – there could be a spiritual component to your idea, but it’s not from God, it’s from the other place.

demonicdaimoniodes – resembling or proceeding from an evil spirit, demon-like

Peter had a taste of wisdom from above when Jesus asked, “Who do you say I am?”

(Matthew 16:16–17 NKJV) —16 Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.

Yet shortly after, Peter had a taste of the other kind of wisdom:

(Matthew 16:21–23 NKJV) —21 From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. 22 Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” 23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”

We need to be careful about where our “wisdom” comes from.

It’s not hard to take our answers from what the world thinks is right.

The world has an entirely different set of standards that may look right on the outside, but end up leading people in the wrong direction.

For example, when it comes to sexuality, the world thinks things are “right” based on what “feels right”, while things are “wrong” if they seem “harmful” or “oppressive”.
These perceptions change with the culture. What seemed “right” twenty years ago no longer seems right.
We have a different standard, one that doesn’t change.
Our standard is God’s Word.

:16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.

:16 confusion and every evil thing are there

These are the things that come from envy and self-seeking.

envyzelos – excitement of mind, ardor, fervor of spirit; an envious and contentious rivalry, jealousy

self-seekingeritheia – electioneering or intriguing for office; apparently, in the NT a courting distinction, a desire to put one’s self forward, a partisan and fractious spirit which does not disdain low arts; partisanship, fractiousness; This word is found before NT times only in Aristotle where it denotes a self-seeking pursuit of political office by unfair means.

confusion ἀκαταστασία akatastasia – instability, a state of disorder, confusion

I can’t help but think of the confusion there has been over the last few years over “gender identity”.
Our world no longer is willing to base gender on simple biological fact, but what you think you are deep down inside.

The world wants to hide the fact 40% of trangenders have tried suicide.

evilφαῦλος phaulos – worthless; good for nothing

thingπρᾶγμα pragma – a deed; what is done or being accomplished

These are things that flow from bad wisdom, earthly wisdom.

(James 3:16 ESV) For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.

:17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.

:17 the wisdom that is from above is first …

James’ list overlaps several other lists in the New Testament.

The Fruit of the Spirit:
(Galatians 5:22–23 NKJV) —22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Things we’re supposed to meditate on:
(Philippians 4:8 NKJV) Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

from aboveanothen – from above, from a higher place

Here are James’ definitions of heavenly wisdom.

Think about the kinds of decisions you are currently seeking answers for.  Stack up your choices against these qualities.

…pure… (untranslated word) - men - truly, certainly, surely, indeed

“the wisdom from above is first truly pure

pureἁγνός hagnos – exciting reverence, sacred; pure from carnality, modest

Are the decisions you’re facing related to purity at all? Do they make you follow after God? Are they connected to your sinful desires?
Let’s say you’re faced with the choice of what you’re going to do with your night off.
Picture yourself with Jesus. Would He be pleased with the choice you make? Would you feel comfortable with Jesus coming along with you on your date night?

peaceableεἰρηνικός eirenikos – relating to peace; peace loving

God’s wisdom is often accompanied with peace.
(Colossians 3:15 NKJV) And let the peace of God rule in your hearts…
Does this mean that every decision God wants you to make is “easy”?

Easy and peaceful are not necessarily the same thing.

You can have a godly peace about something and still be in the middle of some pretty difficult times.

God’s wisdom promotes peace between people, not strife.
(Colossians 3:15 The Message) Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other.
God’s desire is that we work at making peace with others, not a peace at all costs, but a healthy peace. Paul wrote,
(Romans 12:18 NKJV) If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.

Every godly decision may not result in peace with others, but we need to be sure to be doing our part.

gentleἐπιεικής epieikes – suitable; equitable, fair, gentle

Isaiah spoke of the Messiah when he wrote,
(Matthew 12:20 NKJV) A bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench…

Jesus doesn’t kick people when they’re down.

When the woman caught in adultery was brought to Jesus and the Pharisees demanded He pronounce judgment, Jesus said that anyone without sin could go ahead and throw the first stone.
(John 8:10–11 NKJV) —10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

willing to yieldεὐπειθής eupeithes  – easily persuaded, compliant

This is in contrast with the earthly wisdom which is “self-seeking”.
We ought to be willing to take the time to listen to the other person and yield to them if that’s the right thing.
Sometimes we make up our minds about a situation a little too quickly, and we’re unwilling to listen to any other input.
(Proverbs 18:17 NLT) The first to speak in court sounds right— until the cross-examination begins.

The problem comes when we make up our mind based on the first piece of information we’ve received instead of thoroughly investigating a matter.

We are being a fool if we don’t take time to listen fully to the other person.
(Proverbs 18:13 NKJV) He who answers a matter before he hears it, It is folly and shame to him.
Sometimes we simply don’t take the time to listen to people and make sure we’ve heard them correctly.

Three old guys are out walking. First one says, “Windy, isn’t it?” Second one says, “No, it’s Thursday!” Third one says, “So am I. Let’s go get a soda.”


A man was telling his neighbor, “I just bought a new hearing aid. It cost me four thousand dollars, but it’s state of the art. It’s perfect.” “Really,” answered the neighbor. “What kind is it?” “Twelve thirty.”

full ofmestos – full

full of mercyἔλεος eleos – kindness or good will towards the miserable and the afflicted, joined with a desire to help them

James has already used this word to speak about how we “judge” others:
(James 2:13 NKJV) For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
Jesus said,
(Matthew 7:2 NKJV) For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.
Wisdom from above has its roots in mercy.
Though sometimes we make decisions based on being judgmental or even worse, out of revenge.
On His way to Jerusalem, Jesus decided to stop at Jericho for a meal and perhaps spend the night.
There was a man in town considered a great sinner – the Jewish tax collector named Zacchaeus.  Being small, he was watching Jesus from a tree.

(Luke 19:5 NKJV) And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.”

Zacchaeus was so blown away at how Jesus treated him, that he gave away half of his treasure to the poor to pay back those he had cheated.

good fruits

goodagathos – of good constitution or nature; useful, salutary; good, pleasant, agreeable, joyful, happy; excellent, distinguished; upright, honorable
Fruit is the product of your life. You are either going to bear good fruit or bad fruit.
In regards to people falsely claiming to speak for God, Jesus said,
(Matthew 7:16 NKJV) You will know them by their fruits.
I think some of the “fruit” we and our wisdom/decisions ought to be known for are:
(Galatians 5:22–23 NKJV) —22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control.

without partiality

ἀδιάκριτος adiakritos – without dubiousness, ambiguity or uncertainty
James has already warned us about treating the “rich” people nicer than the “poor” folk.
(James 2:1 NKJV) My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality.
Wise decisions have no room for prejudice.

without hypocrisyἀνυπόκριτος anupokritos – unfeigned, undisguised, sincere

Drama in western culture was born in ancient Greece. Actors on a stage would have various masks to display the emotion of their lines.
These actors were called hupokrites.
A “hypocrite” is a person who is pretending to be something they are not.
A wise person is a “genuine” person, not a person playing a part, not a person telling someone what they think they want to hear.

:18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

:18 those who make peace

righteousnessdikaiosune – in a broad sense: state of him who is as he ought to be, righteousness, the condition acceptable to God; integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness, correctness of thinking, feeling, and acting

peaceeirene – a state of national tranquility; peace between individuals, i.e. harmony, concord; security, safety, prosperity, felicity, (because peace and harmony make and keep things safe and prosperous)

sownspeiro – to sow, scatter, seed

present passive indicative

who make poieo – to make; to do

present active participle

(James 3:18 NLT) And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.

Godly wisdom isn’t disconnected to the relationships we have with one another.

The Message paraphrase of this verse is:

(James 3:18 The Message) You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.

Jesus said,

(Matthew 5:9 NKJV) Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.



I want to wind up this morning by first using our verses as a template for testing the “wisdom” or decisions we make, and secondly to give you an example of what godly wisdom looks like.




Making wise decisions

What kind of decisions are you facing right now?
Is it a choice about work?
Where to live?
Is it about your kids or your family?
Is it about your career?

There are plenty of decisions that we make that we shouldn’t be stressing over, but some are pretty important.

The place to start is in asking God for wisdom (James 1:5).
The next step is to take a look in the mirror of God’s Word and think about the choices you’ve made or are ahead of you. Perhaps you ought to “test” your idea.
Fifty years and ten days ago (July 20), Apollo 11 landed on the moon.
Before they were able to land on the moon, they had to test all the ideas the engineers were coming up with.

Neil Armstrong was, among other things, a really good test pilot.  This is from “First Man” –

Video:  First Man – Test Flight Crash Scene

After some of the things we’ve looked at, hopefully you’ll be willing to “eject” before you crash.

So here’s the test.  Run your ideas through this “grid” (it’s in the app notes)

Godly Wisdom

Worldly Wisdom


bitter envy







willing to yield




good fruits

evil things

without partiality


without hypocrisy





Are you faced with decisions? Are you looking for the wise choice to make?

Pray for wisdom

Run it through the “grid”



An example of godly wisdom

When it comes to handling issues of sexuality, the church is struggling to keep up with the shifting landscape of what the world thinks is right.
When it comes to how we respond to questions about homosexuality, some of us simply get mad, while others of us might not even want to talk about it.
Sam Allberry is an Anglican pastor from England who has a lot of good things to say on the topic of our society’s confused ideas about sexuality.
At last week’s Pastors’ Conference, Sam talked about how our culture has changed the last twenty years over what is right and wrong in sexuality. He did a great job in showing the underlying false ideas that have gotten us to where we are today.
He also gave some really, really good ideas about how to minister to those who are struggling with the issues inside the LGBT agenda.

One of his points was how important it is that we don’t say one thing to one person that we’re not willing to say to all.

The Christian community is often looked at as being unfair – that we have different sets of rules for different groups. We make it sound as if homosexuality is the only sin, when in fact Jesus levels the playing field and puts all of humanity in the same boat. We are all sinners.

Video: Sam Allberry – Gospel Confidence in a sexually shifting world

Clip from 33:44

In my notes I’ve got a link to Sam’s full message from last week’s Pastors’ Conference at Costa Mesa. Really, really good stuff.

Does that sound like wisdom from above?  It does to me.
Do you know that the wisest thing you could do today is to recognize you are a sinner like the rest of us, recognize that Jesus died for you, turn from your sin, and open your heart to Him?


[1] Eusebius of Caesaria. (1890). The Church History of Eusebius. In P. Schaff & H. Wace (Eds.), A. C. McGiffert (Trans.), Eusebius: Church History, Life of Constantine the Great, and Oration in Praise of Constantine (Vol. 1, p. 125). New York: Christian Literature Company.