Amazing Grace Baptist Church, Hamburg Bible study material on James 3:13-18
From our previous lessons on James 1-3 we have learnt that James purposes to deal with practical everyday issues that are important to God and are necessary in preparing the reader towards Christian maturity. Of particular importance is the exhortation about controlling the tongue in James 3:1-12. As a continuation of these related themes, this study on James 3:13-18 focuses on pure wisdom.
Evidence of true wisdom (James 3:13)
According to James 3:3, being a wise and understanding Christian is demonstrated by a good life. In other words, wisdom is evidenced in our good works. In connection with the previous theme of controlling the tongue, true wisdom (James 3:13-18) helps one to keep the tongue under control.
Moreover, this wisdom, in the view of James, is seen in one’s humility. For the truly wise person recognizes how small and unimportant he/she is without God. The use of humility in this context denotes a power under control. It pictures a horse that is broken and trained to submit to a bridle. Thus, for a Christian to be humble, that person needs to be under the control of the Holy Spirit.
Avoiding earthly wisdom (James 3:14-16)
James goes on to talk about two kinds of wisdom. He regards the first kind as earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. This type of wisdom describes the situation where a person rejects any focus on God. It pictures anything that is antithesis of godly traits. To James, therefore, this first kind of wisdom is characterized by envy and selfishness. This kind of earthly wisdom is also identified by jealousy and bitterness and boasting. In other words, earthly wisdom does not have its source in the fear of the Lord.
Embracing heavenly wisdom (James 3:17-18)
James goes on to describe the second type of wisdom which he describes as a wisdom that comes from heaven. To James, this kind of wisdom is characterized by purity and it is peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. By sincerity here is meant, this kind of wisdom is without hypocrisy and so it is true to appearances. Thus, this type of wisdom is from God as opposed to the world.
Conclusion and application
This study has focused on divine and thus true wisdom. God is hereby pictured as the only one who gives true wisdom and helps us to control our mind. By associating wisdom with humility, James therefore invites us into servant leadership that honours God. One of the important issues that calls for re-orientation of our minds is that the humble believer in the Lord is to be respected more that the proud of the world. In this respect, we are also called upon to serve the Lord without caring who gets the credit.
It is important to remind ourselves that James had already drawn our attention to the fact that true wisdom could be asked from God. Thus, by relating this theme of true wisdom to the entire context of James 1-3, James calls upon Christians to completely depend on God for wisdom, controlling our tongue, amidst trials and temptations and being impartial.
1. How does humility relate to wisdom?
2. State and differentiate between the two kinds of wisdom that James talk about in James 3:13-18.
3. With reference to James 1:5, how can a Christian receive true wisdom?
4. By relating humility with wisdom, identify two practical ways of encouraging and promoting servant leadership in our Churches.
Memory verse: James 3:13