Thursday, June 11, 2009

James 3:18

Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.
(NIV)

Does this verse fit with the rest? It almost seems like a little addendum to the main point. If we look at it alone, it makes total sense... a peacemaker, who would sow in peace, because he is a peacemaker, will reap a harvest of righteousness. Very similar to Jesus' words in the Sermon on the Mount. If we look at it in the context, it still makes sense, but in the bigger picture of heavenly wisdom. Peace-making is a sign of true wisdom that is from above.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

James 3:17

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.
(NIV)

James is now teaching the "other" wisdom, the one that comes from heaven (or some translations more properly translate "from above" or " a higher place"). Let's look at this type of wisdom... what are it's characteristics?

First of all pure -meaning clean or clear. This wisdom is pure in its motivations and its direction. The wisdom that is from above is not tainted in any way.

The Peace-Loving - meaning related to peace. There is a connection between this wisdom and peace or tranquility, not only to God, but also to others.

Considerate - could be translated as gentle or mild or moderate. There is a sense of fairness in the word. Wisdom from above is gentle and fair. It is not based on What I Want.

Submissive - could be translated as reasonable or compliant. It is not forcing its own way, but is like a pavement for the way of others.

Full of Mercy - Just what it sounds like. It is Full of Mercy. Like a cup that is filled to the brim, with that little film of water holding it together. The slightest jostling will spill the cup. This wisdom is full of mercy, that is what is spilling out of it at all times.

Good Fruit - good as in its constitution or nature. This kind of wisdom produces things that are in their very nature... good. This is what it produces, for others and for itself.

Impartial - could be translated as unwavering. This wisdom is solid. It does not change based on personal biases or the whims of culture. Since its origin is from above, then at its core, it is also from above. The ways of the world aren't going to morph it and our likes and dislikes aren't going to change it.

Sincere - meaning genuine or without hypocrisy. This wisdom is the real deal. People who exhibit this type of wisdom are in the What you see is what you get category. You are getting a good thing, but you also know it is the real thing. There is nothing fake or put on about this wisdom.

(all definitions are from studylight.org)

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

James 3:16

For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
(NIV)

Here we have the envy and selfish ambition mentioned again. The result seems very clear: this worldly wisdom, based on envy and selfish ambition, leads to disorder and every evil practice.

The truth is that most of us would never think that any type of wisdom is based on envy and selfish ambition. We just wouldn't think that is the case, yet if you take a step back and begin to evaluate the "wisdoms" of this world, you may be surprised to find that is exactly where most of them are rooted.

Just begin with most of the "wise counsels" of the world that orbit around the uplifting of self. They promote self-esteem and self-love, self-forgiveness and doing something just for yourself. You can see it in most modern psychologists and psychiatrists. Even many of the so-called "Christian" counselors have fallen into this trap. It is has even been said by some that you need to learn to love yourself because God loved you, when the Bible has clearly taught that in many cases it is our love of selves that has caused the problem to begin with.

Bitter envy and selfish ambition do not lead to what is good, they lead to disorder and evil of every kind.

Monday, June 08, 2009

James 3:15

Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil.
(NIV)

Point number one: There is a "wisdom" that is not right. There is a "wisdom" that does not come from God, but from the Devil. This "wisdom" exists, and James seems to be making the point that it is easy to think that it is true wisdom, like the stuff we find in Proverbs, but it's NOT!

Point number two: This "wisdom" that we are putting the quotes around is a wisdom that, from the previous verse, is about selfish ambition and bitter envy. It is boasted about and in the end, the truth is denied by this kind of "wisdom."

What do we do with this? Start by being aware that not all things that can be called wisdom are true wisdom that is from God. I think that James is going to give us more in the next few verses, but start by being aware of this truth. Don't deny the truth, be aware of it.

Friday, June 05, 2009

James 3:14

But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.
(NIV)

The "bitter envy" could also be "bitter jealousy", not sure if that helps. Studylight.org adds this to the definition of "selfish ambition": "This word is found before NT times only in Aristotle where it denotes a self-seeking pursuit of political office by unfair means." I thought that was interesting, and helps to understand the idea behind the "selfish ambition."

The Adam Clarke Commentary offers this help:
If ye be under the influence of an unkind, fierce, and contemptuous spirit, even while attempting or pretending to defend true religion, do not boast either of your exertions or success in silencing an adversary; ye have no religion, and no true wisdom, and to profess either is to lie against the truth. Let all writers on what is called polemic (fighting, warring) divinity lay this to heart. The pious Mr. Herbert gives excellent advice on this subject:-

"Be calm in arguing, for fierceness makes Error a fault, and truth discourtesy; Why should I feel another man's mistakes More than his sickness or his poverty? In love I should; but anger is not love, Nor wisdom neither; therefore g-e-n-t-l-y m-o-v-e."
~studylight.org


That bit of commentary really cleared things up for me. I will admit it, maybe it is because I am tired or because it is the end of the school year, but I was having some trouble coming up with some thoughts on this verse. Now, I am actually finding it to be beneficial in my circumstances. Praise the Lord for smarter people who have done a good work that we can draw from.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

James 3:13

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.
(NIV)
James is coming back to this same idea that he has been hitting on throughout the book. He first started commenting on the relationship between hearing and doing (James 1:19-27), and even makes a comment in chapter one that points out the worthlessness of religion if you don't keep a tight reign on your tongue (James 1:26). He then discusses the relationship of faith and deeds in chapter 2 (James 2:14-26). This kind of relationship between what is said and what is actually done is not just found in the book of James, it is scattered throughout scripture.

But I would like to get you to consider for a moment that this is not such an extreme teaching, instead, it is simply a statement of the obvious. Consider this verse: One could think that he is telling wise and understanding people to show it by their good life, but I think that this verse would be better understood if you believed that wise and understanding people DO show it by their good life. This is more of a statement to those people who might think of themselves as wise and understanding... when they're not!

I guess that the point that I am trying to make is that in every other area of life, what we believe determines what we do. We punch a timecard, not because we like printing little numbers on cards of paper, but because we believe something. We stay on the right side of the road (in America) because we believe that is the safest way to drive and we believe that most people are going to be following that same guideline. I take a drink when I am thirsty, because I believe that is a way to handle thirst. If someone said that they were thirsty and they said that they believed that taking drinks was a way to solve that problem, but they died of dehydration when they had a glass of water in their hands, we would either say that they didn't really believe that would solve the problem, or we would say that that person was an idiot. Does any of this make sense?

I might have to do another post later.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

James 3:10-12

Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
(NIV)

I decided to keep all three of these verses together. There is one idea contained in these verses, one simple idea.

The mouth produces praise and cursing. This doesn't make sense to James. He asks whether or not you see a spring of water producing both salt water and fresh water. He then asks if fig trees can make olives. What about a grapevine, can it bear figs? These questions are rhetorical. James gives the answer to the question about the spring, which in a way, gives the answer to the original problem: A salt spring doesn't make fresh water, so what's wrong with your tongue?!?

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

James 3:9

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness.
(NIV)

IT IS truly amazing that this tongue can behave in this way. Think of the irony of this situation. This mouth that we have will praise or bless God. It will say good and positive things about the Father, then it will turn right around and curse (or say evil toward or hope evil upon) men... Men who are made in the image or likeness of the same God that they were bringing down blessings upon.

What amazes me the most is my own ability to make that turn around so quickly. I will be on my way to church saying things to my kids like, "c'mon! What is wrong with you?!?" or "You are always that way!" Then I will be at church praising God, and turn right around and on my way home yell at another driver, "You Idiot!"

I hope today that we will be more aware of this evil that is the tongue.

Monday, June 01, 2009

James 3:7-8

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
(NIV)

James takes it a step further in his description of the tongue, but I believe that he is doing this to get the idea that it is a truly dangerous thing. Great damage can be caused by the tongue. Great heartache. Great lies can spew forth from this part of your body. It can even lead others into sin.

James is not done with his warning after this verse. He will in the next few verses paint an even scarier picture of what this tongue can do.

Could I encourage you today to be analyzing your tongue. Monitor it today. Evaluate what it is producing.