James Chapter Three
V1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.
This section of the Gospel of James, is focusing on our means of communication, and how we come across to other people. James examines our motives and expressions, and how they show what we are really like.
It is very hard to be a teacher and leader in the house of God. It is not something that a true believer would choose blithely or as a career move. The responsibility of teaching the people of God is a very onerous one and has many traps, that preachers and people fall into alike. The preaching of the gospel is an especial burden. The heavy weight of reaching out to lost people is too heavy to bear for someone outside the kingdom. We dare not embark on the work of God without the Spirit of God dwelling within us and overseeing what we are doing. We ourselves must be changed and our souls made alive to God, through faith and repentance. Our souls must be fortified with all goodness and truth and our minds given over to the peace of God.
The Apostle James here, addresses the brothers. It is ambiguous as to whether he is simply addressing the brothers as leaders and teachers, or that he could presume that the sisters were also leading in ministry.
We know from other Scriptures, that women were involved in the life of the church, and to presume otherwise, is contrary to what is taught in the Old Testament and the New Testament. I do not wish to discuss this in depth here, as it is a large issues in the church today. These few verse flag up the issue.
“The rulers ceased in Israel. They ceased until I, Deborah, arose; Until I arose a mother in Israel.” Judges 5:7
Deborah was clearly the leader in Israel at this time. I have heard Christian leaders decry this stated fact, because of their preferred view of the role of women in church.
“Having therefore, brothers, boldness to enter into the holy place by the blood of Jesus”. Hebrews 10:19
This holy boldness includes women as well. We as Christians all have the right to come right into God’s holy presence and put our petitions to the Lord our God.
“They went out of the prison, and entered into Lydia’s house. When they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them, and departed.” Acts 16:40
Lydia was an upright, godly and active Christian woman. She was a leader in the early church, though many male leaders and teachers interpret this and other Scriptures otherwise.
There are very many Scriptures to look at in both Old Testament and New Testament passages, but is not covered here, in detail. The preaching and teaching in our day and through church history, is exclusively by men with particular agendas. This has worked to the detriment of both women and men and denies the church the higher level skills and abilities that women have as much as men. The exclusion of women stems not so much from biblical truths and instructions, but from pride and selfishness.
“Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things.”
1 Timothy 3:11
Surely this also applies to men. Unfortunately such directives are subjectively applied to women and they are characterised in a negative way, where as men are supposedly not subject to theses weaknesses.
Paul, in Ephesians 2:4-5 says…
“But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ, even when we were dead in our trespasses. It is by grace you have been saved!”
This is to all believers. The question is not regarding the work and position of women in the church, but of how contrite we are towards each other. We are all sinful, but some regard women are more sinful, or weaker when facing temptation, but this clearly isn’t the problem. The problem is basic human pride and the strong desire to be “over” people and to call the shots, as we see it. We all struggle with this. In the Genesis record of the fall of humankind from their fellowship with God, we are taught that the woman was deceived. Whereas the man actively disobeyed and rejected the Word of God.
When our gender differences are discussed usually, with the woman portrayed as the negative party and the cause of the man falling. The alternative view is not discussed, nor the sin of man as the cause of human rebellion. Humans fell. We failed completely and utterly. Turning this absolute tragedy into a point scoring exercise against woman just emphasises the depravity of man.
Our only response to God’s word is contrition. The only repentance toward each other is humility of spirit, and this is very difficult for every human heart. Putting women down in the social and spiritual context, is not acceptable to God. I would like to say more, but this issue continues to go on, and perhaps it is a topic for another book….
Few would choose the ministry above a secular job, as the pay and conditions would be small, or even non- existent. Or, perhaps rich churches can afford to pay good wages and attract “good” pastors. The pastor in the pay of a church council, may find it a struggle to preach challenging messages, as it could cost him his job. This can be a huge snare to the whole church and undermine the spiritual standing and witness of the fellowship. The church becomes a multi million business association. Corruption grows, people are deluded and eventually the organisation will succumb to a scandal of some sort.
The pathway of the true-hearted Christian leader is painful and has little reward in this life. This work cannot be undertaken lightly or without the power of the Spirit at work in the speakers life and the lives of those who hear.
The leader of the church is under the eye of the eternal God and perfection is the standard. God will choose His people who will minister His message accurately and with a true heart. God will equip them for service and strengthen their weaknesses and make them strong. There are many temptations to be resisted and a great responsibility to live a holy life, that is seen by those are ministered to. The task a church leader undertakes, is huge, even in a small fellowship. We cannot take on the role of church teacher, without examining ourselves and the burden we are taking up.
I repeat this Scripture as it is so very relevant today…
“Son of man, I have made you a watchman to the house of Israel: therefore hear the word from my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I tell the wicked, You shall surely die; and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at your hand.”
Ezekiel 3: 17-18
The judgment for leaders and speakers, will be more searching than a worker in the kingdom, since they must lead in all spiritual integrity because their words and deeds affect so many people. If we feel fear about this, that is good, because it will drive us to the Lord and make us very particular about what we do and say.
God says we are culpable if we do not preach the word rightly and entreat the hearers to repent and believe. The job of minister is not a career choice..
“Therefore, don’t let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. Neither present your members to sin as instruments of unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God, as alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin will not have dominion over you. For you are not under law, but under grace.”
Romans 6: 12-14
If we are to conquer sin in our bodies, we must have control over what we are saying, and ensure we are obeying God, and speaking truth. Our tongue as a small body part, should be brought into subjection to the Word of God. The pastor might not make it to the tea and cake after the meeting…
V2 We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to control his whole body.
As human beings we have many weaknesses and difficulties with the various aspects of our character. We find it difficult to walk the way of Christ and submit to His authority. We forget that His burden is light and His labour is not in vain. He will protect His people and sustain them through the dark night of the soul. The Christian may find themselves making mistakes and making errors of judgment but the over-ruling power of God brings everything to full fruition.
The front line of spiritual resistance is the way we speak and the words we say. If we stay clean from lies and flattery, then our lives will be pure. We do not lie or flatter people to get what we want, nor do we give credence to those who try to use these strategies on us. If our conversation is always pure and right, then we are perfect in the family of God. Christians should recognise each other by the way we speak, act and present themselves.
The focus here is in what we say and how we say it. The sovereign power of God will influence all we do and every word we say. To have the ability to control what we say is the mark of holy perfection. Our speaking is our hallmark. No one gets it right every time, and we are subject to many opposing forces. By the grace of God every word we say is subject to His sovereign will and He will bring His purposes to pass.
Self-control and the ability to correct mistakes and start again, is the example of holiness and a life set apart for God. We are under the scrutiny of the Word of God and we learn God’s ways as we read and study the Word of God. We search for Him that we will know Him and become more and more like His holy character.
“However, what things were gain to me, these have I counted loss for Christ. Yes, most certainly, and I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord, for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and count them nothing but refuse, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, that which is of the law, but is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed to his death; if by any means I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
Philippians 3: 7-11
Whatever we think we loose out on, is not worth bothering about. We know the power of His resurrection as we think and speak words of faith. The front line of our defence is how we speak and our deeds will follow on from that. As we live our lives, God will teach us His ways and give us self-control in what we say. We conform our words to the instruction of the Word of God and the building up of other people.
V3 When we put bits into the mouths of the horses to make them obey us, we can guide the whole animal.
Human beings have learned how to exert physical authority over the strength of animals. We can direct animals that are bigger than us and use their torque to help us achieve our goals. We use various bits, bridles and martingale to guide the footsteps of horses. We cause the horse to change direction using this metal tool.
The whole animal is controlled by a small metal device. The rider can get the horse to turn and change tempo just using the metal bit in its mouth. A horse is a huge and powerful animal, and yet it is subject to this little device. God is likening the bit in the horses mouth, to the small part of our bodies, the tongue. Our tongues have so much power for good or ill. It can make changes in the lives of other people, and can be used to hurt others and be dishonest to people. We don’t often see it, but is always ready to say something.
So our whole life is dictated to by this one small part of our body, just like the mighty horse is controlled by the metal bar in this mouth. Our tongues cause so much trouble and even though we try to cover it up, it still portrays what we are really like. The tongue does not naturally promote the path of peace.
Speaking false words is a foolish activity and betrays our lack of honesty.
“He who hides hatred has lying lips. He who utters a slander is a fool.”
Proverbs 10: 18
V4 Consider ships as well. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot is inclined.
Great sailing ships with valuable cargo, trusted to the waves of the sea, are controlled by a small device – a rudder. The rudder provides direction for the ship according to the will of the Captain. The ships referred to here are large sailing ships with expensive goods on board. The boat is driven by the wind. It is steered by the person with control of the rudder.
Even though the ship is large, it is controlled by the small piece of technology. The size of the ship is great in comparison. Yet it is moved and directed by this small device. This is another illustration of how a life can be dictated to and driven by the small part of the body, called the tongue.
The tongue is the one part of us that shows to other people what we are like. It controls how other people act and reacts to us. It is a powerful force for good or bad. It is able to praise and curse. It can respond in positive and negative ways, for good and for ill. The sounds of the tongue betray the will of the person who it belongs to.
As a ship is a mighty vessel, so the body is a wonderful creation by God, but it is controlled by the expressions of the tongue. Such a small part of the body, and yet so powerful to change and turn as is the will of the Captain.
V5 the same way, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it boasts of great things. Consider how small a spark sets a great forest ablaze.
It takes surprisingly little to teach an animal to obey. A bit and bridle will direct and redirect a horse, a collar and lead for a dog and a tone of voice for a cat.
Even inanimate objects can be controlled by the small piece of wood, that is the rudder.
The human person is similar. We are dictated to by the attitudes that motivate our tongues. This small part of the body, can change lives, for good or bad. We can build people up by what we say, or be discouraging. What we say has a lot of power to speak words of healing and peace, or words that aggravate faults and failings. The mindset we have and our beliefs about life are shown by what we say.
How can we know we are walking in this everlasting way? Let us check our speaking – written, spoken and read words. What comes out of us, is an indication of what our inner life is like.
When we are using words that help and heal, we are building other people up and promoting God’s ways.
The tongue is a hidden part of the body until we open our mouths and it instantly displays what we are and how our minds work. We see trivial mind process and boasting about what we think we have. We talk about our lives and what we have and make comparisons with other people. This often involves pulling people down in order to make ourselves feel better about ourselves. The tongue can be so boastful of itself and betray a selfish attitude of heart.
We tell people about the great things we do, have done and are going to do. We become boastful and all our conversation is about ourselves. It is easy to fall into this kind of speaking.
One unhelpful word can cause years of trouble. We can inadvertently start a spiritual forest fire. Just a spark can set alight a whole area of land and wipe out years of seeming growth. One discouraging person in a group of people, can cause a negative environment, which can have a negative effect on other people. Even if we are trying to change things for the good, our actions and words should be encouraging other people to think and change for the good, especially in the service of God.
So we must be careful what we say. We have to find ways of speaking which are helpful and can turn negativity into a positive word or attitude.
The book of Proverbs has many things to say about speaking.
“In the multitude of words there is no lack of disobedience, but he who restrains his lips does wisely.
The tongue of the righteous is like choice silver. The heart of the wicked is of little worth.
The lips of the righteous feed many, but the foolish die for lack of understanding.”
Proverbs 10: 19-21
The words of the person with a good heart, are helpful and kind. The good person speaks up and the words help many people and provide for the needs of other people.
Whereas the words of a wicked person spread falsehoods. Too much verbosity causes disobedient behaviour. This person has a heart that is of very little worth.
This reminds us we must be careful about what we say and that what we say is true.
V6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of wickedness among the parts of the body. It pollutes the whole person, sets the course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
This small device that controls our body is the mighty tongue. It is hidden mostly, until the lips unveil its lively activity. This part of our anatomy is the revelation of who we are as people and also as saints of God. It’s lucidity is manifest, as rooted in fallen nature. We lie, exaggerate, curse, slander, insult and exclude anyone who we perceive as a threat. Our tongues voice words that ought not to be heard. They exhibit the state of our mind and the moral temperature of our character.
The thermometer of our tongue reads “hot.” We propagate fire that burns others and hurts us so badly. God is seeking to heal us and take our tongues so that they will be quenched from the cruel intent that we fail to conquer.
We might think we appear smart and modern in our ways, but nothing hides the effect of our words on ourselves as well as others. Once we start down this road we cannot stop without an intervention by God. Only His power can stop and change this rampant evil. This small member of our body is motivated by the fires of hell and can only be quenched by the strong power of the blood of Christ. Those who refuse to seek His remedy, will reap what they sow.
“The heart of the righteous weighs answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes out evil.”
Proverbs 15: 28
We must not be deflected from this single deliverance and Deliverer. Christ alone can cure this disease.
V7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man,
There are very few beasts that cannot be controlled by humans. Four-legged creatures are manoeuvred using ropes, reins, fences, pits, chemicals and more. We keep them in zoos and farms, etc and they become tamed by having us around them. Animals become domesticated and even large wild animals become happy with the close proximity of human beings. They become like us and look to us for provision.
Birds in cages, we clip their wings and make them serve us. We use creatures for food and manufacture their existence to suit our palate. The issues about our care for them in this regard, causes many difficult questions.
We fish for sea creatures, river creatures and beasts that live in water. We hook them, harpoon them and drag them into nets to fill our bellies.
Even snakes, geckos and lizards are not safe from our clutches. We eat and use their skin for our designs and desires.
Humankind has subdued the earth and its inhabitants and we are Lords over the created order. Some regard the present state as a step too far, and we are wiping the animal species from the earth, at an alarming rate. Are we still in control of our activity on the earth?
It would seem not. Constant warnings from scientists and ecologists about the environmental disaster we are causing are all over the media. Our godlessness has impacted on the whole earth. Animals, and ourselves are in danger of loosing habitats and suitable diets, because of our constant desire for more and more. Humankind has gone way beyond speaking and now we are destroying.
“Pray without ceasing”
1 Thessalonians 5: 17
This small verse shows us what our underlying attitude should be at all times. The prayerful tongue is restrained and produces good fruit.
It is how we are to maintain a righteous mind set before the Lord. If we are praying, we are not entertaining any kind of evil speaking…
V8 But no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
Even though we have conquered the natural world we cannot control our own bodies. We can rope and break the wildest horse, but we can’t stop negative words from pouring out of our mouths. We can harpoon the mighty blue whale, but we cannot keep lying, insults and slander from revealing themselves by our use of language.
No matter what therapy we access, it cannot tame the sinfulness of our speaking.
Our tongue is a restless evil. It twists and turns with every word. It creates so much trouble and causes so much pain and anguish. It is our native language and our mother tongue.
This small organ in our bodies is the source of all social and emotional poison. It doesn’t take many words to destroy someone’s character. Words will inflame bad feeling and contaminate anything pure. God calls it a“restless evil” This evil that spreads and spreads, and cannot be tamed. It’s poison is deadly and has no antidote. It kills and makes evil all around its influence. Like the forest fire, out of control, it sucks in all oxygen and burns everything to a cinder in it’s path.
This is not an attractive description of our speaking. We do not speak God’s words, and so we propagate our own falsehood and evil. We pray for grace to combat this evil, and the Lord will rescue everyone who seeks His face.
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue; Those who love it will eat its fruit.”
Proverbs 18: 21
Those who love death are in the grip of the words of their own tongues. Tongues can bring death on others. People who entertain this deadly skill, are actually in the control of their own words. No one can break this habit unless God takes a part.
V9 with the tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness
Here is the ultimate hypocrisy. We go to church and worship God with heart and body and spirit, and then put people down with our comments and remain silent to those in need of encouragement. Saying we love God, means loving others too. There is no gap in the speaking. A Christian will be waiting to speak about their Lord at every opportunity. A person cannot do that if they have unfriendly, non-communicative habits.
We cannot separate the divine from the human. To the view of God, every person is made with His God-orientated design and mindset. We do not enter into this reality until we are forgiven. Our view is not the same as God’s view, and our human nature is not like the perfect, divine nature of God. So our speaking is not like Him either.
Our words matter and we will be judged accordingly. Not even “casual” words are passed over by God. We need to make sure we really are speaking the truth and not just some platitudes from things we have heard. We are accountable. Maybe it is better to say nothing than to say words we don’t mean. It is unsafe to say words you would not normally say in a conversation, since they are insincere. Our words must come from a mind with integrity and seeking a perfect mindset.
“You offspring of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. The good man out of his good treasure brings out good things, and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings out evil things. I tell you that every idle word that men speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Matthew 12: 34-37
Staying silent is not a long-term option. As we refine our thought processes, we then can start to speak correctly with integrity. It starts with the inner being, our souls in conjunction with our minds, so we can please the Lord as we witness for Him.
Our tongues will then be pleasing to Christ and He will honour us by answering our prayers and showing us greater joys.
V10 of the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, this should not be!
One sentence is spoken bringing peace and light to a troubled soul. The next sentence is gossiping about that soul and bringing them down in the eyes of other people. How can we shift so quickly?
The mouth utters the thoughts of our mind. An unruly mouth is the outward demonstration of an unruly mind. We allow all kinds thoughts to traverse our psyche and make no effort to regulate them or practice rejecting evil thoughts. We are all the same in this regard because we are all sinful and our beings are tainted and sullied with this moral disease. If we allow our minds free rein, they will automatically lead us into temptation and sinful thought patterns.
To walk in God’s way is impossible for us without the indwelling Holy Spirit, who is the third person of the trinity. When we repent and believe, God the Father gives us this amazing person to dwell in us and give us the ability and power to live rightly. If the Holy Spirit lives in you, then the cursing that comes so naturally to us, will be put away.
“Put to death, therefore, the components of your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming on the sons of disobedience. When you lived among them, you also used to walk in these ways. But now you must put aside all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth.
Do not lie to one another, since you have taken off the old self with its practices, and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”
Colossians 3: 5-10
Our tongue is the expression of out hearts and the state of our souls before God. If our souls are not actively obeying an following Christ, then our speaking and doing will not be God loving either. We become hypocrites easily and unfortunately we don’t often seem to notice it.
Unfortunately, even as Christian people we fall into this trap of double talk. We speak like Christians when we are with Christian friends, and easily lapse into Godless chatter when we are feeling comfortable in world-orientated company. Are we sincere? Which of these minds sets are our true self?
We must search our hearts diligently to find out what is true in us and what is false. If we are sisters and brothers in the faith, then we will put away our sin and leave it forever.
Double standards in speaking cannot be tolerated long in the life of the Christian. God requires purity and truth and sincerity. This may involve avoiding social situations that tempt us top forsake the life and words of faith. Or it may require us to gather up our strength, in faith, and represent our Lord and Saviour, to a dying world.
V11 Can both fresh water and bitter water flow from the same spring?
The sea is salt and rivers are fresh water. We cannot drink the sea water as it is detrimental to our body and mind health. It is possible to desalinate the salt water, but it is difficult and costly. Rivers flow into the sea where the water mixes and all is then made salt.
River water comes from the clouds, which collect the sea water through evaporation, and this processes out the salt, making the rain drops that accumulate there, fresh water. When the time and circumstances are right, the raindrops fall as fresh showers of rain.
The rain runs on the ground in rivulets and eventually becomes rivers of fresh water which irrigate the ground and bring suitable water for humans and animals to drink.
The origin of the fresh water is in the clouds. The origin of the sea water, is that it has always been within its bounds and remains a huge body of salty liquid. The sea and the rivers make up the water system of our planet.
These types of water are different in nature and content from each other and serve different purposes. Neither can find their source as the same fountain head. Whatever the spring source, that will be the outflow. Similarly with our words, speaking and thoughts – whatever is in the mind will flow out of the mouth. Our minds change and vacillate between positive and negative and so our words can bless or curse, according to our moods.
We are not consistent and can produce fresh river or the salty sea water. We must deal with the source of the problem and ensure our words reflect a consistent mindset, purified and set apart for spiritual work. It takes a complex physical process to desalinate the sea water in the clouds to make fresh water. So a new heart is the requirement for the refreshing Spirit in our lives. This purifying work of God cleanses and make our lives useful and blessed. Don’t run down into the salty water and loose your freshness. A salt water life produces no fruit or refreshment for thirsty souls. So we keep close to the fountain head of our spiritual life, so that we have fresh springs of water flowing out from us to praise God and serve others. Our lives will then be suitable for God and that will bring life to others who are dying of thirst.
“Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, so that there may come times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord.”
Acts 3: 19
V12 brothers, can a fig tree grow olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
Here we have another analogy to describe the fickleness of human words. We speak without hesitating and utter careless words that can hurt and accuse others. We are able to flick between good words for God and insults for the people around us. We can criticise and slander others in the name of honesty. We see the faults of fellow Christians and try to engage in talk about them, not realising this is pulling a person down with our own hands. It is a relative of murder and sharing defamatory remarks only spreads this sinfulness further afield.
Whatever a tree is in its genetics and nature, that is the fruit it will produce. Fig trees cannot naturally produce olives, or the vine that produces grapes cannot grow figs. The plant species are exclusive. The tree bears the fruit of its own genetic species.
So also for a changed heart. We cannot produce fruit that is not our nature. Our “fruit’ will be consistent with our spiritual nature.
A tree produces the fruit that it is formed to do. A righteous person will produce good works and healing words, but an evil person will produce nothing and the effect of their existence is futile. People who have been fundamentally changed by God in their inner souls, will speak good things and will spread the Word of God to people around them. Those same people should not be producing wicked words and bad attitudes.
In the same way, a water spring that has a salty source, cannot suddenly give out fresh drinking water. In fact all fresh springs, are fresh water. There are salty springs in some areas of the earth, but they are not suitable for humans to drink.
Whatever our mindset, so the words and deeds we produce.
A heart that remains stony cold towards God and His ways, will not utter words of faith and peace. The heart that truly loves God will be concerned about reflecting His goodness and love. If we are a spring of water, then it will be fresh water. The Holy Spirit will run from us and through us provide refreshment to other people around us.
“For I have satiated the weary soul, and every sorrowful soul have I replenished..”
God is more willing to bless us and pour refreshment into our lives than we are to ask for it. His blessing is true love and peace and is not dependant on our goodness. He makes us the people we are supposed to be, and gives us the desire to know Him and be like Him. When we are sorrowful, it is a good place to be, for then we are needy and willing for blessing. When the waters of the Spirit flow into our lives, there is motivation and the power to act and do the will of God and rejoice in God our Saviour.
V13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good conduct, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom
The mark of a godly woman or man is easy to see. A wise person behaves well and does what is good. This is quite difficult to identify and measure. There are many cultural differences between people of the world and many ways of doing things that can keep people apart. Cultural differences are not contrary to the moral law and we are permitted a wide choice over things that we do or don’t do.
Those who follow God and have been changed by Him, will be concerned about fostering good attitudes and behaviour in their personal life. People who are wise will obey God and exhibit good conduct in their lives. The wisdom that these people follow will lead them to works of kindness and love. They will have a humble sacrificial spirit that will follow Christ and seek to be like Him. They will study the Scriptures to grow and become more wise, and seek the presence of God in personal prayer.
So good conduct is the result of a lifetime knowing and obeying God and communion with Him in prayer. As we learn the Scripture, we become proficient in good living and our behaviour is rooted in our faith and love of God.
V14 if you harbour in your hearts bitter jealousy and selfish ambition, do not boast in it or deny the truth
The motivation of heart behind our wicked words is selfish desires for ourselves and our family to the exclusion of other people. It is the death knell of the evangelistic spirit and it closes the doors on lost souls who need the forgiveness and love of God. We want to be lifted up in the eyes of our peer group. The desire for power over what is said and done is strong in all of us and overwhelms some. It is all for the love of self and what we can achieve or feel in our selfish hearts.
If others should do better than we think we are doing, then the seeds of jealousy start to grow in our souls. We compare and judge and measure just how much better the other person is compared to us. If we allow this to take hold it will bring us down into vengeance and one-up-man-ship. Jealousy must be rooted out at the first thought. It must not stay in our hearts or it will poison us and contaminate all around us.
“Therefore, if you have any encouragement in Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, then make my joy complete by being of one mind, having the same love, being united in spirit and purpose.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty pride, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
Philippians 2: 1-4
The teaching of the Word of God, is that there is no selfishness in us, at all. We are to practice putting self to death, and make sacrificial deeds for other people.
Should we recognise this great sin of jealousy, in our souls, it is crucial that we acknowledge it and take it to God straight away. We cannot handle this sin on our own. Our most common reaction is to deny the existence of bitterness and therefore we don’t deal with it. We tell ourselves that it is normal to feel this way, or react this way, and so we allow the sin to fester and take hold of us. Don’t let it fester. It will quickly destroy our heart love, and make us bitter towards others.
The only remedy is to confess to God our failure and ask Him to teach us to hate the sin. We plead with Him to forgive us and cleanse us and then we deliberately turn from the thoughts and practices of that sin forever after. There are no half measures to holiness. Justifying ourselves leads us to self-hatred when we finally see our condition before God. At the start of the cycle, remember that His love envelops us and washes away all guilt and blame. We are justified by what He did for us on that cruel cross and He will bring us safely through.
God will give us the strength to persevere and delight in His ways and we will grow in knowledge of the truth and power of the Spirit of God.
V15 Such wisdom does not come from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.
The worldly wise cynicism which eventually takes over the psyche of those who tolerate sin, is unattractive and deadly to the progress of the soul. The craving for more of what this world offers and the craving to be more in the eyes of our circle of friends and family is the outworking of the tenth commandment- do not covet. Covetousness covers every area of our lives and can be excused as progress, ambition and hearts desire. The attendant bitterness towards people who come against us and the overwhelming competitiveness to get to where we want to be, drives the testimony of many Christians to be hypocritical.
This driven-ness is common amongst men and in some cases, women who want to make a name for themselves. The attitudes in “Christian” circles can be shocking and the desire to be recognised over-rides a God- orientated lifestyle. The worldly desire for more is not from God. Trying to get leverage over people and propel yourself to a top position, is earthly behaviour. It is humanly normal. It is not godly and therefore not spiritual. You can get position in Christians groups, without even being a believer at all. Our human nature embraces this worldly, godless wisdom easily. This is how it is in our societies, and the “church” takes on the behaviours of this worlds system as a good idea. We become like politicians and get the attending mindset. We use strategies from the world systems we have learned, and we use them for running organisations and managing people, as the normal thing to do.
In fact, this verse says it is not just a human desire, but from Satan and his minions. We are often unable to separate which ideas and strategies are for God, and which are earthly, or worse. The way Jesus spoke to people, related to people and treated people, is very unlike too many “Christian” groups. We judge that Jesus’ methods are unworkable in real life, and so we take on other things. This is faulty wisdom.
It is shocking to realise that so much about life is actually not human but the practice of hell. If we are not deeply and sincerely following God, and really taking the Word of God seriously, we will fall into the traps and folly of life. We must draw very close to God in order to discern evil wisdom and Gods wisdom. If we desire wisdom we can ask God who gives it freely. God promises to give wisdom to those who truly seek it.
Again, we must say goodbye to self, and take upon ourselves the servant attitude that was the mindset of the Saviour of the world. To care for others is a God-given ability and to persevere with the people God puts in our way, is the power of God. This is true spiritual life. God is the strength of the weak and the protector of the sidelined and destitute.
God promises to give wisdom to those who truly seek it. Then we will have discernment, a true relationship with Jesus the Saviour and we will rid our lives from every vestige of evil. This takes time and a continual drawing near in the Holy Spirit and hearing God’s tuition in every situation of our lives. This is the reality for a true Christian and God’s blessing rests on them.
Others who refuse the way of Christ have their reward already.
V16 where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every evil practice.
The possession of this wisdom is a matter of life or death. Physical and spiritual death. If we do not seek the Lord, then these attendant sins of jealousy and selfish ambition, will follow us all our lives and into a lost place forever.
Ambition to promote ourselves and the attendant jealousies that go along with it, brings disorder. We can organise all we like but the blessing and structure that comes with the Holy Spirit will not be there. Our ministry and plans for church and outreach will not bear much fruit. There will be a great reluctance in the people around us to share and work with us. A coldness will overtake hearts and souls and our society will not be peaceable or trustworthy. Alternatively the apathy that will grip our minds will make us complacent and fruitless.
Who should be in charge is a very difficult decision. We almost always choose making our own judgments, and missing the blessing God has planned for the good of His people and the saving of many in a community. We choose the well-known and safe person who we can sit and listen to every week. We look for a performance and a novelty aspect to outreach.
Evil practices abound. We use all sorts of tempting ideas to get people into our building and we speak foolish stories and platitudes that lead everyone astray. We listen to the latest fad and promote godless behaviour and thought processes to “get” the outsiders into our church organisation and the “kingdom.”
People are duped into thinking that God is there to solve all problems and meet all our needs and desires. We put out the idea that life is great with God and He will do anything for anyone who asks- a bit of a slot machine god. God is not exalted or glorified and is angry with this spreading of falsehood. People think they are Christians and have no idea about who Jesus is and why they need Him as their a Saviour.
We are puny, cowardly and lazy. We do not believe. We do not hate our sin and we have no sense of gratitude to our God and Father. The Holy Spirit is grieved and the honour of Jesus Christ is unimportant.
Jealousy is a great evil and must be cast out from our minds. Wanting the best for ourselves and our families,is selfish and proud. If we want to fix our society, our Christian groups and our families, everything must go. If we are sincere, the Spirit of God will show us the evil in our lives and give us the strength to repent and turn away. There must be involvement in the communities in which we live and whole hearted sacrifice to God. We will have to give our comfort away, and lay down our whole lives as a sacrifice of praise and service to the one we owe it to anyway.
This is a God’s way and it is not easy, but it leads to life and peace and everlasting love. We must turn and be saved. Only the perfect God can handle jealousy in a holy and upright way. He is jealous for His perfections, which uphold time and space, and that His people will be kept and brought surely into the eternal kingdom. May we also be jealous for his name and promote goodness and love even in this world.
V17 the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, accommodating, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and sincere.
The marks of the character of the Christian is completely contrary to the ways of this world and the people who live by it’s rules. Our natural human character is in itself dead towards the knowledge of God and we are not conscious of His person or presence. We are not good and we do not want what God wants. To get this wisdom that is presented here, we need a complete turn around and a resurrection of our souls, so that we change and want what God wants.
When we are changed and God gives spiritual life to us, we can then see and know God in a living way. We reject all evil and pursue a godly life, for the sake of our Saviour, Jesus. Now we desire the wisdom of God and we seek the power of God to live for Him and reach out to those who don’t yet know God and are not forgiven. This wisdom can only come from God and from knowing Him intimately. He gives to those who ask sincerely and with open hearts to Christ and the entrance of the Holy Spirit.
These are the marks of God’s wisdom. It is pure. No evil thought, word or deed takes root in the person of the Christian. Wisdom has a peaceable inclination to bring calmness and a tranquil mind that rests in Jesus the Lord. It is gentle. Not forceful, aggressive or having any harshness. This wisdom is always willing to include people and even sacrifice its own ideas for that of another. The Christian is merciful, full of good deeds, having no bias or prejudice against anyone. There is even-handedness that is just and true. And total sincerity of speaking, talking the truth at all times. No covering up or inflating opinions to suit our audience.
This is impossible without God. He alone can change and teach the wandering human heart to follow Him. We do so because we realise our great need and we recognise our need of His love. We love Him, because He loved us first. God is always first and we live in the light of His presence and Word.
V18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap the fruit of righteousness.
The beatitude in Matthews gospel says that the peacemakers will be blessed.
“Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God.”
Matthew 5: 9
Peace is an attribute that shows the work of the Holy Spirit in a persons life. Where there is no peace, there is no Spirit. Christians are the harbingers of peace wherever they go. If they are involved in an institution, they will bring the peace of God to that place and everyone will benefit, whether the other people are believers or not. Peace does not mean silence or non-participation, but is the active peace in the life of the Christian believer and is vibrant, joyful and busy.
Peace is an inward state of being that cannot necessarily be seen on the outside, but over time will, manifest itself as love and power. It grows from the root of faith in God.
People who bring peace and keep a calm and loving attitude, are a great asset to any situation. Heroes are brought from this attitude. Deeds of mercy and self-sacrificing actions come from this state of mind. Those who live their lives in this place will be sowing peace all the time, everywhere the go. They will certainly have their reward. They will be the children of God. What a privilege to be associated with the Lord Jesus, and have the power to walk as He walked this world. This is the desire of every Christian. The reward is eternal life and a complete certainty of entering the Kingdom of God at the end of the pathway of their lives.
So we can see how peace is a foundation for joy, a joy that grows and gives hope to other people.
That eternal reward is known by them in this life as well as in eternity. It is a quality of live that is a delight to the Christian and brings daily joy, even in the middle of suffering and loss. It is the presence of Christ, as they walk with Him, who they love.