Which Wisdom Will You Choose? (James 3:13-18)

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God’s wisdom is not the same as the world’s wisdom. This fallen, sinful world tells us to always “look out for number one” and put ourselves first as much as we can. God tells us in His Word to put others before ourselves and to put Christ before everything. The world encourages us to “get ours” as much as possible, even if that means bending the rules and hurting others. The Bible tells us to be patient, continue doing what is right, and trust in God to help and protect us. The world encourages us to always want more and more so that we can be just like our neighbors, but the Bible tells us to be content or satisfied and happy with what we have. Worldly wisdom comes from the world’s current master, Satan, while biblical wisdom comes from the world’s ultimate Lord and King, God in heaven. The wisdom of the world leads us along the broad road to sin, death, and hell. The wisdom of God leads us along the narrow way of holiness and eternal life, both now and forever.

All of us must choose each day which wisdom to follow. Wisdom according to the Bible is not knowledge, but the application of that knowledge to our daily living. That’s why James tells us today that someone who claims to be a wise Christian should should “show it by their good life.” Those who live by biblical wisdom will “sow in peace” and “reap a harvest of righteousness.” In other words, their knowledge of God’s Word will direct their words and actions to be godly and lead over time to godly rewards of love, joy, and peace. However, those who live by the world’s wisdom will become selfish people who fall into “disorder and every evil practice,” which means that they will experience conflict and suffering.

So the real question is not if we have wisdom, but what type of wisdom do we have? My prayer is that we would all live by the wisdom of God’s Word, even when it is hard, and so enjoy the blessings of His peace.

The Text (James 3:13-18)

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.

14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

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. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

Questions to Think About

  1. Do you consider yourself to be wise? Why or why not?
  2. According to today’s passage, what is wisdom?
  3. Have you ever experienced bitterness or envy? When? What happened?
  4. Would others described you as peaceful, considerate, and submissive to authority? Explain.

In Christ,

Scott Reel

The Untamable Tongue (James 3:7-12)

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Training animals is not easy. It usually requires months of repeated commands and guidance and the use of rewards and perhaps also punishments to get the behavior you want from a creature. You might even need to get help from a professional to get particularly stubborn animals to submit to your authority. And yet the Bible says that learning to “tame” or control what we say is much harder than taming animals. One moment we find ourselves using our words to build people up with encouragement, and the next moment we are using our words to tear other people down. We can go from saying the kindest and most loving things to a person to saying equally mean and hateful things about them the very same week or even day.

What causes such inconsistency in our words? It is the fickleness of our hearts. Just as a spring sends forth water to the surface from deep in the earth, so our mouths pour out speech from down in our souls. As long as our hearts remain unsteady and based on our changing circumstances instead of on the solid foundation of Christ’s Word, we will be find ourselves constantly canceling out the good we say with the evil. As James tells us today, “This should not be!” Rather, we need to learn to set our hearts each morning and evening on God’s truths and promises and let the Spirit bring forth the fruit of self-control in our words. It is very difficult to master our speech, but if we are to faithfully follow Christ, then it must be done for His sake. God would not ask us to do something without helping us to do it by His power and grace. May the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to God this day and every day.

The Text (James 3:7-12)

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

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

Questions to Think About

  1. How long do you think it takes to break a horse for riding? How about to train a dog to obey commands? Or to teach a seal to do tricks? How are these animals trained?
  2. How long does it take a person to learn to control what they say? Explain.
  3. Do you know any people with good self-control of their words? What would you guess is their secret?
  4. Have you ever had someone say very nice things to you one time but then say very mean things to or about you another time? What did they say? How did you feel?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

The Power of the Tongue (James 3:2-6)

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The tongue is a tiny organ physically, but from a spiritual perspective, it is powerful. With our tongue we do great damage to ourselves and those around us. Our tongue creates words that are able hurt people. Our words can cause people to become very angry or very sad. Our words make people hate or fear us. Even one evil comment can spread like a tiny spark that lights an entire forest on fire. A few harsh or false words can cause many people to dislike us or to believe things that are not true about us or God.

This is why James tells us today that our ability to control our tongues (i.e. our words) is a good indicator of our self-control in general. As we will see in the next post, the tongue is very difficult to tame. A person who learns to master their words is a person whose heart is under the taming influence of the Holy Spirit and God’s Word. Angry words come from angry hearts. Jealous words come from jealous hearts. And so forth.

Have you learned the power of your words? May we all be more humble before God and choose our words more carefully to limit the damage we might cause to others.

The Text (James 3:2-6)

We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

Questions to Think About

  1. Do you agree that people who control their words have good self-control in other areas of their life? Why or why not?
  2. Have you ever been on a horse or a boat? Have you ever watched the bit control the horse and the rudder control the ship? Explain what you saw.
  3. How have you ever said that something that did a lot of damage to yourself and others? What happened?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

A Serious Job (James 3:1)

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God treats the teaching of His Word as a serious job. Sadly, not everyone shares the Lord’s perspective on this issue. In the evangelical world today, many people think that anyone and everyone is fit to lead a Bible study or devotion. Students often believe that they can teach the Bible to other students or even adults simply because they profess to be Christians. As a teacher, I do not let students lead my homeroom devotions or lunchtime discipleship teaching. This is not because of disrespect towards them, but because of my deep respect for the task of teaching the Bible.

God has not given everyone the spiritual gift of teaching His Word. This is evident by the fact that one qualification in 1 Timothy 3 for a pastor or elder is they “be able to teach.” Such a requirement for the church’s leaders assumes that not everyone is fit to teach the Bible. Similarly, even though teaching the Bible is a gift, it is a gift that must be developed through study and practice. To earn my Masters of Divinity degree in pastoral ministry, I spent 90 credit hours over a period of five years studying the Old and New Testament in English and in their original languages of Greek and Hebrew. I studied the Bible’s teachings on topics like marriage and the family, systematic theology, and ethics and morality. I sat under godly men who were themselves gifted and trained Bible teachers. I took specific classes on how to prepare and deliver sermons and Bible lessons. And all of this was after I had spent 10 years from age 14 to age 24 sitting under gifted preaching and teaching in Sunday school, Sunday morning worship services, and Sunday and Wednesday evening Bible studies. While not everyone who would teach the Bible needs to attend seminary or Bible college, they at least need to have spent several years learning under people who have. We need to be disciples or learners of God’s Word for a long while before we are ready to be teachers of it to others. We can’t share knowledge that we don’t have.

This is why James warns us today that “not many of you should become teachers.” Why would he say this? Because teachers of God’s Word will “be judged more strictly.” The church will hold them accountable for the content and quality of their teaching. More importantly, the Lord will one day judge their work. This is a scary thought that ought to make everyone who considers teaching the Bible pause and humble themselves before God. We will all be judged for our words on the Day of Judgment. Teachers will be held to a higher standard because they will be judged for what they have taught others. While no teacher of God’s Word will be perfect, they ought to strive for it. Teachers of God’s Word must be equipped and prepared to handle the Bible faithfully and accurately. Only when a person is proven to be sound in their doctrine and capable of teaching the Bible with clarity, conviction, and compassion should they be allowed to teach it. Similarly, Bible teachers should have a solid testimony of several years of Christian living that is above reproach (see the rest of 1 Timothy 3). That is a high standard, but it should be. After all, it is God’s own book we are talking about. We should treat the Bible and the teaching of the Bible as a serious job just like God does.

The Text (James 3:1)

1Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

Questions to Think About

  1. How has today’s post changed the way you think about the teaching of God’s Word?
  2. Have you ever listened to a Bible teacher do a poor job of handling God’s Word? How did that make you feel and why?
  3. What would you say to someone who said they want to lead a Bible study or devotion but you know that person does not know much about the Bible and does not regularly sit under solid Bible teaching at church?
  4. Why do you think God takes the teaching of the Bible so seriously? What negative effects can bad Bible teaching have on those who hear it?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Faith At Work in the OT (James 2:20-26)

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Most of the Bible is written in the form of true stories that teach us about ourselves and God. The Gospels are told as stories about the birth, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The Book of Acts tells the real life adventures and experiences of the apostles and the early church. But James appeals in today’s passage to two famous stories from the Old Testament to prove his point that genuine faith will lead people to take action for God. When God told Abraham in Genesis 22 to sacrifice his long-awaited son Isaac as a burnt offering, Abraham trusted that God would raise his son from the dead (see Hebrews 11:19). In faith Abraham obeyed God and was about to plunge the knife into his strapped-down child before the angel of the Lord stopped his hand. Abraham proved through his obedient actions that He loved God the Giver more than his son the gift.

We might argue that the prostitute Rahab’s faith was even greater. She risked her own life and the lives of her entire family when she hid the Israelite spies from the searching men of Jericho and then sent the soldiers in the wrong direction. Rahab must have feared the king and guards of Jericho, but she chose to fear the God of Israel more. By faith, Rahab took action to serve the God of Israel and help his people escape. As a reward, Rahab and her family were spared death during the destruction of Jericho. Even more importantly, she married into the nation of Israel and became part of the family line of the Lord Jesus Christ. What an incredible reward!

The entire Old Testament is filled with such examples of men and women whose faith led them to take action for God. An important reason for including such stories in the Bible is to teach us what biblical saving faith looks like so that we can imitate it. True, we will often sin and fail in our attempts to pursue the Lord’s will in our lives. Many times as Christians, our fear may win out over our faith. But if we are truly saved, there should still be some evidence in our lives of godly actions, things we’ve done because of our faith in Jesus. If we look hard at our lives and see that our faith never produces any active obedience to Christ’s commands or sacrifices for Him and the gospel, can we really say that our faith is alive? May we all have the kind of living and active faith that we see commended in God’s Word.

The Text (James 2:20-26)

20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

Questions to Think About

  1. Have you ever been willing like Abraham to give up something you loved for God? Explain.
  2. Have you ever been like Rahab and taken a risk for God? What happened?
  3. Give some other Old Testament examples of men and women who proved their faith in the Lord through their actions.

In Christ,

Mr. Reel