“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, accommodating, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and not hypocritical.”
James 3:17 (NET)
Although each Christmas we sing the angel’s words of peace on earth and talk about Jesus being the Prince of Peace, there is no peace. Our world is full of conflict and war; we watch and wish for the day of peace to actually come.
When I think about peace, I not only wish for peace on earth but also peace between people. It seems that our lives are also full of conflict and strife. More and more I see the effects of sin on our relationships with others—marriages broken by selfishness; extended families torn by conflict; and friendships marred by jealousy and ambition.
Someday, Jesus will return and bring in the peace for which we all long. Until that day, however, we are to work to bring His peace into our lives and the lives of those whom we touch—another practical aspect of Blue Jean Faith!
Read James 3:13-18. Today we will focus on v. 13.
1. What proves that a person is wise (3:13)? Be specific in your description.
2. What do you learn about “gentleness” (NET, NASB), “humility” (NIV), or “meekness” (KJV, NKJV) from these verses?
a. Mt. 11:29
b. 2 Cor. 10:1
c. Mt. 5:5
Stronger Jeans (optional): Use your study tools or bible.org to look up the Greek word for gentleness or meekness in James 3:13. What do you learn?
What is wisdom anyway? Ethel Barrett puts it as “the ability to take the facts and relate them to your life, to put them into action.”24 Hiebert says that the word wise “described the individual who possessed moral insight and skill in deciding practical issues of conduct.”25 Wisdom is about Blue Jean Faith—it’s practical!
3. How are James 3:13 and James 2:14-18 similar?
4. What do these cross-references say about the importance of living out the kinds of good deeds that would prove wisdom?
a. 1 Peter 2:12
b. 1 Peter 3:1-2
c. 1 Peter 3:16
5. Sharing Question: Perhaps James is challenging you with his question in 3:13. In what areas have you considered yourself wise? Your parenting, your success at work, your marriage, your money? (Let’s face it; we all have areas where we feel we are smart! Or at least smarter than others J) Do you pass James’ test for wisdom? Why or why not?
6. Responding to God question: Talk to God about what He has shown you today about wisdom. What area of your life does not reflect that kind of wisdom? Write your thoughts down below.
Review James 3:13-18.
1. Contrast verses 13 and 14.
2. Contrast vv. 14-16 with what you learn about the character of God in 1 Cor. 14:33.
Stronger Jeans (optional): Use your study tools to look up the meaning of “bitter envy” and “selfishness” that are found in 3:14. (See the next question for these words in other translations.) Write down any additional insights that you receive.
3. Sharing Question: Most of the translations of 3:14 use the terms “bitter jealousy” or “bitter envy” and either “selfishness” or “selfish ambition” to describe this kind of wisdom. Tell about a situation in your own life when this kind of heart attitude threatened to overtake you. In other words, either someone else mistreated you because of his/her bitter jealousy or selfish ambition or you had those feelings yourself. Maybe it was a situation of competition or maybe someone was envious.
4. What is the source of this kind of wisdom (3:15)? And what is its outcome (3:16)?
The word translated in James 3:16 as “disorder” (NET, NASB, NIV) or “confusion” (KJV, NKJV) is another form of the word in Jam. 1:8 and 3:8, which describes a double-minded person and a double-speaking tongue.
5. Read all three of the verses just mentioned. What similarities do you see among the ideas in the use of this word in all three situations? How does this help you better understand the outcome of earthly wisdom?
6. Responding to God: Write down your feelings about what God has shown you today concerning earthly wisdom. Perhaps you need to confess an area where you have been guilty of earthly wisdom. Talk to God about your insights and responses.
I have put enough work for two days of study below. I didn’t divide it because it all runs together as we focus on the kind of wisdom that we need for a true Blue Jean Faith. When you have done as much as you can time-wise on day three, put it aside and complete it the next day. Be sure and reread all the verses when you begin again!
Reread James 3:13-18. After seeing yesterday what earthly wisdom is, today and tomorrow we will focus on what true wisdom looks like in vv. 17-18.
1. What contrasts do you see between the wisdom of 3:14-16 and the wisdom of 3:17-18?
2. Compare the characteristics of the wisdom in James 3:17-18 with Gal. 5:22-23. What does the passage in Galatians add to your understanding of such wisdom, if anything?
3. Read the beatitudes in Mt. 5:3-12. Write down any parallels to the characteristics of heavenly wisdom in James.
4. Sharing Question: Share about a time when God gave you the wisdom that you needed in a specific situation. As you look at this passage, you can see that it corresponds to the character of His wisdom. How does it make you feel that God did this for you?
Stronger Jeans (optional): Look up meanings of the characteristics of heavenly wisdom. Use all the extra time you have for both days on this assignment.
1. What do you learn about true godly wisdom from the following verses? How do they relate to this passage in James?
a. Prov. 9:10
b. Prov. 3:13-18
2. How does Rom. 12:3 help you better understand the characteristic in James 3:17 translated “accommodating” (NET), “submissive” (NIV), “reasonable” (NASB) or “willing to yield” (NKJV)?
3. What do these verses reveal about mercy (v. 17)?
a. Psalm 103:8
b. Eph. 2:4
c. Mt. 23:23
4. I entitled this lesson “faith that brings peace”. How does James 3:13-18 relate to peace?
5. Sharing Question: Chances are that most of us are currently seeking guidance about something going on in our lives. Think of one thing for which you need guidance; make a list of possible courses of action. Then, compare that list to the characteristics and outcomes of the two kinds of wisdom. Does this point you to a specific direction? How?
6. Responding to God: Write a prayer or poem to God, thanking Him for the greatness of His wisdom. Use this passage and go through the characteristics one by one as you talk to Him.
Before we leave our focus on God’s wisdom versus the world’s wisdom, I want you to read the story of a woman who forsook God’s wisdom and was almost destroyed by it; however, in God’s grace and mercy He continues to call her back to her love for Him and to His wisdom. Her story reminds us all that although God totally forgives us for turning away from His best for us, we may still have to deal with the consequences.
You never thought it could happen to you!! Well folks it does happen and usually at the wrong times. I was once a happy person. I loved life, family, God and friends. But something along the path of life changed that for me drastically. I cannot say this is a happy tale or will have a happy ending. But I can say that God is working overtime on my shriveled up soul.
The trouble all began this year about 6 months ago. I sought a path that led me to a dark period in my life. We will call it the rebellion of God’s wisdom. I am an at home mother and spend most of my days home bored to tears with housework and raising my son. I soon discovered online computer games and chat rooms. Well over time I had consumed my days with “entertaining” myself rather than being a mom and wife. I had made friends online and spent as much time “talking” to them as I could. I found tremendous joy in sharing my life with them. I had meaning and felt important to others, and soon discovered that I no longer felt lonely during the day but I did not see the consequences that were developing in my real life.
During all this time my house and family suffered for I ignored them and spent every moment I could spare filling my void with worldly attention and wisdom. Things such as you are beautiful, you owe it to yourself, it is ok to flirt with other men, its just a game it is not real were drilled into my heart. These things began to rot my soul. I tried to make it real since my loneliness in the real world was growing phenomenally. I resented my husband for not talking to me like I wanted and I began to shut him and my son out of my life. I felt miserable, not realizing it was because I was causing it. I sought solace in my “friends” online. I became depressed, angry, bitter, and hateful. I wanted out of the marriage so I could live my own life like I wanted to away from God and family. I ignored all the red flags that God was sending my way. I blamed God and my family for my feelings. Satan sure loved having his way with me during this time.
Our last study was hard to take for me because every lesson was saying the same thing over and over and over again. STOP what you are doing and anchor yourself in ME!!! Well I blatantly told God NO! I don’t want to quit this I feel happy when I am doing these things. But in my heart I knew I was wrong. Loudly he kept calling me to Him to return to his word and seek him for love and acceptance. Six months later still ignoring his call and wrapped in sin I realized something must be done. I was so willing to give up on everything and completely ruin my life.
Still ignoring God, I sought to have my husband fill the void. I confronted him on the issues that I was facing. I wanted to love him like I loved my online friends. I knew I had hurt him and that loving me would be a huge sacrifice for him. We were tired of living two different lives and trying to act like nothing was wrong. I was still trying to fill my life with something worldly though. I realized that even my beloved, kind wonderful husband cannot fill what I am missing no matter how hard he tries.
So this brings us to the present day experiences I am facing. I now realize that God’s wisdom is pure, good and does not place chains on you and that worldly wisdom binds you to a fate that tears you apart. I know this in my head but had purged it from my heart. So I have to fight very hard to reverse this process of lies and deceit that the world has placed upon me. I still find myself drawn to sin because lets face it sin is fun and easy…but it is also destructive. Doing the right thing is incredibly hard but in the end it will be worth everything.
For now the war rages on but I now have rediscovered my shield against the swords and daggers assaulting me. The word of God and his Spirit guards my very soul. Pray for me and my family as I enter into battle against Satan with Jesus and his Father by my side and His word leading me on the right paths.
Note from Kay: If you, like Mary, have followed the world’s wisdom and now find yourself having a hard time leaving where it has taken you, find support from other believers. Share your need with your small group and ask them to hold you accountable and to pray; recruit some prayer warriors to intercede for your spiritual battle; or perhaps, join a Celebrate Recovery group, such as the one we have here at our church. God has designed us to find support from one another when we are weak. Despite the fear of rejection that you may have as you think about sharing your situation, you must trust God for other women who will continue to love you and pray for your best. I so appreciate the courage it took for this woman to share her story!
Read James 4:1-3.
Some scholars feel that there is a break in thought between 3:18 and 4:1. Moo, however, has a different perspective, that the entire section of 3:13-4:12 is connected to peace.26
Stronger Jeans (optional): Look in any commentaries that you have. How does the author connect these passages or does he/she see a break here?
1. If this is one topic, as Moo says, how do you see 4:1-3 connect to the preceding paragraph in 3:13-18?
2. What is the origin of conflict according to 4:1? (Although he focuses on conflict within the church, the same principle applies to other conflicts.)
3. What are the two causes why these believers didn’t have what they desired (vv. 2-3)? What does Mt. 6:9-10 add to your understanding of why a prayer may not be answered?
4. Sharing Question: I know that many of you have been part of a church where conflict arose, perhaps within the entire church or within one ministry area or even a small group. Without giving a lot of information about it and certainly no names, what passions or desires contributed to it? Can you see any selfish desires behind some of what happened? What feelings did you have in the midst of this situation?
5. Sharing Question: What desire do you have right now that is not being fulfilled. Review question #25. Do any of these causes fit your situation? Consider Mt. 7:7-12 and share with your group what you need to do next.
6. Responding to God: Confess any lack of prayer or selfish desires that God has shown you. How should you pray about the situation in light of what you have seen today?
Kathy shares a story of conflict that came from the kind of desire that James describes.
A number of years ago a young family moved in across the alley from our family and we formed a friendship due primarily to the fact that we both had small children who played together. Our neighbor’s girls stair-stepped between our two older girls and there were many days spent playing together.
The mother of these little girls was a believer but despite our children’s friendship, ours as mothers just did not seem to develop beyond a superficial level. She was often critical of my children about little things and this puzzled me. One day as we were visiting in my den, this neighbor just blurted out, “Why does God love you more than He does me? You have a godly husband and everything is wonderful for you. My husband isn’t a believer and our marriage isn’t anything like yours.” Suddenly the distance and hostility I had felt from her made sense as the envy and jealously she had harbored against God and me came pouring out. I was able to share with her that God does not have favorites and that He is working in each believer’s situation for good.
We moved from our neighborhood shortly after this and it saddens me even now to realize that envy and coveting kept us from being the friends we could have been had that not been the case. I feel that we could have benefited greatly from sharing our lives together and growing in our understanding of the Lord’s work in both our lives. Unfortunately, that did not happen.
I trust that anyone reading this will examine your heart to make sure that envy and coveting are not keeping you from something that God would like to bring into your life to encourage and build you up, not tear you down.
24 Ethel Barrett, Will the Real Phony Please Stand Up? (Glendale, CA: Regal Books, 1977), 115.
26 Moo, 179.