James 3:13–4:6 (NKJV)
After a discussion of the power of the tongue, James moves here into a treatise about the value of wisdom. This is a revisit of the passage in chapter one where he states that anyone desiring wisdom should ask of God. Wisdom is to be desired above riches, as was witnessed in the example of Solomon, who asked God for wisdom, which He supplied, and then Solomon was able to rule well and gain all things. Seek wisdom!
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. 18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.James 3:13-18
This first section is a discussion of the contrast between the wisdom of the world versus the wisdom from heaven. He begins with a roll call of sorts, asking who among the readers are wise and understanding. He then suggests that one’s conduct demonstrates wisdom if said conduct is characterized by meekness of wisdom. True wisdom is different than the wisdom of the world. In the eyes of worldly wisdom, one is bitter, self-seeking, boastful, and devious. Lies come from the mouth of the worldly-wise. This is an earthy wisdom, filled with sensuality and demonic influence. This wisdom can produce confusion and evil at every hand. However, the wisdom that comes from above is filled with purity, peace, gentleness, deference, mercy, and all the good fruits of the Spirit. True wisdom does not show partiality, and is absent of hypocrisy. The fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. In other words, worldly wisdom is filled with selfishness and greed, whereas heavenly wisdom contains humility and other-care.
1 Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. 4 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”?
6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says:
“God resists the proud,James 4:1-6
But gives grace to the humble.”
From that discussion of wisdom, James moves into the cause of problems in relationships. “Where do wars and fights come from among you?” He then identifies the source of these fights as the desire for pleasure in the members of the body of Christ. This is an indictment of the worldly wisdom described previously, which seeks one’s own desires instead of the desires of God and the needs of others. Verse two spells out the idiocy of such an attitude: “You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.” This selfish attitude, seeking one’s own desires, gets in the way of receiving what is truly valuable. When an individual constantly chases what he or she thinks they need, what they desire in spite of the instruction of God, they never have what they think they want, nor do they get what they really need!
James then takes the argument one step further. Not only do you not receive what you need because you do not ask for it, but you ask for what you do not need, and do not receive it either. Why? Because you “ask amiss,” or contrary to the will of God and the purpose of His calling. When one asks for something simply to receive physical or sensual gratification, those prayers are futile and result in more frustration. When ones seeks after pleasure, they may find it for a season, but it is short-lived and unsatisfactory. James then characterizes the individual who does such things. He or she is like an adulterer or adulteress, giving themselves to another lover instead of being true to God. He goes further to say that friendship with the world excludes the possibility of being a friend of God. The Spirit of God who dwells in us yearns jealously for us, longing to be the only lover of our soul. He offers grace to those who stray and calls us back to Him. However, as quoted from Proverbs 3:34, “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” It is imperative that Christians submit their desires, as well as their words, to the will of God. Live in a way that glorifies Him and reaches out with compassion to others. This fulfills the call of God and makes one wise and whole. Stop fighting and live as God calls us to do!