James and Jude
Sowing Wisdom’s Seed
When there are conflicts in a home, there are usually two types of people—those who long for the conflict to be smoothed over and those who want things to be made right again. Even though not always specified, James obviously uses Christ as his model in all of his illustrations. Jesus was never one to simply “hope” for things to be better. His words and deeds made a difference. He renewed lives. He embodied the wisdom so often written of by his half-brother, James.
James understands conflicts and the struggle to forsake selfish inclinations and be like Christ. His writings clearly show he knows what it is to be jealous, to be wrongfully ambitious, and to be arrogantly confident, things we will be studying this week. Yet, God worked mightily in transforming James. And He will work mightily in us, if we allow His wisdom to rule in us.
As we study this week, pray that we won’t simply try to have things smoothed over so we look good. Pray that we will work to make things right—within our relationships, within our churches, and within ourselves—so that God looks good.
I. DAY ONE
A. James, by the power of the Holy Spirit, masterfully weaves threads through his writing and connects current content with what we’ve previously studied. We start off by looking again at wisdom.
1. Read James 3:13, and review James 1:5 and James 2:18.
a. What is the question posed by James in 3:13 and what should the person described do?
b. One commentator noted that the test for those who are “wise and understanding” is a fair one. He said, “This is the modern demand for reality in religion. Let faith be proved by deeds, let wisdom be shown by works.”1
c. How do James 1:5 and 2:18 compliment this idea? Are there other verses from James that you think reinforce this concept?
2. Even though we will delve into the details later in the week, skim James 3:17 and note the characteristics of this wisdom mentioned by the author.
B. In the second half of James 3:13, we read about “deeds in the gentleness of wisdom” shown through good behavior. Jesus’ teaching is founded along similar lines.
1. When Jesus speaks of “Light” in John 3:19-21, what is its purpose?
2. How does Jesus express the idea of doing good works in verse 21?
II. DAY TWO
A. Today we’re going to look at James 3:14, clarifying what it is to be wise and understanding. We may think we have it all together. People around us may say we have it all together. But if there are certain sins not dealt with, that “all together” may unravel.
1. In my version, “bitter jealousy” is the first characteristic James lists that shows a lack of wisdom in a person’s life.
a. “Bitter” means “harsh or virulent” and “jealousy” means “envious and contentious rivalry.”2
b. Read Genesis 4:3-9 and Luke 15:11-32 (focus on vv. 25-30). From these two stories, though the words are not used in the text, how is bitter jealously portrayed?
2. The second characteristic to watch out for in James 3:14 is selfish ambition. The Greek words used are actually the same. Vine’s Dictionary says that “the phrase denotes ‘ambition, self-seeking, rivalry,’ self-will being an underlying idea in the word; hence it denotes ‘party-making.’”3 In a sense, it’s as if a person was making their own political party—centered on them self—seeking to gain followers and supporters.
3. How have bitter jealousy or selfish ambition affected you?
B. Last week we looked at the tongue and its power. In James 3:14, we see the author once more addressing how we speak.
1. Boasting about being wise, especially when dealing with jealousy and egocentric ambition, is a lie, according to James. The Philips Translation says, “… don’t deny the truth that you must recognize in your inmost heart.” The Living Bible paraphrases it by adding, “… that is the worst sort of lie.”
2. Read I John 1:6-10 for another example of saying one thing but living another.
a. What things does the author list as boasting that are, in reality, lies?
b. Is there an area of your life in which you are not being honest, claiming maturity but allowing a heart problem to continue? Take a moment to commit that behavior or mind-set to the Lord.
III. DAY THREE
A. Remember in James 1 when we read that every good thing we have or experience is a gift from God? (James 1:17) In today’s lesson, we’ll look at what things are like which don’t come from above.
1. In James 3:15, the author specifically tells us that the wisdom we talked about in the two previous verses is not from the Lord. It’s a façade. It’s a mask to cover what’s really in the heart.
a. What words does James use in verse 15 to explain the origin of this kind of so-called wisdom?
b. What kinds of pictures come to mind when you read these words?
2. Looking up verses in different translations can help immensely in clarifying an idea. The New Living Translation says that James 3:15b means that this selfish, jealous wisdom is, “…unspiritual and motivated by the devil.”
a. Read Matthew 17:14-18, Luke 8:29, 9:42, and 11:14 for a small picture of what it is like to be controlled by a demon.
b. From this passage, what were some of the things the enemy caused to happen in the lives of demon-possessed people before Jesus healed them?
c. Read Romans 15:13, I Corinthians 2:12-13 and I Peter 1:12 to see some of the benefits of being controlled by the Holy Spirit.
d. What encourages you most about the Holy Spirit’s power and influence?
B. Read James 3:16.
1. According to James, what exists when there is jealousy and selfish ambition?
2. I read that the end result in churches is often, “heated debates, proud displays of learning, bitter sarcasm” which lead to “discord and separations.”4
3. With today’s study in mind, how can you achieve a godlier attitude?
IV. DAY FOUR
A. When a sentence starts with the word “but” it tells you that there is something else to consider. James is going to turn us around, give us a fresh beginning, a correct way of looking at things.
1. Read James 3:17.
a. What are the eight characteristics of God’s wisdom?
b. Which one speaks to you the most today?
2. James puts first and foremost the word “pure” in his description. Matthew 5:8 says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Those who are unfettered in their outlook, clear in their thinking, clean from every fault—this shows that God’s wisdom has become our own.
a. Read Psalm 24:1-5. How is a pure person characterized and what can that person look forward to?
3. The fourth characteristic is “reasonable” in my New American Standard Bible. Other versions use “willing to yield,” “submissive,” “open to reason” and “easy to be entreated.”
a. How does this characteristic show godly wisdom?
b. In what way do the other traits show godly wisdom?
V. DAY FIVE
A. The next verse in chapter 3 flows directly from James’ list of wisdom traits. Read James 3:18.
1. The “seed” mentioned at the beginning of the verse is that of wisdom.
a. What is the fruit that grows from the wisdom plant?
b. This fruit embodies integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness, and a correctness of thinking, feeling, and acting.5
2. James emphasizes in this verse that the idea of wisdom being sown in peace is done by peacemakers.
a. Read Luke 19:41-44. Why was Jesus crying over Jerusalem?
b. What kind of peace was Jesus talking about in John 14:27?
c. What does Paul add to the definition of peace in Ephesians 2:14-18?
d. Peacemaking is not the same thing as peacekeeping. I heard an illustration once that said peacekeeping is like a thermometer, you use it to tell what the temperature is. Peacemaking, on the other hand, is like a thermostat, you use it to adjust the temperature. With one, nothing really changes. With the other, great changes can be made.
3. In Romans 12:16-21 we see some examples of making peace within our church bodies as well as within our homes.
a. From this text, what are some of the ways you can sow the seed of wisdom as a peacemaker this week?
If the wisdom and understanding we bring to an experience is not coming from and centered on Jesus Christ, lasting peace will be beyond our grasp. There is a bumper sticker that says, “No Christ. No Peace. Know Christ. Know Peace.” So, are you a peace keeper or are you a peace maker? Do you simply tell what the temperature is or do you work to establish a temperature conducive to godly living?
[Author’s note: I’m using the New American Standard Bible for the study on James unless otherwise noted.]
1. Charles R. Erdman, The General Epistles (Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1919, 1986), 42.
2. “Dictionary and Word Search for pikros (Strong’s 4089).” Blue Letter Bible, 1996-2010, 8 Jun 2010.
3. W. E. Vine, “Faction, Factious,” Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. (Blue Letter Bible: 1940), 1 Apr 2007, 8 Jun 2010.
4. Charles R. Erdman, The General Epistles (Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1919, 1986), 42.
5. “Righteousness,” “Dictionary and Word Search for dikaiosynē (Strong’s 1343).”(Blue Letter Bible: 1996-2010), 10 Jun 2010.
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