The Wise and the Selfishly Ambitious (James 3:13-18)

Who is one who is not wise, and the one you should not listen to? Briefly, according to James, it is the one who thinks they are wise and are too quick to teach others (Jas 3:1)! How can one tell who they are? They often cannot control their tongue and they blame others. Those who desire to teach others and who see the fault in others but none in themselves are the ones who should learn to simply shut their mouth!
  1. Horrible Days (Jas 1:1-4). The Way to Maturity and Wholeness.
  2. How to Know What's Going On (Jas 1:5-12). A Prayer that God is Always Happy to Answer.
  3. When Trials Become Temptations (Jas 1:13-21). God Never Tempts Anyone.
  4. Self-Deceived Christians (Jas 1:22-27). When Reading and Studying the Bible Makes You Worse.
  5. Showing Favoritism (Jas 2:1-13). Trust God rather than show favoritism toward influential people.
  6. True Faith = Loving Deeds (Jas 2:14-26). True faith is always expressed through deeds of love for others, regardless of what trial we may be personally going through. [Loving others--amid our own difficulties and trials--always accompanies true faith.]
  7. Lashing Out Verbally at Others (Jas 3:1-12). If you think you have to teach others, it's better to just shut up!
Whom should we listen to in a time of trial? To whom should we look to for guidance? How can we recognize the one who will have God's wisdom in the matter? That is the question James raises, "Who is wise and understanding among you?" (Jas 3:13a)?

To be wise and understanding means to know both where to go and how to get there, which direction is right and what specific steps should be taken? To be wise is to know the goal God wants. To be understanding is to know how to reach it. How can we recognize such a person?

His summary answer to his question: "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" (Jas 1:13).

Wise and understanding people are marked by gentle humility. They are quietly at ease with themselves. They do not act like they know the answer to every question. They are not quick to make speeches, offer solutions or teach others (Jas 3:1). They are not ego-driven as though they have something to prove. [Grace means that one has nothing to prove.] There is also evidence of quiet tangible deeds done for for the welfare and benefit others, without drawing attention to it.

James expands on his summary answer by explaining more fully whom one should not listen to (Jas 3:14-16) and then describes more specifically the godly qualities of the person we should listen to (Jas 3:17-18).

We should not listen to the person who (Jas 3:14-16):
  • is jealous and envious of the success, influence and good reputation of others
  • seems to be ego-involved and ego-driven
  • is boastful and lacking in humility.
Such people are going after a victory or going after being right, often speaking half-truths, rather than being are after truth (Jas 3:14b). They cannot claim to have God's wisdom and their words ("wisdom") "does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic" (Jas 3:15). They inadvertently produce discord and disorder, gossip, backbiting and slander, polarization, disharmony and "taking sides" and wild assumptions and accusations in the church (Jas 3:16), rather than promoting love, grace, peace and unity. Do not listen to such a person.

Instead, listen to the gentle, humble person whose motives are pure and whose words continually produce peace within the congregation (Jas 3:17). Listen to the person who has:
  • nothing to prove (no ego involvement)
  • nothing to gain (no agenda or ulterior motives)
  • whose life demonstrates the fruit of the Spirit
  • whose action brings peace
To bring peace, one who is in a dominant position exercises restraint in the use of authority, and is considerate toward those who are less dominant, while those who are in the subordinate position express an attitude of submissiveness. One who is considerate overlook the small faults of others and give credit for their character over the long haul. Being submissive, they are not difficult to lead or persuade, but quietly and easily join in with others. Their whole life is "full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere" (Jas 3:17b), investing their lives for the welfare and benefit of others who are less fortunate than themselves (Jas 1:27). They are impartial, not choosing or favoring one side or person over another, and sincere, not flattering or pretending in order to gain some benefit.

Listening to a gentle, humble person brings forth peace and "a harvest of righteousness" (Jas 3:18b).