Have you ever known anyone who claimed to be wise, but acted foolishly? Have you done this yourself? True wisdom can be measured by the depth of one’s character. As you can identify a tree by the type of fruit it produces, you can evaluate your wisdom by the way you act. Foolishness leads to disorder, but wisdom leads to peace and goodness.
James shows us the difference between men’s pretending to be wise, and actually being so. He who thinks well, or he who talks well, is not wise in the sense of Scripture, if he does not live and act well. True wisdom may be known by the meekness of the spirit and temper.
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show his works by his good life in the meekness of wisdom.
The tongue can reveal genuine faith. It can give a testimony for God. It can speak wisdom.
14 But if you have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, do not boast and do not lie against the truth.
Strife and bitterness are certainly not the fruits of faith, but your speech can stir up that kind of thing. James is making a contrast between the tongue of a foolish believer and the tongue of the wise believer. In fact, an uncontrolled tongue raises the question in the minds of others whether a man is a child of God or not.
Vernon McGee said:
“You cannot not make me believe that a genuine believer can curse six days a week and then sing in the choir on Sunday. He cannot tell dirty jokes and then teach Sunday school class, telling about the love of Jesus.”
That tongue that you have can do either one, but if it does both, it is that which stirs up strife. We are told here, “Lie not against the truth.” A lying tongue is one that denies the Lord during the week by its conversation.
15 This wisdom descends not from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, and devilish.
James makes it very clear that strife and envy do not originate with God. They are “earthly, unspiritual, and devilish.”
“Knowledge is proud that she has learned so much; Wisdom is humble that she knows no more.” ~ Author unknown.
16 For where there is envying and strife, there is confusion and every evil work.
Scripture makes it very clear the God is not the author of confusion. The confusion we find in the world today is a confusion brought about by the work of Satan using that little thing, the tongue, which causes so much trouble.
17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
This wisdom is not mingled or mixed; it’s undiluted; it’s the original. It is the wisdom that comes down from God. It, as James states, “then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.”
Dr. Samuel Zwemer: In 1929 a professor of missions and professor of the history of religion at the the Princeton Theological Seminary said:
The fact that false teaching always produces strife and envy are trouble. He says, “You cannot explain the wickedness of the world as merely human. It is human plus something, and that is why non-Christian religions are successful. They are supernatural, but from beneath.” Anything that causes divisions and strife – it matters not which church it is in – is not of the Lord, you may be sure of that. You may boast of your fundamentalism, but if you are causing strife, you are sailing under false colors….
18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
These are the fruits of faith. There must be righteousness before there can be peace.
Matthew Henry said:
“Those who are lifted up with such wisdom, described by the Apostle James, is near to the Christian love, described by the Apostle Paul; and both are so described that every man may fully prove the reality of his attainments in them…May the purity, peace, gentleness, teachableness, and mercy shown in all our actions, and the fruits of righteousness abounding in our lives, prove that God has bestowed upon us this excellent gift.”